Name: Hailey Beavis
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current Release: Hailey Beavis's I’ll Put You Where The Trombone Slides via OK Pal.
Recommendations: The Years by Annie Ernaux (book); Another Life by Sandro Perri (unedited version)
If you enjoyed this interview with Hailey Beavis and would like to stay up to date with her music, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Writing and composing properly started to happen for me in my twenties, when I moved to Edinburgh and entered the folk scene there.
It was something about that platform shift from performing music to sharing it that resonated with me, and has undoubtedly made me a more connected performer.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I often think about how strange it is that we are able to attribute complex emotional worlds to sound. I love trying to describe music through emotional language.
For me, lyrics have to be good. As soon as I've heard them, the musicality of the song becomes a suite of rooms for the words. It is the bedrock and the walls. Curtains and carpet.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I called the album I'll Put You Where the Trombone Slides because I have been increasingly interested in the idea of what we carry around with us in this life, either by holding the memory of something close, or because we just can't forget it.
I wanted this record to be a place where I could put these things that I can't let go of, or don't know what to do with. I will put these songs of loved ones and past selves where the trombone slides, and that's where they will remain, suspended for all eternity in the idea of the action of the trombone sliding.
So now I can move on and make new songs. And If I want to see a past reflection of how much I felt, I can find it here in these songs.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I think it's important to be open to change. You never know how that might materialise, but if you're in the way of it, any real growth and transformation will take longer. But sometimes I think I'm open when I'm not, so it's hard to sense that part.
I had a moment one night in my friend's bar. A track by Christine and the Queens came on and it was the first time I had heard him. I was dancing and I remember thinking 'I want to feel like this when I hear my own music.'
Then I began to bridge the gap between the music I was making and the music I wanted to hear.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Make first, define it later. For me this is absolutely key. Some parts of my creative process are just naturally occurring and all I need to do is stop and listen to them. Like melodies I make over the drones of bathroom fans and ovens and bus engines. My body wants me to sing every day, and I just have to decide what I'm singing about.
I do a lot of cut up technique to prize out what is on my mind. I feel like someone else at times, trying to get to the heart of what is on my mind. Often I will write 'poems' that later get worked into songs. It rarely comes all at once. I'm very mistrusting of songs that appear fully formed. They're probably crap or too close to something I've heard and regurgitated.
I once had a dream I'd written a song, and woke up with it still in my head. I grabbed the guitar and it turned out to be “Sweet Home Alabama”, only with different lyrics. So be careful. That could happen to anyone.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I'm interested mostly in authenticity. We are all of us under the influence of everything we hear, it's unavoidable, and it's evolution. And while comparisons can always be drawn, I'm only really interested in artists who I can fully believe.
When you fall in love with a record you spend so many hours with it, as it's seeps into your blood and soundtracks your life. It's deep! So it needs to be authentic. The genre doesn't matter though.
I think you can learn a lot from an artist without aspiring to sound like them, as long as you listen to and hold onto your own unique voice.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The Loop pedal changes a lot for me in terms of what I could do live - building up guitar lines and layering vocals. It's also great for workshopping parts in the studio.
I am also very partial to an old kid's Casio keyboard, and have been hoarding them for a long time. There is in my mind, no sound quite as distinctive, and you can hear it all over my album.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through your work, please.
My morning always starts with coffee in bed followed by a walk with my dog Luca.
My work is varied but all of it involves art, music and play. Working with people with learning disabilities has always been my through line.
If I'm at home, my music gear is usually set up in the living room. I struggle to stay focused on any given task for more than 30 - 45 minutes so I tend to have several 'activities' on the go that I can jump between.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I would say my recent album I'll Put You Where the Trombone Slides speaks most clearly of my process. I have been so painstaking in trying to discover what each song needs.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I began recording the album during the loosening of covid restrictions in my bedroom with producer Jane Loveless. Jane always begins working on the sounds as soon as they are recorded, so we were creating a musical identity very early on with each track.
Bits of experimental production often become integral to the personality of the piece. Jane will find a harmony in the distortion from a microphone, pull it to the front and you are left wondering where this new piece of instrumentation came from.
It's a really exciting process, but as with all good collaborative relationships, it requires trust and communication. We had worked together several times before, so we have a shared language and are both ready to say what we think without offence.
I finished the record with producer Ben Seal, as Jane had to move to Japan for work. Ben was quickly able to understand what each song needed to finish it off. We were able to take all of the growl and depth and texture from Jane's work and form it into delicious pop biscuits that snapped on the beat.
Ben was so great with percussion that just brought new life to the tracks, as well as added bits of "I think this track just really needs a ..." and together we agonised over how to give each track more space. Space is everything, because it allows you to hear everything else.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
My music is so far pretty autobiographical, and I write songs about the things I've experienced. I've started using samples and sound recordings I've taken during the time of writing the song. I feel like this helps me to anchor the song in a place and time.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Julia Jacklin's Crushing is the only break-up album.
If anyone is going through that right now, put it on. It will see you through every stage. I've never known such a cohesive body of work. It should be handed to you as you leave.
I hope my music makes someone feel less alone.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
My immediate thought was of that Tom Lehrer song, where he lists the elements extremely quickly. But that's maybe a bit literal.
I don't know, I like synthesizers very much. And science made them. So science gets a thumbs up from me.
I think my answer is evidence that it's not a question that has so far concerned me.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Who has decided that that cup of tea or coffee is great? It's subjective.
I feel frantic and calm at the same time, and full of purpose when I am performing my music. It's an enjoyable feeling I don't really know from anywhere else. If I am the only person in the room feeling great, I'd still argue it's a worthwhile use of my time. That people other than me are receptive to my music is really wonderful.
But there's something special about when everyone is enjoying the same gig at the same time. It's a journey and I've definitely left shows feeling more connected.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
When trying to understand pheromones, I once read that they 'jiggle and waft' and I feel like there are some similarities between them and music in their transportation.
I love a song that feels like it's never done evolving and continues to surprise you. I like to listen to something 50 times and still be discovering new noises and melodies or reconsidering the angle.