PICTURED: Hannah Jobus
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
Chicago-born, Texas-raised Hannah Jobus has a voice that speaks to her journeys across the United States. High and sweet with a touch of twang, it sounds straight out of Tennessee — but with a delicate, haunting quality that echoes out of Lauren Canyon. A singer and songwriter in the country, roots and folk modes, she’s right at home in Ventura County, where her music covers everything from Sulphur Mountain Road and a chance encounter with a coyote to stories of love and heartbreak.
Telling stories in song
“I was a theater kid,” states Jobus, who was born outside of Chicago but moved to Texas when she was 13. “I did musical theater and was in the choir.”
Her earliest influences weren’t confined to Broadway, however. Artists that left their mark on the young Jobus include the great Patsy Cline (one of her mother’s favorites), Celine Dion, Bette Midler and Jewel. More recently, she’s been enjoying Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, Colter Wall and Sierra Ferrell.
At the age of 16, Jobus picked up a guitar and, after a few lessons, started teaching herself to play. It was around this time that her interest in stage-based storytelling transitioned into musical storytelling, as she began writing songs. She says that then, as now, much of her inspiration came from the people around her.
“A lot of songs I write are other peoples’ stories,” Jobus says. “The stories I hear from other people . . . I’ll empathize and write a song.”
Stories of love and loss in particular touch her deeply. As a result, she explains, there’s “a lot of heartbreak” in her work.
Ojai and “Mountain Wife”
Jobus left Texas to seek her fortune in Los Angeles.
“I came out to California at 19,” she recalls. “I had family friends that lived out here, and I wanted to play music in L.A.”
The city was were the action was, but bucolic Ojai spoke to her heart — Jobus loves the mountains and having the beach close by. Despite its more rural setting, relocating to the Ojai Valley turned out to be a good career move as well.
“Ojai has a small community that facilitates new musicians,” she says. “I met a lot of people in the music industry.”
One of those people was Matt Sayles, of Ventucky String Band and Philville Records fame.
“I met Matt two years ago,” Jobus recalls. “The first time we put music together . . . we kind of jammed. He offered to do a recording for me.”
“Mountain Wife” was recorded in real time at Philville Studios West in Ventura. Sayles backs Jobus on rhythm guitar, with Bill Flores (pedal steel), Matt Cadenelli (percussion) and Terry Luna (bass) also lending a hand. It was recently released by Philville Records — although it was one of the first songs Jobus wrote after arriving in Ojai.
“I had a dream. I was singing the chorus over and over again,” she recalls. “I woke up early in the morning and thought, ‘I want to write that down.’”
She walked down to the Ventura River nearby, and a coyote approached.
“I just kept playing, and the coyote came up and laid on the ground,” Jobus recalls. She ended up finishing the entire song that morning.
There and back again
Pre-COVID, Jobus was a regular on the small-venue circuit, performing at places such as MadeWest Brewing and Oak and Main. In 2019, she headed to Nashville, where she hoped to make her mark as a songwriter.
“I didn’t book any gigs,” she says. “The goal was to write for a publishing company.”
It was a prolific time: She expanded her catalog, and collaborated with several artists. Before anything got picked up, however, the pandemic hit and she decided to move west again. After spending a long spell with her mother in Texas, she came back to the area (she lives in Ventura currently) and decided to “just take a second to wait out this COVID stuff.”
In the meantime, she’s making a living at Topa Topa Brewing — which she loves.
“It’s so fun, and great for networking!” Jobus says. “Every brewery has a different little vibe. I love Topa Topa because it has this sense of community.”
When she’s not filling to-go orders she’s continuing to write— several times a week — and considering her next move.
“Anything can happen”
Something she’s currently contemplating: streaming concerts, possibly in collaboration with Noah Berberea of Brother Earl and the Cousins. Berberea is in the process of creating a virtual concert series called the Dirty Couch, and he’s approached Jobus about working together.
“I love the idea of live recording, maybe getting some video footage,” she says.
Another plan: getting involved with national songwriting circles. She recently had a Zoom audition for one based in Nashville called Song Suffragettes. The acoustic showcase features five emerging female country artists every week, and it’s been a great way for new talent to get noticed. According to the website (www.songsuffragettes.com), of the 200+ people who have performed, 12 singers have received record deals and more than 40 songwriters have received publishing deals.
“Lots of people in the industry go to these songwriter rounds,” Jobus says. “Anything can happen.”
The Song Suffragettes might end up bringing Jobus back to Nashville at some point. In the meantime, she’s finding joy in the here and now.
“Far off into the future — I just can’t think about that right now,” she says. “I have a great job I love, and I can’t wait to play live again. I’m just focusing on being happy.”
For music and more by Hannah Jobus, visit www.philvillerecords.com/hannahjobus.