DARLINGTON musician Hayley McKay is a multi-talented…
singer-songwriter who has captivated and stunned many with her incredible vocals. In 2011, McKay won a national competition that funded a scholarship to study Vocals at The British and Irish Institute of Modern Music (B.I.M.M.) in Brighton. From there she graduated to an artist development course in London with Access to Music – former alumni includes Rita Ora, Jesse Glynne and Ed Sheeran. By 2016, she had already performed in Nashville, Glastonbury and venues across the U.K. Following that (last year), she performed at Ronnie Scott’s’ and The Bedford; Islington’s 02 Academy and The Half Moon, Putney – supporting Scouting for Girls – and has performed alongside Jamie Cullum, Bryan Ferry and Seal. In 2017, there are even bigger and brighter prospects ahead. I talk to McKay about her extraordinary past and plans for this year: she discusses new single, Unspoken, before talking about what compelled her decision to get into music.
Hi, Hayley. How are you? How has your week been?
Busy as ever! I’m going through ideas for my second single video, and over the last weekend, I was judging an international music competition.
For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?
I play with a full band and we have a new music genre with a real difference – it’s called Pop/Electro/Country (or P.E.C. for short).
This must be the first time I have featured an artist from Darlington. What is the music scene like and how many opportunities are there for local musicians?
The Forum Music Centre in Darlington is my second home. It’s a great live music venue with rehearsal rooms and a recording studio – which are always busy with some great local talent. There are also some great open mics in Darlington.
PHOTO CREDIT: Karen McBride
Last year was a busy one for you. Glastonbury must have been something for the memory chest. What was that experience like?
It was amazing – I opened the Toad Hall stage playing a solo acoustic set.
It was so good that I’d love to back; but this time with the band. That would really be special.
You have supported Scouting for Girls and shared the stage with Seal and Bryan Ferry. What has been your favourite memory from last year?
Funnily enough, it’s getting the band together. I’ve always wanted my own band and now I have one.
Unspoken is your debut single. What can you tell us about the influences and the inspiration behind the song?
It’s a heartfelt ballad which I really hope captures the emotion behind walking away from something you’re uncertain about.
The track had Pop and Country edges. What music did you grow up listening to and who were the artists you idolised?
Oh, there are so many – there was always music playing in the house and in the car. From the North-East music scene there was Lindisfarne: but I love ABBA, Whitney Houston; Barbra Streisand and Celine (Dion) for the purity of their vocals and then Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks for their storytelling.
There have been comparisons made – from a visual aspect certainly – between you and LeAnn Rimes. Is it quite daunting receiving that sort of accolade or flattering?
It’s flattering, of course.
But I’d rather be compared with someone because of my music rather than the way I look.
You are making your first steps into music. What compelled you to get into music in the first place?
Music has always been a part of my life – apparently, I used to sing in my cot! There was always music in the house and in the car. Growing up, I went to stage school and performed in musical theatre. It really seems that music is in my D.N.A. and I’ve never imagined doing anything else.
What plans are afoot this year? Can we expect an E.P. or album perhaps?
Yes, you can.
I’m currently working on an album – which should be ready for release in the summer.
In that sense; will you be touring at all in 2017?
I’m currently doing radio promo tours if that counts. But there will a short U.K. tour playing at some of the festivals.
If you had to select three albums that mean the most to you which would they be and why?
Whitney (Houston): The Greatest Hits. (Because) I used to sing a lot of Whitney’s songs as a kid and wanted to figure out how to play them. They’re all on this album.
ABBA – Live. Simply because they’re (just) amazing.
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. Because it shows why he’s The Boss.
PHOTO CREDIT: Karen McBride
Are there any musicians, international or local, you recommend we check out?
Oh – that’s impossible: there’s just too many to choose from and I’m adding to the list every day.
What advice would you provide any upcoming artists?
Collaborate with other musicians and writers.
Surround yourself with radiators and not drainers and work as hard as you can – because talent alone is never enough.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like (not yours as I’ll include that) and I’ll play it here.
Run for Home by Lindisfarne. It’s my all-time favourite song.
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