Introducing....Hailey Whitters

Country singer-songwriter and Iowa native Hailey Whitters is poised to release her debut album Black Sheep on October 2nd. Hailey has had a hand in writing eight out of the ten tracks, something that really highlights how personal this collection is for her.

One More Hell is the real gem from Black Sheep. Written about her brother's death it feels as though Hailey is giving a really heartfelt, emotive performance, giving listeners a window into her life, whilst still delivering a relatable song. The production rounds out the song well, a lot less instrumentalisation is used than on the majority of the other tracks, meaning that the focus is truly on Hailey's vocal and lyrics like "if heaven's like they say it is, save me a seat" and "I'd forget about the hell to pay and raise one more hell with you". The ebbs and fades of the production also works well, taking the listener along on a journey through a track that is over far too quickly. Absolutely gorgeous.

People Like You is another very strong track. Another track with a relatively soft production, the solid drum beat gives a platform for other instruments to come in and out on top of. The track as a whole makes for very comfortable listening and certainly encourages the listener to play it on repeat. As with One More Hell, Hailey's vocal is really strong and is shown off by the softer instrumentalisation.

I also quite liked Long Come To The Jesus. One of the rockier tracks on the album, you are immediately left thinking of some of The Dixie Chicks rockier songs. Happily the production is at a level that it doesn't overpower the vocals, but also serves to add another dynamic to the album whilst not losing what is so strong in People Like You and One More Hell.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of songs where Hailey's distinctive voice is overpowered and the overall vocal sound is muddied, perhaps the most striking being Pocket Change. The various guitar lines are seemingly given free-rein to 'rock', something that just ends up feeling a little frenetic. The relentless pace can also leave you feeling a little worn out, particularly with the strong instrumental contrast between Pocket Change and the preceding track, People Like You.

Track listing....
1) Long Come To Jesus - Hailey Whitters, Matraca Berg
2) City Girl - Adam Wright, Shannon Wright
3) Late Bloomer - Hailey Whitters
4) Black Sheep - Hailey Whitters, Adam Wright
5) Low All Afternoon - Hailey Whitters
6) One More Hell - Hailey Whitters
7) Heartbreaker - Hailey Whitters, Adam Wright
8) People Like You - Hailey Whitters, Kelsey Anna
9) Pocket Change - Mando Saenz, Shelly Colvin
10) Get Around - Hailey Whitters, Stephanie Lambring

I recently caught up with Hailey for a chat....

What first drew you to country music?
_H3A6222.jpgWell, when I was young I loved Shania Twain, I was Shania Twain for Halloween for several years [laughs] The Dixie Chicks, I loved The Dixie Chicks. When I got into high school by Grandma gave me a bunch of her old records and so I got really in to old, classic country and I kind of became just fascinated with the history of country music and where it came from, the Opry and all that. I guess off the bat it was Shania and The Dixie Chicks and all those female '90's artists and I went and did some research and started digging in to some of the other stuff. Shania just did a big show here at the Bridgestone, I didn't go, I don't know why, I think I was on the road when she played actually. She was playing, Shania was playing and Dolly was playing the same night! I thought thank God I'm not in town, I wouldn't have known what to do! 
How would you describe your music to new listeners?
I feel like it's pretty lyric driven, I always try and tell a lot of stories with my songs. This record will be kind of interesting because we've got some singer-songwritery stuff and we've got some really rocking stuff. I think it's a good blend between a little bit of country, not necessarily the traditional but it has a new, fresh sound, a little bit of these rock influences and still supporting the music, just kind of supporting the lyric.
The album's title comes from one of the tracks on the record, what drew you to that?
I feel like this record is a little bit's not the normal way of doing things. I didn't really have a label, I wasn't chasing radio or any kind of trends, I really just wanted to make this record and put out good songs, try and write good songs and put out a good record. So in a way, it seems the record itself is not a traditional way of necessarily doing things so it kind of is the black sheep I guess! It just seemed fitting I guess. 
Which was the hardest track to write?
As far as personally I feel like "One More Hell" was super personal and that's obviously a story song about my brother passing. It came about really fast but it's obviously like touchy and when I perform that song live it can still make me tear up and it's like four years old. Hardest, I don't really know..."Low All Afternoon" took me a really long time to write. I would sit down and work on it for a few hours over probably like a span of a few months maybe, just like little bits kind of coming out of nowhere and it was a longer process I guess. Some of those other songs, I sit down with a co-writer and we write it in a few hours but some of the ones, the ones I write by myself , I have a little more time so they take a little bit longer. I can kind of come to them and leave and come back with a new perspective. 
Do you ever feel like you get too deep into a song?
Yeah. I can feel like I get really really swallowed up in it. That's why I like writing by myself because I know when that moment's coming and I just step away, go for a hike, get some fresh air, come back with some new brain, some new perspective. Very easy to over think them, yeah.
Do you find yourself writing the music or the lyrics first?
Sometimes both, sometimes I'll sit down with my guitar and just start playing something, trying to find something the interests me melodically so then I'll try and spit out some words and see what sticks. But other times, like when I wrote "Low All Afternoon", that line "weeping willow, don't you cry on your pillow", I was driving home from a demo one day and that line just kind of jumped out at me so I went home and picked up my guitar and started putting music to that. So both I think happen, yeah.
_H3A6064.jpgYou've written all but two of the tracks on your album, what made you want to release those two tracks?
I think I just heard those songs and happened to be a huge fan. I got like song-writer envy I guess! I knew I wanted those songs, I just was so jealous that I hadn't written them. "City Girl" in particular, a friend played that for me and it was love at first listen, I knew I wanted that song. I felt like I could relate to it because I'm from the country and everyone kind of talks about how country they are but being from the country I wanted to get out of the country [laughs] I mean now I want to get back to it because I love where I'm from but I was just this dramatic teenager that couldn't wait to get to the big city and so I kind of related to that song, I felt like that's something I wanted to say.
Which song do you wish you'd written and why?
Like ever? I love, it's a Patty Griffin song, the song "Top Of The World". I love that song, it's like a depressing song kind of but I think it is so cool that she's telling this perspective of this man who's old and looking back on his life and wishing that he'd done things differently. I don't know, I just love that she takes on this perspective of a man and I just think that the emotion is really real in it. I just think it's a great song. I heard Patty play at the Ryman about a year ago and she played that song solo, her band went off and she just played that song and I was balling! The kind of tears where you don't even know you're crying, they're just falling down your face. It was so good, I love that song.
Which artist would you like to collaborate with and why?
That's an interesting question, I need to think about that. There's so many...I feel like I always say Gillian Welch but I would love to collaborate with her at some point. I think we're both kind of different but I love what she does so much. Her and Dave Mullins, they're like such great artists, God if Keith Whitley were still alive...can we bring Keith Whitley back to life? Can I collaborate with him? [laughs] Let's bring Keith Whitley back to life, I want to collaborate with him. 
What is your favourite part about being a musician?
The spontaneity of it, everyday something new. I just love that I can create things for a living. It's a pretty cool job. Everyday something different and my job is to basically be inspired all the time and I think that's an awesome job!
And what's your least favourite part?
I don't know, it's probably just being away from my family and stuff. I'm on the road a lot and there's things that you miss out on at home. It's like I love doing what I do but there's things that you miss. 
What's the best piece of advice you've received about your music?
Huh...these are good questions...I feel like just being at Carnival, this company, the mindset here is just to write good songs and not worry about the money or if it's going to sell, or be successful or whatever, it's just write good songs and I feel like that is something that I strive to do every day. That's the purpose for me, is just to write good songs, that's the goal. There's just like this atmosphere in this building that's just like no pressure, just focus on that and everything else will come.
Any plans to tour the UK?
I want to! So bad! That would be amazing! I'd probably have to like extend the length of my trip because I'd just want to go like sightseeing.
_H3A5995-1.jpgI keep trying to convince Logan [Brill], you'll have to come over with her!
Yeah I know, that would be so cool actually if we did that. Actually one of my good friends, Stephanie Lambring has toured the UK a little bit and we talked at one point about going over and doing some sort of tour but that'd be awesome to do like me, Logan and Stephanie.  
Thanks to Hailey for her time! Black Sheep is undoubtedly a strong debut album, I would definitely recommend it to fans of Kacey Musgraves and The Dixie Chicks. Hailey's song-writing skill should also definitely be commended (interestingly Martina McBride has just recorded Low All Afternoon!). I would like to see more of the stripped back songs that are scattered throughout the album on any future releases, Hailey delivers those tracks incredibly well. However, overall, Black Sheep is a very strong album.