Nashville-based singer-songwriter Fancy Hagood re-introduces himself with “Don’t Blink.” He delivered the burning single last month ahead of his debut full-length album, which is expected later this year via Mick Music.
Raised in rural Arkansas, Hagood picked up piano as peers joined sports teams and rallied around church-based organizations. As he delved further into his music, he craved a community of like-minded creators. At 17, he dropped out of high school and headed East to Nashville. For years, he played music for anyone who would listen. He created a circuit of hotel lobbies and restaurants. Hagood signed his first publishing deal at 21 with Big Machine and Prescription Songs.
“I grew up singing in church and playing piano, so music has always been a part of my life. But when I got to Nashville, I was able to hone my ability and make that my life. I think songwriting, at the core, is what makes me the artist that I am. Growing up and being queer in a conservative place, I never felt like I had a voice. Music is where I found my way to articulate what I was feeling. I was able to say a lot of stuff in my songs that I wasn’t able to say person-to-person. Songwriting is where my artistry was born.”
His introductory single, “‘Don’t Blink” is a brilliant display of the craft that carried him to this pivotal moment in his career. The soulful track simmers with a pop-country sound. Lofty vocals make the genre difficult to pinpoint, delivering soulful lyrics to a broad audience. The single was co-written by Hagood and his collaborator Shak, and produced by Jon Green (James Bay) and Tofer Brown (Little Big Town).
“Typically I write about what I’m experiencing at the moment. But, I believe in manifesting things. I don’t want to be the sad boy just putting sad songs out there – I want to manifest positive things. Love has not worked out for me yet, but I remain hopeful. Writing about the kind of love I think I want and deserve is important to me. Writing about that person, how I want him to make me feel, is what ‘Don’t Blink’ is all about.”
Hagood feels the song is a direct reflection of finding himself as a gay man in the music world, and where he has landed genre-wise. The artist had a short run in pop music and admitted that it “wasn’t the right fit.” He continued, adding, “I wasn’t able to be myself. I’ve taken about five years to find my sound fully, and my voice again.”
He spent the first part of his post-record deal career in Los Angeles, where he narrowed in on pop without the opportunity to expand his palette. They told him where he fits within and the ‘Top 40’ driven pop scene. In 2015, his first single “Goodbye” climbed the Billboard Mainstream, but when his follow-up failed to chart, he parted-ways with pop in the way he had previously imagined. Competing for radio space, and maintaining the rigid bounds of mainstream music revealed a dire need for expressive freedom.
“Breaking away, I finally had my own space and time and freedom to make an album that mattered to me, and that reflected me,” he says. “There’s a lot of different versions of me, I’m a little bit of an onion, and I wanted to make an album representing those layers.
He described the rest of the album as a “roller coaster ride” of everything that makes him who he is as a person and an artist. “You’re gonna have a lot of the fun side of me,” he says. “There’s a more singer-songwriter vibe with ‘Don’t Blink.’ On a couple of songs, you’re hearing more of a Southern flare, which is where I’m from. I was born and raised in the South. That’s in my DNA and comes out in my music.”
“Mr, Atlanta” dives into his dating history. The track outlines his experiences on the way to trying to meet the right person. It covers the serendipitous moments of thinking he’s finally met someone. It also includes past relationships that, although did not end the way he’d hoped, taught him something.
“That song is about how I’ve met all these different guys, and they’ve prepared me for this moment,” Hagood says. “I’ve learned something different from all of them. I’ve never been shy about being queer, and I don’t like changing my pronouns to make other people comfortable. I find it very important to tell my story as a gay man, going through the history, and the craziness is my search for love.”
Another track he is excited to share is “Same Thing.” He wrote the song during a lake house weekend in Kentucky with two of his best friends. During this retreat-style trip, they grappled with the space between people telling you what you need and doing what you want. The song overlays the two, arriving at the idea that sometimes, what you want and what you need are the same.
“It’s really vibey,” says the artist. “The fact that I wrote it with two of my best friends, I wrote a lot of the record with friends, which makes the whole thing special. I love ‘Same Thing’ because when I listen, I know exactly where I was and what I was experiencing.”
It has been an interesting year to reacquaint himself with the music world, but Hagood feels that his message is timely. He urges that the dust pulled up in this year’s political storm is not new. The issues the country has faced in terms of the pandemic, political polarization, and the Black Lives Matter movement reveal pre-existing conditions of inequality deeply rooted in outdated social constructs. The artist understands marginalized voices have not always been lifted, nor heard, and he feels an urgency in sharing his truth as a gay man through his music.
“I think about growing up in Arkansas, a very straight-laced Christian Republican boy not knowing that there’s this great big world out there, and so much opportunity for me as a gay man,” says Hagood. “I always felt like who I was was wrong, and I had to hide that. So this record is for any marginalized person who feels stuck or like they don’t belong. I find it important to share my narrative as a queer voice to let other queer people know that they’re not alone. They can achieve anything they want.”
He acknowledged that he sits in a place of privilege, growing up with the opportunities he had as a white man. He’s grown increasingly conscious of this and recognizes the many ways in which a person can feel alienated.
“I want to be a student of everything that’s going on and making a safe space for all listeners, no matter their background, race, religion, whatever. I want this album to be a safe place for anyone who feels different. For anyone who has big dreams who feel a little unheard or unseen. This album is a place where we can all come together and celebrate our differences.”
Listen to “Don’t Blink” below and keep an eye out for more to come from Fancy Hagood later this year.