They say good things come to those that wait and in Nashville that wait is often a considerable one with the referral to it being a ten-year town. That wait is beginning to come to fruition for Iowa-born Hailey Whitters. She has long since traded the small town of Shueyville on the outskirts of Iowa City for music city, where since she has found her self out on the road with Little Big Town and Maren Morris in addition to being named in this years CMT Next Women of Country class alongside Madison Kozak, Caylee Hammack, Gabby Barrett, Avenue Beat, Abbey Cone, Renee Blair, Sycamore, Walker County, Tiera and Kylie Morgan. Earlier this year she released her sophomore album “The Dream” which has been highly acclaimed by all that have listened to it and is a true reflection of hard work and talent coming to the forefront. When we recently spent some time getting to know Hailey, she described her initial journey and love affair with Nashville:
I first came to Nashville, when I was fifteen or sixteen years old and my mom brought me down here. It was kind of like dangling the carrot in front of my eyes, seeing this place for the first time and I think she knew it was gonna light a fire in me and that’s exactly what it did. She brought me down here and I was like I’m moving here as soon as possible! I don’t care what I have to do, I don’t care if I go to college or not. I’m just moving down here as soon as I graduate high school and that’s exactly what I did. I knew nobody down here! So I’m just this, small town, very naive, young blonde girl that just packed up nine hours away from everything that’s she’s ever known and moves to this city where she knows not a single soul! I knew nothing about the music business, I grew up in a very small town where there weren’t many resources for music and I just had no idea? But I think that it ended up working in my favour because it really just gave me the courage to start knocking on doors! I remember the first weekend I was here, just literally walking down Broadway and going into the bars. Like sitting and watching a song or so until the band took a break and then going up and asking people who it was I could talk to about playing a show! I remember just doing that everywhere, any sort of writers night that I heard about. Just going and asking the person or the MC if I could play a show, just really ignorance is bliss! Asking or doing just any and every opportunity that was been thrown to me so I just kind of jumped in!
and has she found it to really be a “Ten Year Town” in terms of the commitment to making it in Nashville?
I’m about to go on thirteen. Everyone always calls Nashville a ten-year town, it’s always funny because for some it’s a lot less and some it’s a lot more. That was just my path, I know Brandy (Clark) who is someone that I’ve long admired and respected, we were working on a piece together and recently she said she’s twenty-two years in, I think? Then I think Lori (McKenna) is right around there too so when you look at people of that calibre of greatness, you’re like if I wanna be that, I’m willing to wait that long.
The reaction to the record has been overwhelmingly positive and a solid reflection of hard work and dedication but also the way that fans have taken the opportunity to digest the project as a full body of work.
It has just been the best thing that has happened to me, right before when we had started making this record, I was in a really low spot and questioning whether I should hang it up entirely? This record is like my last little prayer that I threw out and to see the response from it has been overwhelming, really just reassuring to me as a person chasing that dream, knowing that I’m on the right path and to keep going. This record has done wonders for my music, my career and my soul. It’s been a big blessing. I feel that I have been really lucky with the fans that have been attracted to my music because I feel that they are album-based fans. I’ll see them posting about it and they are listening to the whole record which is really cool. I think the world we are in now with the way people can stream a single and they don’t actually have to go dig and look for the record, yes there are fans out there and that’s what they want from you but I’ve been really lucky in the respect that people who are finding me whether it be on one of those playlists or something, they are going and listening to the whole record.
Life has changed since the start of the pandemic has clearly brought about changes and challenges, so how has it affected her given she had just released an album?
It was so weird because we’d just put this record out and we were actually in the middle of a tour with Jordan Davis. We had a lot of big plans for the year, we dropped a record and I got to Nashville where I played the release show then literally the next day everything started locking down. It was kind of like this weird thing too where a lot a people had been saying your show was the last show we saw before the whole world shut down, so it’s been strange. You said Jumaji, I’m like The Twilight Zone. You know I’m just learning to roll with it, to accept it, to make the best of it and to keep moving. It’s not my plan but somehow this is all going to work out the way it was supposed to, I guess?
The record was released back at the end of February just before the state of the world and life as a musician became very different, many artists have continued to release music during this time but the fortunate timing of a pre-COVID release was something that she was grateful for and happy not to be releasing during the state of lockdown.
Totally! I have so much respect for people that are releasing records right now because I think it is just so hard. Especially without touring and you’re fighting for everyone’s attention on social media and there’s so much happening in the world right now. It’s hard to get people’s attention and present this body of work that you have spent years working on but there’s a lot of people doing it really, really well. I know Brandy Clark, who is a friend of mine and I have been so impressed the way that she has been releasing the record and finding ways to connect with fans even though there is no live touring.
“The Dream” was self-released through Whitters own label Pigasus Records but she has since entered into a partnership with Big Loud Records / Songs & Daughters who are continuing with the promotion and marketing of the record. Songs & Daughters is fronted by Nicolle Galyon, the Grammy nominated, ACM Award winning songwriter who has penned songs for everybody that is anybody in Nashville including the Dan + Shay mega hit “Tequila”, Lady A’s “It Ain’t Pretty”, RaeLynn’s “God Made Girls” and some of Miranda Lambert’s most recognisable tracks from her “Platinum” record along with her “We Were Us” duet with Keith Urban.
I think the first song we wrote together was “Heartland” and I think that was in 2017 as the first time we started working together? It was just like an instant bond! I mean she’s from the Midwest, I’m from the Midwest, we were finding so many similarities in just the way we were raised and she just feels like an older sister to me. I feel very lucky to have her not just as a friend but also as a creative collaborator who brings out some really cool things in my songwriting and my stories!
“Heartland” is the sixth track on the record and reflects of where she grew up in Iowa and how it has shaped her as an artist and an individual. Just before we spoke, the state had been hit by an inland hurricane and Hailey talked about the sense of community that has persistently drew her back home since relocating to Tennessee.
That whole song to me is an ode to the people and the town that raised me. I think that is something in the last few years is something that I have been thinking about a lot more. Growing, maybe growing out of Nashville a little bit and trying to rediscover my roots and where I came from. I found myself just going back there a lot physically but also mentally. Especially with the stuff that’s happening, I’m actually about to be getting on a flight tonight to head to head back there so my hearts in both places! It’s hard that they can be nine hours apart and however many miles but I love where I came from, I’m so proud of where I came from, I hate what happened to them this week and I know that they need a lot of help but I know that Iowan’s are very strong and really resilient. It’s been really encouraging to see people showing up in droves to help each other out. There’s no federal aid or federal relief that’s come through yet and it’s just a bunch of good people showing up and helping out their neighbours, which has been cool to see and one of the things that makes me so proud to be from there.
In addition to the crazy world of 2020 that we all find ourselves in and Hailey releasing an album, there has one other big bit of news as she has recently got engaged! So after the massive congratulations and talking about the new piece of jewellery on her hand, I asked Hailey if the moment came as a surprise to her?
We have been together for eight years, we made this record together and I’m sure you’ve probably heard the story of when we needed money and he was like a ring or a record? I chose a record but we’ve had conversations about it but we’ve been so busy with our creative projects and trying to build that so wedding was coming at some point but it wasn’t our first priority. The moment it happened: totally shocked! He proposed to me in the bean fields behind my parents house, which has just become this holy place for me. I just like to go, sit back there with a bottle of wine then just think and relax. So he just picked the most perfect place to do it!
and finally, like I almost feel obliged to address is the question of “Girl! (I know we have a global pandemic on our hands, international travel is not straight forward and we are not too sure about how playing shows is looking in the immediate future BUT) When are you going to come and see us over here?
I can’t wait to get over there! I’ve been so anxiously awaiting, I’ve never been! So I really want to get over there, I have so many fans from over there that I can already tell know the entire record and are ready to sing it live. That is top of my list, I cannot wait to hopefully get over there as soon as possible!