While Lilly Hiatt’s future as a musician may have been preordained, it’s fair to say that no one saw her album, “Trinity Lane,” coming.
Hiatt has a history of performing music going back several years, supported by her father John Hiatt (“Have a Little Faith in Me,” “Thing Called Love”). It started with guitar lessons and singing at the age of 12.
But with the release of “Trinity Lane,” Hiatt has made the transition from One to Watch to being considered one of the stars of the genre. Several of the album’s songs have gained traction on indie rock stations around the country, and a nomination for Album of the Year at the 2018 Americana Awards seems likely.
“This album is a little more revealing, and a little more personal than the other ones,” Hiatt says with an uneasy laugh. “It took some time for me to write these songs, but once they started coming out, they started coming out pretty fast.”
The album, and her current solo act, represents her maturation as an artist.
While a student at the University of Denver, she helped form the jam band Shake Go Home, which gained a solid following around their college campus but broke up when they moved to Hiatt’s hometown of Nashville. Finding the music scene back home in Nashville much different than Colorado, the young singer began to develop her voice within the Americana fold, which better highlighted her country-rock strengths.
“I just realized, ‘You know what? I want to be the one that puts these songs out the way I think they should come out,’” she said about going solo, speaking during a break in touring.
“I didn’t want to have to decide that with three other people,” she said. “That being said, I have a band that I’ve been playing with for over a year now that I love working with, and I love the ideas they have when it comes to fleshing out a song. My job is that I write the songs, I have a general idea of where I want them to go, and I surround myself with people that I don’t have to tell what to do. I don’t like telling people what to do, but I do like being the boss.”
Her current gig, opening for alt-country band Blitzen Trapper, may be one of the last opportunities to catch Hiatt as a support act. Taking over Motorco Music Hall Friday night in Durham, the singer-songwriter says she can tell that “Trinity” is still growing in popularity by crowd reactions from night to night, which has helped her shed a little of the stage-fright that she has dealt with since childhood.
“On the road, my band are the type of people who will just pick up their instruments and jam,” Hiatt said. “I’m the type of person that it will take a few minutes for me to come out of my shell and say, ‘I have an idea for a song.’ There are some things that I do at home in front of the mirror that I still haven’t figured out how to pull of onstage. It takes time to totally let my guard down and unleash in front of everyone. At least I don’t feel the same crippling fear I used to growing up when I thought of going up onstage, so that’s good.”
Dropping her guard, however, allowed her songwriting to reach the level on display on “Trinity Lane.” The album is named after the street she moved to after a particularly bad breakup, and it was there that she dedicated herself to songwriting to get over the relationship while also ending a battle with alcohol abuse.
The songs are more personal than any found within her career, with many recalling female grunge-rock anthems that ruled radio in the late ’90s (“The Night David Bowie Died”), to country foot stompers about battling demons (the album’s title track).
Hiatt is jubilant that so many people are finding her music and identifying with the struggles found in the lyrics.
“I was in a place (in my life) where I was spending a lot of time by myself, so I had a lot of time to write,” she said. “I was dedicating a lot of time specifically to write. I would go home every night and make myself write a song, whether I felt like it or not. By the end of that period, I had a lot of songs.”
The move to Trinity Lane, the street, represented a turning point in her life in more ways than one.
“It’s such a transitional neighborhood (in Nashville), it’s happening right now,” she said. “There are people with very little living here right next to these huge condos being built. It’s like the last little haven in East Nashville, one of the last portions of the east side of town that hasn’t been ripped up and reformed. It’s special for me, and I just identify with the neighborhood a lot. It’s changing, and I’m changing too.”
Who: Lilly Hiatt, opening for Blitzen Trapper
When: 8 p.m., Nov. 3
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham