Caylee Hammack’s ‘I Will Survive’ Cover Is Pure Power, Passion [Watch]
You can't help but believe Caylee Hammack when she sings Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
The current Taste of Country RISER combines power and grace in her interpretation of the disco standard. She adds her own unique take by opening the song a capella with just a dusting of acoustic guitar, adding a surprise twist with the guitar and cajon box drum uniting to give it a mariachi flavor. When Hammack launches into the soulful track full swing, she uses her whole body to sing, her voice projecting the anguish and frustration of the lyrics that tell a disgraced lover to leave her life for good, unleashing the final "I will survive" as a triumphant wail.
Released in 1978, Gaynor's disco classic reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Songs charts. It won a Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980 and has been preserved in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, the iconic anthem about survival and overcoming defeat celebrated across generations.
It's also a personal anthem for Hammack, who's faced her own share of battles in life. She's been performing the song since her father encouraged her to sing at a local talent show in her hometown of Ellaville, Ga., when she was 13 years old. Stepping on the stage to sing solo publicly for the first time, Hammack ironically froze as she was about to sing the line "I was petrified."
"I completely flubbed," she recalls to Taste of Country. But just as she was about to walk off stage, some of the children in the audience started to sing, followed by more people until the whole crowd was singing along with her.
Watch: Caylee Hammack Sings Her Original, "Family Tree"
Though Hammack spent the night crying on the bathroom floor, still embarrassed from the incident, she awoke to good news from her father, who told her he had met someone who referred him to a place where she could perform the old country songs she loved. From there, they continued to meet people at each show who'd tell them of a new place Hammack could play music. "I Will Survive" set off this domino effect, and she continues to keep the song in her setlist as a powerful reminder.
"'I Will Survive' really just started this whole journey for me," Hammack describes. "It was the first song I ever played in front of people, completely flubbed, yet I still got up and did it again. I just have this affinity for that song."
"Considering it's the song that got me started, I feel like I almost pay homage to it every night," she continues, adding that performing the empowering number allows her to share her origin story. "I think that adds a depth to the music and it adds a moment where people can connect with me more so than if I just throw out a new song. I want to take people down a memory lane when they come to listen to me."
Hammack is the fourth RISER announced in 2019, falling in line with Cody Johnson, Jimmie Allen and Riley Green. In addition to performing a cover of a song that's impacted them, the artists also sit down for an in-depth interview about their upbringing, musical influences and burgeoning career.
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