Born and raised in Oregon City, OR, Hailey Verhaalen spent the early days of her career capturing the hearts of fans throughout the Pacific Northwest. As gritty and hardworking as she is talented, she further developed her craft by performing every chance she got — from rodeos, to festivals and fairs, to singing the National Anthem at NBA games. Four years ago, Verhaalen moved across the country to Nashville, TN, to pursue her calling as a country singer.
It was really tough choosing the songs I wanted to sing for all rounds I made it through on my American Idol experience. Song choice is super important, because you want to show off everything you can do vocally within a short 60 seconds. For the first two rounds, I sat down and listened to SO many songs from artists and narrowed it down to about 5 each time. I would send clips of me singing each song to my family and friends, who were able to help me decide on the top choice!
Once I made it through the first two rounds, we had to choose from a list of songs that was given to us after the previous round ended. That was really tough! But luckily the two rounds I had to choose songs from a list for, I found a couple songs each time that I knew, loved and thought I could do justice!
“Stand out — beautiful tone.” — Katy Perry (American Idol Season 3) In what ways does Idol and other reality competitions influence the music industry and up-and-coming artists?
Participating in a show like American Idol was all around a great learning and growing experience. The best thing about the judges is they want everyone to succeed and guide you in ways that feel very constructive and productive! So any artist going through the American Idol process is pretty much guaranteed to grow as an artist if they are perceptive to what the judges have to say! All three judges had some very impactful comments on my performances that I will carry with me forever.
On a different note, American Idol has a huge and powerful platform, so participating in a show like that influences the industry by delivering the “next best thing” out to the world and keeps the music ever changing!
A lot of the time in a co-write, you walk in not knowing what you’re going to write about that day, or what emotions/past experiences you’re going to have to draw from. This keeps it exciting! It’s also just a fun hang with your co-writers. We spend a lot of time catching up at the beginning of the write before we start to throw ideas out to each other on what we will write that day!
On the other hand, when I write alone, I know exactly what I’m going to write about the minute I sit down, because it is usually something on my heart that day that I needed to sing and write about. I usually blow through songs a lot faster writing alone, because there is no one to run the ideas that are coming out of my mouth by! I’ll usually sit on songs I write solo for a week or so and listen back to see if I need to make any tweaks I think would make it stronger!
“Someday When This Is Over” #WhoImStayingPositiveFor The healing powers of music — how has music helped you stay strong during these uncertain times?
At times, music is the only thing that helps me feel what I need to feel! Sometimes, if I don’t know how to outright talk about something because it’s too painful, I sit down and just start singing how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’ll write a verse and leave it where it’s at forever, and other times it turns into a song. This happened with my last single “Someday When This is Over”. I had a serious aching in my heart with the state of our world and needed to let it out. So I sat down and wrote and cried; 40 minutes later, I had this song and immediately knew I wanted to release it to the world.
Covers. Favorite song to cover and how did you put your own style on it?
Whew, this one is super tough! I think my favorite song to cover would have to be “Little Red Wagon” — Miranda Lambert, and only if I’m singing it with a band! My favorite part is during a section before the bridge where I introduce my band members and everyone gets their own little solo. The energy on that stage playing this song is something I miss so much right now with not being able to play anywhere!
“Life is what you make it”. Celebrations, birthdays, look quite different during the pandemic. Keeping an upbeat outlook — what are some positive first time experiences you’ve had the past few months?
It’s so important to look for the positives in the darkness. I’ve had the extra time during this pandemic to try a few new things that I have been wanting to try! I’ve started to teach myself how to record my own demos. They are not very good yet, and I look forward to when I’ll be able to upgrade my equipment, but it has been fun trying something new and being able to record something that is a step up from my iPhone recording app for work tapes of all the new songs I’m writing.
It’s also been a fun challenge figuring out new ways to hang out and stay connected to my friends and family. There have been parking lot dinners, social distancing wine nights and other fun activities that I wouldn’t have thought to do before all of this. It’s been frustrating at times, but also humbling and amazing having all of these privileges taken away from us; it has helped me appreciate the things I took for granted before more.
#TalentTuesday — your showcase for artists and songwriters you admire. Finding ways to connect with other musicians while social distancing. How else can we support each other as live shows are very limited at best?
I have been having a blast showcasing songs from my songwriting friends. They are all so talented and I feel like my audience needs to know about them! I am so thankful for technology for keeping us connected and giving us the ability to collaborate with each other from a distance.
Supporting artists is a very important thing right now. I’d argue that not many people go an entire day without hearing some type of music — so you would think the artists would be seeing more income than we do to help support ourselves! However, with streaming companies paying us about $0.003 per stream (which then gets divided between your co-writers), and all of our income from live shows being cut out for 2020, being an artist feels impossible right now. We are not making the money we were making before and have to resort to other odd jobs and struggle our way through.
People can help artists by buying merch from them, buying their songs instead of streaming, tuning in and sharing live shows on social media platforms, and just sharing, liking and commenting on posts in general. Social media platforms have made it really hard for posts to be seen by your followers unless you either pay to sponsor your posts or you get a certain amount of likes/comments shortly after it’s posted. It’s a vicious cycle of platforms making it as hard as possible to get heard and seen, so the more shares we get, the better chance we have of getting heard by the “right person” and gaining a bigger fan base.
#GirlsSupportGirls The Table Women, a new podcast, recently launched that is by and for women in the entertainment industry. Which female artists have most influenced your career?
Miranda Lambert has always had the biggest impact on me and wanting to become an artist. Her whole vibe and songwriting style is just really impressive to me. I have been to MANY of her concerts, and it is just as new and exciting as the first time I saw her years ago!
I was introduced to Brandi Carlile at Bonnaroo a few years back and was instantly captivated by the emotion in the way she sang, and the depth of the lyrics she wrote. I feel like I started to write from a deeper place after I was introduced to her music. I hope that someday I can end up in the same writing room as either her or Miranda! It would be a dream come true.
“Sunday Morning Love You” You posted this song has been a long time coming. Going from a rowdy/party, humorous, heartbreak songwriter to this love song. Can you describe the writing session for your latest single?
I wrote this song with Brittany Moore and Steven Cade back in 2018. I think we all fell in love with this song when we wrote it and sang it down at the end of the session. I remember it being one of those feel good writes where you know the song would get stuck in your head! I started singing it live at my shows, and have been asked frequently ever since if I was ever going to release it. So I am excited for people to finally be able to listen to it anywhere they want to!
How have you embraced the changes this year has presented to all of us?
It’s been tough, it’s been eye opening, it’s been motivating… it’s been A LOT of different things — good and bad. One thing I have had to reteach myself is that the only constant thing in life is change! I’ve just been trying to stay prepared for more change so that whenever it decides to. come, it doesn’t take me by surprise. Having an open mind has been really important, and I am still working on that every day! All in all, there has definitely been some self growth happening over this pandemic — which I’m grateful for!
“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with a little rain”. Dolly Parton mindset. How has Dolly and her mindset helped you through tough career and life moments?
Dolly is a QUEEN! A few things I love about her is that she says what is on her mind, she is always wearing a smile and she participates in so many different ways of giving back to her community! I can’t think of a better or more positive person to look up to and aspire to be like in both music and personal life.
Your first performance (“America the Beautiful”) was at a third grade talent show. Most schools are starting off this fall with online learning. How might this impact students learning music?
It’s hard to not get a little choked up answering this one knowing how important music was to me in school growing up. It’s what gave me the courage to stand in front of my first audience; it’s what led me to face my fears and put myself out there; it’s the fuel that drove me to Nashville in 2016. Access to music classes and instruments was already something that was really tough because of budget cuts PRE PANDEMIC! Charities like “Instruments For Education” founded by my friend Troy Castellano helped put instruments into the hands of children who had an interest to learn how to play — which is amazing! But there is obviously less access to instruments — especially shared instruments — right now. I just hope that when things go back to “normal”, some sort of budget is allocated to music in schools, because it is the cheapest therapy out there and helps people through many phases of life.