Hanson had been in a developmental deal for two years with RCA, but it didn't pan out.
One of the reasons might have been that the label already was top heavy with female talent. Capitol had the opposite problem. That label saw Cyndi Thompson leave her career behind last year after a gold album and had Mindy McCready leave after just one outing. That track record didn't bother Hanson in the slightest.
"It didn't concern me at all," she says. "I knew I had their commitment, which I didn't feel with any other label. They gave me the creative freedom right away to get my music right. There is an amazing group of people there, and they work so hard. There are so many people who work behind the scenes to make this all happen."
They gave her the freedom to co-produce the record with Greg Droman and to use her own material. There are only two cuts on the album that she didn't have a hand in writing. "The place just felt right immediately. I owe a lot to (label head) Mike Dungan for signing me and letting me do it my way."
It might not exactly be obvious upon hearing "Beautiful Goodbye" or viewing the video that Hanson is. With a much-spirited debate taking place in Nashville about who is and who isn't doing country music, the first impression might not be accurate. It was a bit of a daring choice as a first single for an artist trying to get established on country radio.
"Sometimes you've just got to step out on the edge a little bit," she says.
But those willing to explore a bit deeper into the album will likely find a more accurate picture of Hanson's intentions. "I'm a country artist," she says with pride and more than just a little firmness. "I make music that moves me, and that's what defines me as an artist. A lot of people might hear the single and have a different idea about who I am, but once they hear the whole album, they'll find out that I am a country artist."
Real life experiences flood the songs of her new disc. "Just One of Those Days" was written with Kim Patton-Johnston after a particularly bad start to a morning. Her deep love for her grandmother powers "All Those Yesterdays." "Travis" is a tale of domestic abuse that returns her to childhood memories of a schoolmate who suffered that fate.
"It Isn't Just Raining" was penned by the husband and wife team. Pam Tillis recorded it prior to being cut by Hanson. "I was so proud of getting that cut," she says. "This song shows the more traditional side of me that I want people to know."
"This Far Gone" is the most road-tested of the material. "Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton have been a huge influence on me and 'This Far Gone' has always reminded me of something they might have recorded, just a classic country song," says Hanson. "I'd sing it at the Bluebird (cafe in Nashville), and hands down, it was the song people would comment about. It's always been one of my favorite songs that Mark (Nesler) and Tony (Martin) have written, and it's songs like 'This Far Gone' that made me want to sing country music in the first place."
Now she seems to be solidly entrenched on that path.
"I know that being an artist and making music is a lifelong journey," says Hanson in her bio. "So whatever happens I'll be writing and singing these songs and being a part of the Nashville community because that's what fills my soul. That's who I am."
Photo of Hanson debuting at the Opry Feb. 7, 2003 by Chris Hollo, Hollo Photographics, copyright Grand Ole Opry