Introducing: Hailey James (www.HaileyJamesMusic.com)
Hailey James is a young singer/songwriter from Minnesota who recently released her first single, Live Your Life, to significant local acclaim. I have had the pleasure of following Hailey James since May of 2018, and watching her development has been absolutely astounding shortly after the Midwest CMA Music Awards show in February, she took some time to share part of this journey with us.
B&G: Can you tell us a little bit about your development as a songwriter, such as the organizations you work with and conferences/workshops you attend?
Hailey: I have been writing originals for about a year, with a real commitment in the past couple of months. I joined Songtown (Songtown.com) in November 2018 after attending an event hosted by the Midwest CMA. After an open mic, I was one of four people awarded a one-on-one mentorship session by Marty Dodson, Clay Mills and Jason Duke. These writers are legends in their own right and have multiple number one hits to their names. I did my one-on-one session with Marty Dodson in December and have been in communication with him ever since.
In November, a Skycircle was started where several Midwest CMA members meet monthly to submit and critique each other’s songs and talk about industry tips. I participated in my first one in January and submitted a song last month that received very positive feedback and helpful suggestions. Since then, I have been asked by several other artists to do co-writes, the most recent being with Selby Copeland, a Songtown member suggested by Marty Dodson.
B&G: I always like to hear about an artist’s “library” of work. How many songs have you written and how many do you perform regularly?
Hailey: My first single, Live Your Life, was a solo venture. I wrote all lyrics and created the original melody. I really wrote the song to encourage and motivate people to live their best life today, not tomorrow, next week, next year. Do what makes you happy today, because tomorrow is not promised. It was a fun, upbeat, first single and was produced by Greg Michael Huberty (gregmichaelhuberty.com). I currently have 10 original songs to my name and perform them along with about 35-40 others regularly around the Twin Cities (Minnesota) and Wisconsin.
B&G: I know when I first began following you that you had a regular gig at a local bar. What does your schedule look like now?
Hailey: In January, I was part of my school’s jazz opera called Sophisticated Ladies so my gig schedule was a little lighter than normal, but I still managed to participate in a Midwest CMA Songwriters showcase, performed at the Republic Stage at MSP airport, along with other performances. I typically average 1-2 gigs a week on top of attending school every day. I have had lots of gig requests recently, so my spring/summer calendar is filling up quickly.
In February, I participated in a Playathon at the Mall of America to raise money for the MusicLink foundation. This foundation provides music lessons for those that could not otherwise afford them. I volunteered at the check-in table and performed several songs on-stage in the Macy’s rotunda. I have been asked back next year as an emcee for the event. Lots of money was raised to help kids get the lessons, instruments, sheet music, etc. they need to pursue their music passions. Music is life for me, and I know how valuable these types of musical opportunities are for kids. In the past I have taken piano and violin lessons and am currently taking voice and guitar lessons.
B&G: I love your covers of Maddie and Tae and Carrie Underwood. What other artists can we expect to hear you cover at one of your shows?
Hailey: My biggest musical inspiration comes from top female Country artists like Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini (I even got to meet Jason Duke who co-wrote Dibs at the Midwest CMA/Songtown event!), and Taylor Swift. I regularly cover these artists along with others like Miranda Lambert, Maddie and Tae, Sara Evans, Lady Antebellum, and Old Dominion.
Thanks to Hailey for taking the time to share her experiences with us. Interview by Mike Ross (twitter.com/rossmike15)