Nashville based husband and wife duo Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels both traded the Golden state for Music City yet despite both growing up around San Francisco, it wasn’t until after their move east that the two aspiring singer-songwriters first met and united as a combination both on and off stage. Their debut album “Hail Mary” which the duo were involved in the writing process for all twelve tracks was released last year to roaring praise, highlighting their harmonies, dynamic storytelling and a range of musical influences where it impacted alongside the success of it’s title track which was used by the NFL plus was adopted by last years NFC Champions and Superbowl runners-up the San Francisco 49ers as their song for the season, it was also performed on NBC’s TODAY show and featured amongst the soundtrack for Netflix film “Walk, Ride, Rodeo”. The duo made their first trip across the pond in March that didn’t quite go as initially envisioned but we talked about the experience amongst plenty of other other things in our long overdue first chat with Shannon and Ryan.
In the current climate, artists and performers have responded in different ways where some have chose to spend the time back with family or moved back temporarily to their state of origin, whilst many have remained at the home in and around Nashville to which Shannon updated us on where they are, saying:
We’re in Nashville right now, which is interesting for us because we’ve spent so much of the last two years travelling so it’s a weird thing to be home.
We talked about how the world is right now and how things in the UK are going at a similar pace to their home state of California which is a lot slower than things are moving in Tennessee, to which Ryan summed it up by saying:
Are we allowed to not comment? Haha, I will say this and have no problem saying why rush the process? Why not play it safe? Be conservative. It’s concerning because we love Nashville so much, the people here. We went out for a drive the other day and you see outside the restaurants that are just packed shoulder to shoulder, so you can’t help but be concerned.
Shannon on the experience of very nearly making their Country 2 Country debut back in March and how the experience of heading over here was for them:
Well, we had been so excited about performing at C2C for the first time. We had heard such amazing things about the festival for so long and we had four shows scheduled. By the time that we took our flight over on March 9th I believe, we had kind of a sense that maybe things might not work out as planned but because we have a team that we’ve developed over there and a band in the UK that we were excited to get together with that even if it did get cancelled it would still be worth it to take the trip. Granted this was before things really broke out in terms of what we all knew about the virus so we weren’t aware of how quickly that would happen and how everybody’s safety would be put in jeopardy but it felt like it was worthwhile! Then it looked like once we were there, that it was going to happen, we did all of our rehearsals, were walking around the venue and it actually was the day before the festival when it was officially cancelled. We were hearing things from Nashville like the headliners might be having some hiccups and obviously when the travel ban got put in place, the writing was on the wall but it was a very interesting experience.
then Ryan on the reaction of how quickly the UK audience has taken to and almost adopted them as a duo that have not actually played a show here yet:
It’s been incredible for us because we’ve really only just had our first national success at country radio here last year with “Hail Mary” and there was a lot of things that happened with that track whether that was with the Netflix placement or working with the NFL and San Francisco 49ers. Then having a lot of support with radio and streaming outlets like Spotify but for us it’s really just an energy! We’ve always felt really pulled to the UK, just an energy musically and as we started looking in to it we were really feeling this incredible enthusiasm from fans and music lovers over there. Even though were in the middle of getting things going here, we really felt like the UK was an important step for us. Even after being there without the festival we felt it, we’re excited to have a band, to have a team and to have an incredible manager all based out of the UK. It was amazing and a silver lining for us, disappointing as it was that C2C was cancelled but by showing up and through a series of fortunate events we were honoured to have been on Radio 2’s country festival. To get to meet the legendary Whispering Bob and play a few songs, so the whole trip for us was very gratifying. Mostly we were disappointed not to get to meet people like yourself in person and especially the fans who were just so excited. I have to mention one of the terms that’s a slight difference between the UK and the US, which we’ve really come to love is the term “gutted” as we got so many messages from people in the UK saying they were gutted that we weren’t gonna perform. We were really honoured that these folks are really taking our music seriously because they are actually gutted we are not going to play!
They both seem big fans of the word and Shannon added “It’s a much better word than what we use over here, we would say bummed!” but what is it that has drawn the duo who are both originally from California but now live in Nashville to make things on this side of the Atlantic a key area to focus on?
It seems like there’s such a real appreciation for music and there’s an openness over there which is really exciting for us. That’s our goal, so we can make it so that we are there more than we are doing anything else with touring. We just absolutely love it even after our first trip.
to which Ryan followed up with:
I think one of the things, the enthusiasm, you can’t help but feel that and as an artist you feed of it. The whole reason we are compelled to continue to write, record and do all of the things that go into this is the hope to connect with people. Hopefully to uplift people if we write a song that in some way they relate to and we were really feeling that over in the UK. Then selfishly just going around and seeing some of the places, we just love the energy and the spirit over there so we can’t wait to come back.
The situation that we have all found ourselves in has brought some restrictions to our lives, yet for musicians their fundamental part of life is getting the music out to fans which hasn’t been able to happen physically for two and a half months now. The other part is the creative aspect of writing songs and working on new music, so has there been a flurry of new ideas from the duo and Ryan talked about what their plans are for releasing in the upcoming months.
We’ve been able to do a lot of songwriting and some recording at the house. Definitely I think there will be music on the next project that is certainly symbolic of the times. On the flipside of that we released our album to really coincide with the NFL halftime performances and on NBC’s Today Show here which was right at the end of last year. To some degree we still feel that there’s music on there that we spent the better part of a year and a half writing and recording, so I think we’re gonna continue to release music that hasn’t been exposed from that project which is called “Hail Mary” and that’s obviously a big track for us. I would say we’d run with that through the middle of next year but in the meantime if something comes up and it’s a preview of what’s to come, in this day and age you can pretty much write a song today and play it tonight! That’s one of the cool things about this time so we’re continuing to write. We’ve particularly enjoyed writing with a good friend named Jess Sharman, over there in the UK and she’s incredible. She’s someone we were supposed to write with whilst we were over for C2C, so that’s been a special friendship and writing relationship even though we haven’t actually met in person.
Then beyond COVID life will eventually start getting back to some level of a new normal, so whilst things are still uncertain in regard to future plans, we talked about what they are hoping for and Shannon talked about the joy of the big life change the duo are looking forward to later this year:
We are expecting our first baby. A baby girl at the very end of September or early October, the jury’s still out. Before COVID we were excited and the industry in general quiets down a bit in November and December, so it felt like that time would be we weren’t really having to miss much. Then now of course everything is a little bit up in the air, as of now the US is tentatively scheduling some things for September. For example the ACM’s will be in September and we are planning on being a featured performer at the radio remotes, as of now people are moving forward as if it’s happening but just like everything we always have to adjust accordingly to what’s going on. So we’ll have to see if there’s another surge that comes up here in the next couple of months which may dictate it, but other than that we are putting our efforts into planning for 2021 as it feels things are a little bit more likely to stick.
Which Ryan followed up with more news on future plans of particular interest to fans on this side of the Atlantic:
We are already looking at a couple of different significant opportunities in the UK to come back. As of right now we’re looking at possibly three or four trips already next year and we’re also working with Rob Alberino and his team at 49ers Studios on another music video so that was something else that was supposed to happen and the timings been a bit derailed. With having family in California, there would be an outside chance if things were to improve, that we could possibly go and work on something like a video.
I have never made a secret of my own love for America’s game, I first came across it when I was very young in the early 90’s where “The Triplets” of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin captivated my imagination to turn me into a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan which intensified through my 20’s on the roller-coaster of emotions brought by Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Demarcus Ware. Historically as two teams that were regular contenders to be the NFC’s representative in the Superbowl, there has always been a strong rivalry between America’s Team and the duo’s home town San Francisco 49ers. I know this first hand as passionate 49ers fans like Devin Dawson and Tyler Rich are always keen to express their disappointment, almost disgust (and utilise how Brits are more accustomed to banter) at someone from over here rooting for their bitter rivals whilst Ryan was a little more polite saying “Just remember Jamie, nobody’s perfect!” However after the duo have now relocated to Nashville, I wanted to check whether their loyalty had remained true or were now subjecting themselves to the ups and downs of the Tennessee Titans, to which Shannon was quick to answer with:
Well we grew up watching the 49ers so they will always be in our hearts as our home team but we were really excited that we got to do a few things with the NFL with “Hail Mary”. We got to perform halftime at the (Arizona) Cardinals (Atlanta) Falcons then we did get to do something with the (Tennessee) Titans last year, we got to perform and it was really amazing. We’re really proud of the Titans, they’re kind of like our second team because we live in Nashville but we love the spirit of that team and they’re kind of the underdogs also and they’ve really impressed people. We’re always rooting for people that come out of nowhere and impress people when they’re not expected to!
Plans are really starting to take shape for the duo on both sides of the Atlantic, with thoughts to making the most out of their record to build off the success of it’s title track plus making the UK a significant part of their plans after this years new arrival and when travel begins to allow it. Ryan also added how a goal would be to extend the NFL connection further and bring “Hail Mary” before a London crowd when we start to receive International Series games once more which is something we would definitely be excited to see. Talking to the duo was something I was initially set to do back in March during the festival that very nearly happened but it was great to finally be able to share more about this exciting duo where we spoke in a slightly different setting this last week and by the fact they are planning on being such regular visitors over here, we are excited to keep bringing you more on the UK’s new favourite adopted duo!