“Never give up, stay true to yourself, and enjoy every inch of your life.”
– Hayley Sales
A sultry mix of so many musical styles, the beauty and richness of Hayley Sales’ voice truly resonants.
From her wonderful album to working with Sharon Stone on the song “Never Before”, her journey has been full of deep lows and unanticipated highs… and, what perhaps spoke to us the most, was her beautiful acceptance of her amazing vocal gift and the awareness that she is wonderful just as she is.
Take a breath, take a listen and let Hayley’s music carry you away.
What started you on this path?
When I was born, I didn’t cry. I apparently stared directly into my mom’s eyes…She says it was as though I was smugly insinuating ‘what took you so long? let’s get going already’ I haven’t stopped going since.
I came in singing. I came in saturated in an absolute love for performing and story. My dad owned and operated Glasswing studios out of the basement of our battered Victorian house in Washington D.C. Day and night, the beats of R&B, Jazz and Hip-Hop wafted up through the floorboards into my crib. One of my favorite places to sit was on the mixing board while he worked. I can only imagine his clients’ reactions, but he let me do it. I just loved everything about how music took me out of my incredible chatty mind and into story, into a feeling. I loved it. I spent hours singing and dancing around the yard, swept away in some story I was make-believing.
Then, I stepped on the stage at my Kindergarten talent show, I knew I was home. I’ve never looked back. I began to pursue a career in music and acting with all my heart right then and there. In many ways, I didn’t have a childhood…I practiced piano all day, went to dance all night, took part in hundreds of theatrical performances, Shakespeare, musicals, anything, attended arts schools starting at the age of ten and graduated at sixteen. I was enamored with the whole thing.
Who gave you the most support early on?
Without any question, my mom and dad. I was incredibly fortunate to be born into a family brimming with art. My mom was a dancer and writer, my dad, a musician and recording engineer. They’d gotten married in 1969 after falling in love their sophomore year of high school. They’re still together. It’s an inspiration. Likely the main reason I’m such a romantic.
The second they realized I knew what I wanted, they scrapped every penny together to get me into piano lessons, acting classes, dance classes, theater…My mom spent a good part of her life driving me around. My dad would let me watch him work in the studio, teaching me how to use all the fancy knobs on the mixing board. My mom would blast The Supremes and we’d have dance parties together in the living room. They’d invite over their friends and let me host grape juice cocktail parties. They supported me in absolutely everyway and still do, to this day.
I think one of the most important things they every did for me was provide an incredibly supported sense of solitude. I spent hours at the piano without knowing anyone was there. I would run around our backyard in Portland, Oregon, swept away into make-believe and my mom would ask my older brothers to make sure I never knew they were watching…afraid it would hinder my uninhibited imagination…and it would have. They gave me the freedom to develop my own ambition without enforcing anything and it’s every reason I am who I am today.
What does your work aim to say?
Everything that I feel, everything that I think, every way that I love, every moment I’ve hurt…I guess you could say my music is an ode to romance. Unabashed romance…Romance has always been an extremely important and inspirational part of who I am and how I express myself. And not just that fall in love type of romance, but romance as a way of life, a way of experiencing the entire spectrum of feelings.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Judy Garland. I first heard her voice when I was five and was mesmerized. She’s just all heart. There’s no façade. There’s no pretense. You can feel her enduring resilience, but also her brokenness and vulnerability. She had such a humor and sadness mixed together. It’s hard to explain but when she sings you can feel everything that’s burning inside of her.
That was the type of performer I wanted to be. It’s still the type of performer I want to be…a big messy heart holding nothing back, singing because there’s something inside you that has to get out. We’re all flawed. No one wants to hear perfect.
What’s your motto or words to live by?
“It’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself than a second-rate version of someone else” – Judy Garland
What do you consider success?
An unbridled ability to do what I love, to be respected for it, and to do it with artistic integrity and freedom. Performing is everything to me. Being on stage…looking at the audience…and feeling as though somehow, if just for the moment, I’m not self-aware, I’m not even in myself, I’m swept away into the melody and into the eyes of those watching…it’s the most exhilarating feeling I’ve ever experienced.
So, for me, I’ll know I’ve reached my own definition of success the moment I step on stage, walk up to the mic, begin to sing the first note and joined by the swelling voices from thousands of people singing along. Just thinking about it makes me tear up.
Starting at a very young age, I’ve had some very big dreams. And I’m not there yet. But I look forward to stepping into their reality. Having said that, I’ve also learned that success is nothing without gratitude. Even with an exorbitant amount of ambition and overdrive, I’ve had to take the long road. While it hasn’t always been easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I had to lose it all to really realize how hard I’d be willing to fight to get it back. I had to lose it all to realize just how much I used to take for granted. And I never will again. Gratitude and appreciation for those who support you and love you is everything.
What’s been a real high-point in your career or life?
While finishing this record might not be the biggest highlight my career to date, it’s been one the most rewarding experiences in my life. Mainly because it proved to me just how much I can overcome. I’d spent four years working on my last record day and night “The Misadventures.” Towards the finish line, I signed with Universal again. I was beyond elated. However, the title became ironically accurate.
Less than a month after delivering the masters, the record was shelved by the label when my team left the company. Two years of legal battles later, I was never allowed to buy back the rights to my own music. To this day, I can’t release the music. It broke me in every place I could break. A dream I’d been working towards since kindergarten dissipated right in front of me and there was nothing I could do. I lost my agency, my management, my label, all support. Perhaps the hardest thing for me was realizing not everyone has your best intention in mind. I’d always believed that.
It took me close to a year of twisting in circles in my own cyclone of loss before I was able to pull myself together. Music is literally the air pumping inside my lungs. I couldn’t give up. I knew I had yet to release the album that I could let be my last. I had yet to release the music that would terrify me. I had yet to release the music that would strip away any veneer and let the world hear what my heart was breaking to say. With close to no confidence in the plan, or in myself, or the outcome of spending every last penny, I asked my dad/ Co-Producer, Richard Sales, who owns and operates Glasswing Studios, how he’d feel about diving back into the recording studio again…He dedicated the next two years of his life to this record, letting me use the studio for free, workshopping the arrangements…For not a penny. I owe him everything that happens from here on out.
During many sessions, I would melt down into self-doubt and anxiety. I’d have my hand hoovered over the delete button. I’d want to throw it all away. He would throw a pencil at me or walk into a wall to make me laugh. Music was my lifeline. I spent every second of the day recording, arranging, editing and doing it all over again the next. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…mainly because I was battling the voices inside my head saying to give up, listen to everyone telling you to stop, you’re not enough, art doesn’t matter anymore…all of them.
Michael Brauer had mixed my last record for Universal, the one locked away in a musical graveyard. When he heard what had happened, he volunteered to jump right in on this one and made the impossible possible. We finished a, eighteen song record, “Ricochet” last March. Covid happened…things were paused yet again…and rather than fall back into depression, we kept recording. We finished another ten, making the album twenty-eight songs long. You know, even if nothing comes of it, I’ll be able to look back and know that I recorded the album that was as authentic to myself as my own skin. And that’s worth more than any accolades.
You partnered with Sharon Stone on “Never Before”. Could you tell us what that was like?
An incredible friend, one of the angels of my life, must have brought my music to Sharon. The next thing I knew, I was walking in front of Canters Deli in LA when the phone rings. I answer, mid bite into my sandwich, “Hi…It’s Sharon Stone.” I almost tripped into the middle of the road.
Around the time this happened, I was rattled by the insecurity of having just lost my record label that year, a label I had been with since I was a teenager. I was hoovering on the edge of being swallowed up in a swath of fake eyelashes, hair extensions and Hollywood’s blinding lights.
When I showed up at her house, I was a handful of nerves and excitement… The second she walked into the room, all that went away. She was so warm and gracious, so absolutely unpretentious and open. We talked for quite a while, about absolutely anything and everything.
We both resonated with the idea of unabashed romance…There’s such a courage required in letting yourself be vulnerable, letting yourself be truly in love. We decided to dig in and see where that thread took us. Sharon sat down on the couch, notebook in hand, and I slipped off my flip flops and settled in front of the gorgeous grand piano in her living room. “Never Before” just began to unfold between us. It was really magical.
Very quickly, I could sense we were onto something special. I was blown away by Sharon’s ability to weave words around a melody. The lyrics and music somehow seemed to hum at the same frequency. I can’t quite describe it, and it definitely doesn’t always happen with co-writes, but it did with us. I’m truly grateful. We’ve started talking about writing another!
What makes you laugh?
I have an on and off again relationship with happiness. I’m one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. I’m also one of the saddest. It’s led me to developing a very serious relationship with laughter. I’ll find any reason to laugh. I’m so spun up so much of the time, it softens the edges.
As a kid, I had emotional meltdowns whenever my mom left. I’d found my grandmother dead in my room at the age of four and was convinced my mom would die at any moment. I asked her every night “mom, are you going to die today.” Clearly a very lighthearted child. The only thing that would shake me out of the downpour of tears was my dad’s goofiness. He’d stand up, turn around and walk straight into a wall. Or pretend to slip. For some reason, I’d just buckle over in laughter…
I used to love The Three Stooges, I Love Lucy…You know, I really just love to laugh. Baby chickens, Bridesmaids, my best friends, my family, my husband’s hair in the morning, my own tendency to make up words by accident or paraphrase catch phrases totally wrong. At least half the time someone points it out and I can’t help but laugh at myself. My mom has an entire journal called “Hayley’s Dictionary” that she’s been keeping since I was a kid. All in all, it’s pretty hard to not get me laughing.
Everything, I hope.
Pie, Cake, or Ice Cream?
Coconut Cookie Dough Ice Cream…and then I eat all the cookie dough.
“After decades of being told to find my voice, to change this or that about myself, I finally realized that I didn’t have to change anything.”
– Hayley Sales
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