“You can’t really put your finger on it. You just know in your soul like you know your name” says Regie Hamm, a soulful and accomplished singer, songwriter, musician, “It’s like when a natural athlete first feels a football in his hands and just knows what to do with it. If you’re not sure you have musical talent or not, you probably don’t.”
For Regie, the son of a traveling Pentecostal preacher and musician, that ‘knowing’ came early in life. “My family traveled the country and sang in churches. We were like the Christian Partridge Family. I was five years old and my dad’s church’s drummer was going on vacation for two weeks. I told my mom, “I can play.” She just smiled and said, “I know you can baby.” I said, “No mom – I KNOW I can really play!” I wouldn’t give anyone any peace about it, so they took me to church early and rehearsed me with the band to shut me up. To their surprise, I actually could play. That night, I played drums with the church worship band and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been just about everywhere in the US (twice) and sang in almost every scenario you could imagine before my 15th birthday. It was a strange and lovely way to grow up.”
His talents grew with him, he continued to play drums and branched out to writing songs, singing, playing bass, piano and, “Enough guitar to make my father wonder where he went wrong with me,” Regie says jokingly. His father is a world-class guitarist.
After his college years in Cleveland, Tennessee ended, Regie moved back to his birthplace in Nashville. He made a name for himself as a writer, having his songs recorded by such artists as Kenny Loggins, Maxi Priest, Jaci Velasquez, Bob Carlisle and Clay Crosse. He was awarded SESAC Writer of the Year in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2000.
“My music,” he says, “is like a best friend/therapist. It knows all my secrets and limitations. It takes all that stuff and somehow presents it in the best light to the world. How can you not be in love with that?”
“My music was once described as having a pop skin, country heart and gospel bones. I think that just about sums it up. I didn’t really pick a genre. In fact I’m not a real fan of the word itself. It’s confining. I’m a product of gospel, country, funk, pop, Southern rock and everything else in between. Labels are for others to make. I do what I do and let someone else figure out what it’s called.”
“A hand full of people on the planet had the kind of childhood I had and I think that informs a perspective that’s bit off the beaten path. I tend to want to zig when everyone else is zagging. Once I hear everybody sounding a certain way on the radio, I want to go as far in the opposite direction from that as I can get. I’m sure it’s why I’m not a superstar, but it’s just my nature.”
“Just because you have a gift, or success or money doesn’t give you the right to be a bad person. In fact, I think it places a greater responsibility on you to be a better person. I loathe the celebrity culture we live in. I think it’s toxic for all involved -especially the celebrities. My whole take on what I do is ‘anti-celeb status.’”
In the early 1990’s, after unsuccessfully attempting to achieve a recording career with bands, he struck out on his own as a solo artist and recorded his debut album, ‘American Dreams’ in 2003. That album produced the single, ‘Babies’ which hit #15 on the charts.
That same year, in the midst of his songwriting and recording success, Regie and his wife Yolanda, a radio promoter, decided to adopt a child after learning that they were unable to have children. They adopted a baby girl from Beijing, China, whom they named Isabella.
“The adoption of my daughter changed everything about me ...100%” says Regie, “My life breaks down into two sections. Before becoming a dad and after.”
Isabella suffers from a very rare and previously undiagnosed neuro-genetic disorder known as ‘Angelman Syndrome’, which requires almost constant care.
The next five years were financially crippling for Hamm ’s. Forced to sell their home to afford healthcare for Isabella, their lives, both professionally and personally, were in a proverbial ‘tailspin.’
That was until Regie’s wife convinced him to enter the American Idol songwriting contest which enabled fans to choose the finale’ song for the show’s seventh season.
The words that flowed from Regie’s heart captivated the hearts of Americans and millions people around the world and his song; ‘The Time of My Life,’ arguably the best finale ever sung on the show, became a #1 hit for both Regie and American Idol winner David Cook.
The song was also featured at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the birthplace of Regie’s daughter, Bejing, China , bringing the emotional song’s journey full circle.
“The last 18 months have been wonderful. I would love to just see the next chapter be a natural extension of all that. I’m able to do the charity work with FAST (Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics), as well as conduct my career on my own terms and at my own pace. I’m concentrating on writing as well as finishing two new CD projects. One is a ‘Best Of’ hit songs I wrote in the ‘90’s for Christian artists. If I could keep that going for twenty or thirty more years, I’ll die with a smile on my face.”
While ‘The Time of My Life’ sparked new life into Regie’s career and opened doors for several projects, his priorities are unchanged, “I’m deeply in love with my family,” Regie says of his wife, daughter and son, Gabe. “Everything I do is based around their happiness. I spend most of my day as a special needs caregiver. Whatever’s left over goes into music.”
“I’m probably too analytical.” He says of himself, “I’m not very interested in entertainment, ironically. My wife keeps me up to speed on the latest, greatest thing. I’ll spend all day in my studio listening to Chopin and talk radio. It’s kind of pathetic. I’m not a big club or party guy. I always leave those places with a sore throat from trying to talk over the music. I’m loyal to a fault. I like being home a lot. I work at home. I play at home. I like home.”