Could you introduce yourselves, including your background and what got you into music?
Hi, I’m Shea, and sitting here with me for this interview is my baby sister Sayre! Together we make up the duo Henley. We were born into a musical family. Mom and dad were both professional musicians (momma sings -best ever- and recorded her debut record at Muscle Shoals Sound with the world famous Swampers back in the 70s, dad is a drummer and all around brilliant multi-instrumentalist). We both grew up in choir. I eventually joined middle school band as a drummer, taking after dad, and Sayre was always involved in dance. There was no escaping music in our family haha… aunts, uncles, grandparents… EVERYONE plays or sings.
Which native Georgia artists have influenced your music style?
Shea: Well, I’m a huge fan of Georgia music and feel like our state has had a heavy hand in shaping popular American radio. I love Ray Charles and Little Richard. Completely iconic voices and artistry with amazing life stories. Sayre: I’d have to say Alan Jackson… he’s the hometown hero for us (we’re from Newnan, Ga) and living proof that you can grow up in Coweta County, Ga and make it. His songs and his style are classic as they come. He’ll always be an inspiration for us.
Sayre: hahahahaha I think Shea’s favorite sibling band would be Hanson. Taylor married a girl from our high school that Shea had the biggest crush on, and I know for a FACT he can sing every word to “Where’s The Love?” … Shea: veeeery funny sis. That’s entirely true, let me wipe this tear away before I continue…… Hanson aside, I gotta say Brothers Osborne… “Stay A Little Longer” was always a favorite in my lower Broadway days. Great singing, great guitar playing. I’m a sucker for a well-crafted guitar solo. “Stay A Little Longer” is EXACTLY that.
How does being in Nashville influence your sound?
Shea: Nashville is the sound of country radio! There is a base level of excellence here that permeates the business, from the song itself to capturing the performance… we produce our own records (with our partner in crime Cody Smith) so the challenge is that the 3 of us have to bring life to our music the same way 5 or 6 session aces would. It’s truly amazing how quickly they bring music from a demo to a final product, so we’re always trying to live up to that standard while throwing in our own Georgia/Texas grit where we can. Country music fans demand nothing less.
What is the backstory to your 2017 debut single “As Young As We Are”?
Our management at the time was looking for a pair of songs for us to record. We chose 1 we wrote “I Forgot About You”, and “As Young As We Are” written by Nick Sturms. CMT Artist Discovery was showing some interest so we wanted to make an impression. We went to Reba’s studio (StarStruck) and knocked both out in a day.. we had a blast. CMT Music put the video for “As Young…” on rotation and we spent something like 13 weeks on their 12 Pack Country Countdown, eventually landing on the #1 spot!
Sayre: “Alone Tonight” was written with our friend and amazing writer Kenneth Duncan*** … I was going through a situation and Shea came in with this hook “I dont wanna be alone tonight… I dont wanna spend the night alone” which was kinda cool…. he was saying the same thing twice which is against the songwriting handbook (I’m pretty sure), but it’s exactly how I felt about an old flame.
“At the time he was a rising country singer. I would know when he was in town and what bar he would be drinking at and I would anxiously await the “come meet me for a drink” text on a Monday night even though I knew it would end in me being hurt.” How difficult was it to write a very personal song about a fellow artist?
Sayre: I didn’t find it to be difficult. It was a real relationship… that song happened to me. Those lyrics are how I felt and I know people can relate to that. That’s what country music is all about and it doesn’t matter that the guy in the song has had success since then.
Seeing your latest debut on Apple Country Hot Tracks. How challenging has it been to promote new music during the quarantine?
Shea: honestly, quarantine has been a bit of a blessing. The rulebook has kinda gone out the window and we’re choosing to look at it with an open mind and embrace it. People still NEED music. We fell in love with music because we needed it, we live for it both from ourselves and from other artists, and so we know that no matter how difficult or strange things are right now, music is an absolute necessity. Sayre: Are you saying we’re essential workers?? hahaha I’d like to think so! Wash your hands!!!
Performing live during the pandemic. How have you stayed in touch with fans?
Sayre: we’ve done Facebook live a few times, once for a venue we were hoping to play, and just last week while we were writing some new songs with our friend Sarah Beth Terry (shoutout to the Queen Bee and her fanbase). We just played a socially distanced show here in town in compliance with Davidson County regulations… Music City is hurting and we felt it was important to try and support our ecosystem as long as we could do it safely, and we did! It was a lot of fun. Shea hadn’t been out of the house in a while so I had to reign him in when he started covering Usher and En Vogue haha.
You posted on Instagram, “With all this free time it really makes you ask yourself the important questions in life.” What lessons have you learned during these past few months?
Sayre: family is everything. Our 2 other sisters, their kids, our parents and grandparents and cousins who we can’t hug. Whether by blood or bond, who you call your own is what matters. Shea: ditto, but I’ve also learned that a global pandemic won’t stop me eating pizza, even when sis says I need to get into “video” shape. Lesson learned.