“A duck walks into a cosmetic store and gets some lipstick. They ask how she’s going to pay, and she says, ‘Put it on my bill,’” Hamlin says with a big laugh and self revelry to rival Fozzie Bear.
But wait. The shtick has gotten so familiar, that audience members now come with their own jokes. “What do you call a pony with a cough,” one patron shouts, to which Hamlin replies, “A little horse.”
Don’t mess with Jill on jokes.
The zingers actually do serve a purpose, Hamlin and her partner in music, Reed Fields, say.
“When my guitar is the least bit out of tune, it just drives me nuts, so I tune quite often,” Fields says. “Jill tried to fill in that space by telling jokes, and now, it’s just a part of our act.”
And make no mistake, Fields and Hamlin are very serious about that act, well beyond tack-sharp tuning. It’s there in the duo’s name: A Little Bit More.
“We just wanted a little bit more with music,” says Hamlin, who first worked with Fields in a band called Highway 36. They confess there’s also an allusion to their respective statures of under-five-foot Hamlin and over-six-foot Fields.
“I’m a little bit,” Hamlin says laughing, and Fields adds, “I’m more.”
Thus far, more is what they have been getting since forming the duo in 2015, establishing strong connections in Nashville, touring from South Florida to Maine and releasing a debut album, “Silhouettes,” which won album of the year at January’s Lexington Music Awards.
Both Hamlin and Fields come to the project with lifetimes of music experience in various forms.
Hamlin started playing piano by ear when she was 2, eventually taking lessons from late Morehead State University professor Jay Flippin. She went on to study at Morehead, majoring in sociology, minoring in traditional music and playing in the bluegrass and old-time string bands at the school. Steered to ethnomusicology, she ended up studying at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland where she earned a masters in 2010.
She is now the program director for Sunrise Children’s services, a nonprofit ministry that provides foster care, residential, therapeutic treatment and community-based services for families and children ages 12 to 18.
Fields had music in his family growing up, particularly his grandmother who played guitar and great uncle Carlton Rawlings, who was a well-known fiddle player. But at that time, Fields was more of a music fan. In school, he played a variety of band instruments, but soon was lured to football. In college at Morehead, he started singing and playing guitar, and got a gig as a fill-in player in a band that ended up lasting a couple years.
Fields, who also served as Bath County High School’s football coach from 2004 to 2011 and has taught social studies at the school for 15 years, eventually hooked up with a group of musicians in West Liberty that ended up being the backing musicians on “Silhouettes.”
“It was our combination of the love for music and what we wanted to do with music,” Hamlin says of forming the duo. “We wanted to write our stuff. We wanted to create a sound that incorporated all the different kinds of music that we both like into one thing.”
Fields says, “If you listen to the album, it’s pretty hard to pigeon hole us into one genre, I think. It’s got a country sound, but I think our live shows are more Americana sounding, but with a full band, it sounds more country — the kind of country that we’re used to hearing.”
The duo identifies Owingsville as its home base, and that is where Fields lives, though Hamlin lives in Morehead. Her father, Larry Hamlin, maintains a dental practice in Owingsville.
Their pursuit of music has meant a lot of late-night drives to Nashville, be it for a show or songwriters showcases at venues such as the Bluebird Café and Belcourt Taps, that will often have them returning home at 3 or 4 a.m., just a few hours before work. And Nashville’s Station West recording studio, which has hosted a who’s who of recording artists, is where they recorded “Silhouettes.”
“We walked into a studio Brad Paisley had just walked out of,” Hamlin said. “It was amazing.”
The album was recorded in 2016 and released last spring, making it a fairly early snapshot of the duo’s music, and songs like “Where I Am” and “Beer Bottle” have become crowd pleasers.
One song, “Save Me Tonight,” has become something of a line dance sensation, choreographed by Maggie Gallagher and taught in English and Chinese. The primary posting of the dance has more than 44,000 views on YouTube.
The duo is itching to get back in the studio to record an EP, of new material, possibly a summer endeavor, along with touring.
Asked what their ambitions for A Little Bit More are, Hamlin takes the setup and says, “A whole lot more!”
Fields adds some detail.
“I love teaching, and I know she loves what she does, but I think it would be great to sing our songs that we create and make enough to survive, make enough to pay the bills,” Fields says. “Now, as far as hearing the horror stories about going to Nashville and eating ketchup packets and trying to bum enough to get something to eat, I don’t think I want to go there right now.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have enough success to make us think there’s something there. I don’t think we’re just ‘chasing the neon rainbow,’” he adds, invoking an Alan Jackson hit.
Who knows. Someday aspiring artists may be quoting A Little Bit More songs … or jokes.
Rich Copley: @copiousnotes