I’ve known Regie Hamm for many years and my husband grew up with him. I even know the highlights of his amazing career, but what I didn’t know was his “where I came from” story. So finally after nearly three years of entertainment reporting, I decided it was time to sit down with this remarkable songwriter/artist/blogger.
Like many talented artists, Regie Hamm comes from a musical family. But what makes him unique is that his family is at least five generations born in Nashville. Regie explains, “My great-grandfather was left on a stump outside of a cabin that was owned by a German family here in Nashville. They were immigrants, but we don’t know if they were first-generation immigrants of not. The couple was childless so they took this baby in and raised him as their own. Regie continues, “My grandfather was born here, my dad was born at Vanderbilt and I was born at Baptist.” Since Regie’s great-grandfather was adopted, he really has no idea how many generations hail from Nashville.
As those who follow Nashville’s history will attest, there have always been musical opportunities available to those who seek them. “My family was musical, my grandmother played piano and sang (and even appeared on the Opry Gospel Night) and my dad is a great guitar player.” Even though his dad is now a minister, as a youngster his dad was “given to” a traveling evangelist when he was 10 because he was this amazing guitar player/child prodigy and the evangelist wanted to take him all over the world. Regie explains, “They would be in London (or somewhere) and Dad would play the guitar and sing and get a crowd gathered and then this preacher would stand up on a soapbox and begin to preach.” As his dad got older, he was a regular sessions guitar player for the iconic Studio B before going into full-time ministry.
All of this history had a direct influence on Regie because that is how his father was raised and he just continued that with his own family. The Hamm’s had a family band where Regie played drums and they would sing gospel music prior to his dad preaching. This traveling musical ministry would basically be all he would know as a child. Even though Regie started writing songs around age nine he never thought about making a career of it until he was an adult. He dropped out of college in his freshman year and moved back to Nashville at age 18. He started playing drums, writing songs, performing anywhere they would let him play. He would eventually move back home to where his parents were then living in Texas where he tried to “figure out life.”
Eventually, Regie realized that he would have to move back to Nashville to really give this music thing a chance. Initially, he did primarily Christian Music because “those were the contacts that I had.” He and his brother, Lenny, came back with a band and they wrote songs and did session work with other artists and did everything that they could do to make music. It took about three, years, but at age 25, Regie was finally making money and by age 26, he wrote his first number one hit, “I Surrender All” performed by Clay Crosse. That was followed by “Gather at the River” by Point of Grace.
From 1994 to 2001 Regie ended up writing 18 number-one hits. With Grammy and Dove nominations, and winning SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year award four times. Regie knew he had a window of opportunity and he worked non-stop for several years writing mostly for Christian artists. Regie reflects, “I don’t know that I had anything to say in that genre that would shed any kind of new light or any kind of new ministry that would be associated with the reasons why a lot of people wrote music. I just knew how to do it, I had talent and I knew how to apply it. It was really just about work ethic, showing up and doing it.” The problem was that the music he was writing really wasn’t coming from within.
In 1997, Regie decided that he would start writing and recording music for himself. He would be in a session for another artist and at the end would ask to cut one of his own songs. By 2000, he had about three tracks and knew the direction he wanted to go. He spent a lot of his own money recording the rest of his pop record, American Dreams. “Once the record was a thing and put together and it was what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, then I knew I really couldn’t go back at that point.”
His American Dreams Album was the catalyst that got Regie signed to Universal Records. He states, “If you are ever going to be an artist, whether it is music, painting, novels, filmmaking, whatever it is, at some point in your life, you have to roll the dice and take a big risk. However long it takes you to be honest with yourself is how long it will take you to be an artist.”
But then everything changed in 2003, when it all fell apart.
“I was 35 and had been on this 10-year trajectory of success and working hard with a good payoff.” Regie had the record deal, the GooGoo Dolls tour, and the Cher tour. Regie and Yolanda flew to China to get a baby they were adopting. Little did they know that the baby had a rare genetic disorder called Angelman’s Syndrome.
Soon after that diagnosis, he lost the record deal, the tours, all of it, but as he states, “The instant that that baby was in arms, it all changed. That’s when I finally became a person.” He recalls, “My last hit [song] before we got Bella was “Every Moment” recorded by Joy Williams in 2002 and I wasn’t on the radio again for six years.”
In 2008, they adopted another baby – a boy – and near the same time with the encouragement from his wife, Regie wrote a song called “The Time of My Life” for the American Idol songwriting competition. He won the competition and the song became the finale song and the first single for the winner of the show’s seventh season, David Cook The RIAA certified “The Time of My Life” platinum on December 12, 2008, for selling over 1 million digital downloads. Not only that, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, “The Time of my Life” became the unofficial theme song and the whole world heard it.
The timing of this all was so “divine” that it sent Regie down a different path. That is when he starting blogging which led to a book Angels and Idols which chronicles this amazing story. He also released a new album simultaneously, Set It on Fire. Here is a link to the blog that helped ignite this remarkable story.
Today Regie’s life is more focused and a bit slower. His main effort goes into his blog writing which ended up with 2500 Word Press followers. He has since switched to Patreon which is a membership platform that makes it easy for artists and creators to get paid. He is not signed to any agent/label or publishing company but he is working on a new record and writing a new book and various other projects. Though frequently asked, Regie rarely co-writes or pitches songs anymore. “I don’t like co-writing and I am not going to lie about it anymore.”
He continues by offering advice to anyone considering songwriting/performing as a career, “I tell them that in a way, that [songwriting] is just horrible. There is a lot to it that is just awful and they don’t want to believe it. The truth is that there is no good way out of this life. Even if you become as famous as Hank Williams, Sr. or have to work odd jobs like me, nobody has success all the time. And that is just maddening. The only people who do make it all the time are those who are willing to sacrifice everything else in their path. So I would tell people, be careful what you want and be careful what you go for.”
To date, Regie has penned more than 400 songs. Approximately 200 of them have been recorded by groups like Rascal Flats, Point Of Grace, Clay Crosse, Clay Aiken, Mercy Me, Jaci Velasquez, Kenny Loggins, The Backstreet Boys, Brandon Heath, Bob Carlisle, Maxi Priest, Russ Taff, The Gaither Vocal Band, Joy Williams, David Wilcox, and David Cook.
“Ironically, I am enjoying my life more right now than I ever have and enjoying my work more than I ever have. The thing I love about where I am is that now I am not thinking about being on the radio or getting a song cut. If I write a song, I take it where I want to go and I say what I want to say. There is really some freedom in that.”
At 52 years old, Regie knows that he is too far out in the ocean to turn back around. With two teenagers and one having special needs, his family is priority number one. However, with his unmatched talent coupled with his faith in a higher power, he is sure to continue being a difference-maker with his words in one format or another.
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