GRAMMY and Dove Award-nominated singer-songwriter and author Regie Hamm (“Time of My Life,” “Babies”) returned to his love of music with the recently released album, “Kingdoms Fall.” A gifted songwriter with 18 number one hits and honored as SESAC Songwriter of the Year four times, the new project brings with it a new collection of story-driven tunes, such as “The Wrong Kind of Elvis,” “Jesus Saves My Soul,” “Me and This Piano” and “Let ‘Em Go.”
My history with Hamm goes back to the late 80’s through our denominational church circles. Singing as part of a group that I thought was going to be bigger than Petra, I was an instant fan. As a music journalist connected through mutual friends and later directly through social media, I saw his talents continue to open doors. He first penned hit songs for Christian artists such as Point of Grace, Avalon, Clay Crosse, and others before charting a solo career and gaining a huge platform when his song “Time of My Life” was chosen as the lead single for David Cook, the winner of the seventh season of “American Idol.”
If there was a “phone-a-friend” question on a game show for a hit songwriter or a music producer, Hamm would have been my go-to. Everything I knew about him proved that music was always in his blood and in his father’s blood before him. He was a prodigy, always rolling out new songs and projects. Imagine my surprise, however, when we sat down for a conversation on his new project, “Kingdoms Fall,” to learn a shocking truth—he almost walked away from it all. Actually, he did.
Going full speed as a singer and musician since he was five, Hamm came to the realization a few years ago that maybe he was just doing going through the motions. Maybe he wasn’t doing music because he loved it, but because he’d just always done it.
“I was a child performer, and it really colored and affected a lot of my life,” he said. “And as we dug into that, I started asking myself this really fundamental question of, ‘Do I actually like to make music?’ Or was this just something I’ve been doing since I was five and knew how to do. I came to this conclusion . . . ‘No, I don’t think I do’.”
After a meeting over a possible new songwriting contract, Hamm became physically ill at the thought of continuing “this song and dance.” He thought back to the last thing he ever did for a living that wasn’t music oriented. Soon, the sounds of piano keys were replaced by the delicious aroma of pepperoni as returned to his teenage side hustle of delivering pizzas for Domino’s.
“At this point I was in my early 50’s, so all the kids there thought I was an ‘Undercover Boss’,” he said. “People would Google me and be like, ‘Dude, what are you doing here?’ It was a weird journey.”
The first night on the clock, Regie was tearful as he closed the store and realized “there was a lot of stuff that I needed to grieve that I’d never had time to think about.” Soon, however, he was spending 10 hours in his car every day, delivering pizza, and “loving it,” with the recording studio in his rear-view window.
But objects were much closer than they appeared. Melodies and lyrics started swirling in his head and he refused, saying “I don’t want you, I’m done with you, I’m not going to write you, I’m not going to sing you.” Song after song, however, kept percolating, and then he started to write them down. By the end of the year, there were 25 songs and had a decision to make. He once again hung up his uniform and headed back to the studio to work on a project that would become “Kingdoms Fall.” After initially recording two songs, Covid-19 hit, the world shut down and he contracted the virus and nearly died. Then he broke his wrist and couldn’t write. After recovery, he quit drinking, broke his wrist again, whittled the songs down to seven, wrote three more tracks, and approached the record with a new focus.
“It was a weird series of events,” he said. “This is the first record of my adult life that I did completely sober, so it was it was a big deal for me. It also feels like the only record that I’ve ever worked on that I didn’t get any kind of fatigue, no ear fatigue. I didn’t get tired of it. I would just come to work every morning. And I just loved doing it. It was so cathartic.”
That carefree approach also influenced the sounds on the record, he said, alternating between 80’s retro with 90’s rock and 70’s funk.
“I’ve never done a record that was more ‘me’ than this,” he said. “It’s all the music I love.”
Although he played most of the instruments on the album, Hamm is keen to debut “Kingdoms Fall” with a live band after doing solo shows for the better part of the last two decades.
“I think it’s a theater show,” he said. “It’s me and four other guys handpicked musicians that are some of my favorites in Nashville. Someone at the listening party, someone said, Man, you should you need to do this live. And I was like, ‘You know what, I think that’s not a bad idea’.”
While Hamm has created a project tailor made to his musical tastes and admittedly is less concerned with radio airplay or popularity, he still remembers the reaction of one of his biggest fans. His son Gabe had crafted the melody and concept for the title song and Hamm was blown away. He then asked Gabe’s permission to work on it, a song centering on their family, and use it for the record.
“We had a great moment at the listening party,” Hamm recalled. “He opted not to listen to it until then. When he heard it, he jumped up and gave me a big hug. And it was like this three-hankie moment, and I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
“Kingdoms Fall” by Regie Hamm is now available through digital music outlets. For more information, click here. Watch an extended interview with Regie Hamm and DeWayne Hamby below.