Thanks for Saying Hi (photo by Elizabeth Orr)
Tami Hart has always had a knack for writing plaintive songs that pull at your heartstrings. The queer singer songwriter started writing songs as a teenager in the 90s “as a means of survival and escape from the trappings of a very conservative upbringing in South Carolina.” I long ago became familiar with her work via Mr. Lady Records, a now defunct lesbian run label that released some crucial albums in my life (and countless other queers I’m sure) between 1996 and 2004. Hart and I are a similar age so I was a baby queer back in those days too, and her two albums, No Light In August (2000) and What Passed Between Us (2002), were formative releases for me, an expression of youth and longing that I found much comfort in and a safe place to hold my feelings in, knowing that they were okay.
Hart spent the very beginning of the early aughts touring behind those excellent albums with the likes of Sleater-Kinney, The Butchies and the Indigo Girls and winning praise from luminaries like Kathleen Hanna who shared that No Light In August is “One of my all-time favorite albums. Written by a teenaged Tami Hart in the 90’s, her guitar playing is like a stripped-down Nirvana, filtered through a big-hearted gay kid with an absolutely massive unforgettable voice, trying to find herself in a hateful world. Tami’s technically perfect singing is heightened by her vulnerability and gorgeous lyrics. Once you hear just one song, you’ll want to play it over and over again. This is a record that should’ve gotten 10 Grammy awards, but barely anyone knows about it. Absolutely gorgeous and essential.”
Those two early albums were the only solo albums she ever released though, and I always wondered if there might be more someday. The wondering is thankfully over because now, after many years of playing in bands like Winning Looks, MEN and Teen Vice, Hart is back making the Southern, country folk inspired music of her youth, full of sweet harmonies and twang. She released some early demos in 2022 and has an EP of brand new music coming soon, Thanks for Saying Hi (4/7 Cruisin Records). Today she has released the brand new single “Sorry For Your Heart,” a gentle country rock ballad that features a full band arrangement with Kate Ryan (Flown) on drums and Adrienne Lloyd (Hunter Valentine) on bass. She shares that the EP as a whole is “a game of country mouse and city mouse, as both love letter to New York City with twinges of post punk as well as a deep bow to her Southern upbringing with heart on sleeve echoing of country melodies.”
When I asked why now felt like the right time to return to her solo work, she said it felt like “the timing was right to peak my head out and say hi again. I noticed such a powerful surge of queer and feminist voices in music with artists like Palehound, Hand Habits and Big Thief and especially folk and country-tinged post-punk. It felt like a calling.” The cover art on the EP reflects this peaking out to say hi again, with Hart peering out over a bouquet of flowers, as if to playfully say, “here I am!”
Indeed, this moment of Hart’s return feels like going full circle. In middle age I’ve found that longing and the desires of youth haven’t really ever faded, I’ve just gotten better at expressing them. And in this new EP, I have found the perfect soundtrack, yet again, to be a warm companion to the big feelings and gentle moments in between them that an artist like Tami Hart has always so deftly given voice to.
Check out our recent coverage of Tami Hart at Union Pool with Ted Leo.
Thanks for Saying Hi is out 4/7 via Cruisin Records, pre-orders are up now.