Some of the songs, in fact, were even rerecorded after Hayes’ dissatisfaction with playing them live. What we end up with is an album that isn’t perfect (because nothing ever is, nor ever can be), but which accurately expresses where Hayes is currently at, and takes what she describes as a step in the right sonic direction for her vision as an artist.
Here in her own words, as part of our new series on emerging artists, we speak to Hayes about her debut album and life on the road.
Congrats on your recent album, Over & Over. How does it feel to have it out in the world?
I’m excited that it’s out. I’d been working on this album for over a year and a half, so it doesn’t even feel real in a way; in a lot of ways I’d experienced the songs so many times because we started touring the album in February. So I’d had a lot of opportunity to already promote the music, which has been a really good opportunity. I think it’s a very good step in the direction of what I’m intending to do with music. I feel like this album is the true beginning to my music career.
What do you mean by that? What do you hope people get from this record?
Well, for me, live music and this album are very intertwined. In a lot of ways, me being able to perform this album live so many times before the songs started coming out helped add a lot of new perspective to the songs that I wasn’t seeing before.
On the first tour I went on, I was about 75% finished with the album. I was singing the songs every day for like a month; then when I came off, I was like, ‘Hey, actually, I want to fix a few things on this album, I want to rerecord some stuff’. There’s something about doing it live so many times that really helps me with the whole process of writing.
Why is it that you place such emphasis on live?
Because it’s just what I enjoy doing. Everybody’s different with how they process their art, and I have respect for people who just want to release stuff and just do that, that’s just as valid. Just for me personally, that’s how I do things because that’s just what I enjoy. I love recording and I love writing music too.
I’ve been through a lot of different thought processes when it comes to recording. I think a lot of it has to do with me being so young, and just learning; learning about what it means to be honest, what it means to make music. Now I feel like I’m in a good place in this album, which has definitely [gone] in the right direction. I feel very good about this album.
Over & Over – why that title?
There’s a lot of repetitive themes throughout this album, and a lot of repetitive thoughts that I was having throughout the songs as well, about a myriad of topics. I felt like the name Over & Over was a great way to portray what I was feeling at the time. And that’s kind of been a theme in the last few years, I guess for my music: feeling these repetitive thoughts.
Just to go back a bit to when you first got into music. I understand you used to put yourself through local talent competitions and sang in church, too, is that right? How did you get into music?
Yeah, when I was young, and still lived with my parents, when it came to the county fair talent competitions, there was always a cash prize. I never won, which is okay. For church stuff, that was something I had gone into willingly, but then by the end of it, it wasn’t for me, I didn’t enjoy it. I was in middle school. It was one of the first things I did musically.
I ended up getting removed from the church band. It was a very funny two- or three-year period of my life. But I’ve always had an interest in music. When I was younger, in high school, I had this feeling I was never going to go to college or anything like that. So I just wanted to start doing music and see how it worked out.
Press releases are funny, they’re obviously designed to show a certain side, but I did read this record touches on themes of vulnerability and “the pressures of being a musician in an industry fixated on youth and hype”. Have you personally experienced that?
I think a lot of the pressure I’ve faced was a lot of self-imposed pressure. Up until very recently –because I’ve gotten quite a bit of a grasp on it in the last six months – I suffered badly from anxiety, something I had been diagnosed with at a very young age.
I don’t necessarily want to speak on certain things when it comes to the music industry, because I don’t know how much it contributes to the actual conversation of the album itself. But I will say – and this is even outside the music industry, and is just what it’s like being in your early 20s – the feeling that you’re running out of time. But it’s a self-imposed thing. It’s very normal to not know what you’re doing at this age.
But for whatever reason, I was being very difficult on myself, especially when writing this album, and even before. It was for no reason whatsoever, I didn’t need to put so much pressure on myself. So I wouldn’t even say it was necessarily about any particular industry, it was more so just the overall feeling of any sort of pressure that you feel when you’re a young person in your early 20s, figuring out what you want to do in life. I think that’s very much reflected in the songs I’ve written.
Just to pick up on the tracks more, then. I understand ‘Wish It Was’ is about that conflict between the desire to be an artist, coupled with that anxiety. Is that a fair enough assessment?
Yeah, that song is a bit about self-sabotage; about how I want to stray from the daily repetitions of my life that I live when I’m not on the road, but when it actually gets to the point where I get an opportunity, [I start] feeling scared or nervous. Sometimes I feel like self-sabotage can run on such a subconscious level, where you don’t even realise that’s what you’re doing.
For me, in this stage of career, sometimes it can be difficult to take that stuff. Even though I want to do things relating to the music industry, and want to perform at everything, sometimes I still get scared, I’m still nervous. I was nervous as hell for Lollapalooza this year. That was the best opportunity I’ve gotten so far. It went really well, but leading up to it I was so scared.
Something I’ve really learned about myself, and what it takes to handle certain things, is to just try to stay present in the current day or moment. It might seem like such an obvious thing to say, but for me, it was incredibly difficult.
You mention the experiences of tour that fit into this album. Are there any tracks or specific moments in it, which directly relate to how you were feeling on tour?
A lot of it was interesting because I got some direct inspiration for some of the newer songs I’m personally working on right now. I’d say one thing that really directly influenced this album is just watching the other people that I played with and the people I opened for.
Also, I did like two or three shows after lockdown… seeing and remembering how everything works together made me go back and rerecord a few more instrumental parts and guitar parts, and also the style of singing. It’s not often you go and sing for an hour every single day, or that you have the time to sit for an hour every day. I did that for about a month – because of that I realised the full ability of my vocal range again, so I wanted to go back and rerecord. And I feel good about that, I wanted to see if I could get more emotion in my voice.
You wanted to add more vulnerability to your voice…?
Yeah, the emotion, I really wanted to get that across as much as I was capable of doing. It’s funny because I’m already working on new songs; even from the things I’m working on now, I can hear it so much more. It all comes down to just staying consistent, and also having the ability to tour as much as I have – that’s why I keep talking about it. This year, I’ve done a tour every two months. After this [current tour], I play ZONA Fest, in Arizona, which is a really cool thing, because it has Bleachers, Tegan and Sara, Japanese Breakfast, so many big artists. I’m so honoured to be added to that lineup.
After that I do a few more shows; it’s a part of my life and I’m happy that it is because when I was younger, I would watch these YouTube videos of these tour vlogs, and would say, ‘I want this to be me’. Back then I had no idea how that was going to happen, but I was able to do that for myself.
Does it feel a bit surreal at times?
It does feel a bit surreal. In the grand scheme of things, I would like to do a lot more than what I’ve done. I try to practice thankfulness when it comes to what I’ve done so far and thank my past self for getting me to where I am now.
I don’t want to take this for granted, because we had two years of not being able to do shows. And, you never know [what can happen]. Another reason why I like touring so much, and playing the shows, is being able to interact with people and get that feeling of, ‘Oh, my God, people are actually listening to this, it’s not just online’. Sometimes I can just post something, and it goes into the void. Now that I’m touring, I’m actually able to really interact with people, and it’s such a cool experience.