I’ve been lucky enough to know this Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist for the past five years….since she was in junior high school. Hayley Reardon impressed me from the moment I heard her sing her songs to an audience of a half dozen people after hours at the me&thee coffeehouse in our mutual hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts. She was pretty new to writing and singing in front of others but she held her own. The thing that impressed me the most that evening five years ago was that the content of Hayley’s songs was so mature — her viewpoint was more reasoned and wise than many adults. Hayley has continued to blossom and grow and it’s been an absolute joy to watch this progression.
Hayley Reardon is one of 24 Emerging Artists chosen for this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes). The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
To learn a lot more about Hayley, visit her website.
Here’s a video of Hayley’s song “Tribe.”
You have had a most extraordinary childhood and now young adulthood. You’re only 17 and have written countless songs and inspired countless people, young and old. Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you didn’t have the creative outlet you did when you started writing your first songs back in middle school?
I have definitely given that some thought. It’s sort of hard to put my finger on what these past six years would have looked like if this journey hadn’t been a part of them. Creativity, in whatever form, is very important to me though, and I’d like to think that I would have found some other way to express and discover myself even if songwriting had never found its way into my life.
You often visit schools and camps and give talks and sing songs that are intended to support kids who might not feel they have a voice. Do you have any memorable interactions that you can share with us?
I have had so many amazing conversations with young people along the way. They work their way into my songs all the time! I have one called “Tribe” that I wrote my freshman year of high school and has become an integral part of my “Find Your Voice” program. It began as a very personal song about my own search for belonging, but after finishing the first verse and chorus, I knew I wanted it to go somewhere bigger but wasn’t quite sure where or how to get there. I was certain that I wanted it to be called “tribe,” which to me describes a group of people who are unique and individual but belong together because they want and encourage each other to be exactly who they are. After tabling the song for a while I received an email from a girl in the midwest who was writing to me from a bathroom stall in her school. She was having lunch there and listening to my music. She told me how it reminds her she belongs even when she feels like giving up. I picked up my guitar with her email still open in front of me and finished the song. I made a rough recording on my computer that day and replied to her message with the song, saying that she is my tribe, I am hers, and that I couldn’t have finished this song without her.
You started off playing solo and now you’re often playing out with a multitude of musicians. What’s it like — as a teenager— leading a band of musicians who have been playing music longer than you’ve been alive?
It’s a constant learning experience…and a lot of fun, of course. I really do love playing with a band. It adds a whole different energy and for me, really keeps things fresh and exciting because I am still new to it and still learning how to lead and communicate with band. Plus I’ve had the opportunity to play with (and learn from) some pretty wonderful musicians.
Are you a disciplined writer? Do you take time out to write on a daily or weekly basis?
I’m trying to be. One of my more recent missions has been to work on just that! Being a songwriter on command and creating some kind of regularity to my writing habits. The way I’ve written to date has always been in spurts. I will be moved to write one song for whatever reason and then kind of feed off that energy and get into a writing groove for however long it lasts. I’ve always been at the mercy of when those “spurts” will arrive, however, and I’ve found that I’m generally happier and more at peace when I am creating on a regular basis. So it really does just come down to self discipline. I’m working on it!
It’s no secret that you’ve been mentored by Don White, a local North Shore treasure. What are the most important things that Don has taught you over the years?
Don has taught me so much over the past six years. From practical things at the very beginning like how to build a set list or adjust a mic stand, to learning about comedy and storytelling, studying writing, literature and performance poetry, he is a constant source of inspiration for me. I think the most important things he has taught me, however, are not as much about honing a craft or building a successful career, as they are about building a life that I love and using my gifts to benefit others. The Don White lessons and conversations that I hold closest to my heart are about what it means to be a good person and a true artist. In the words of Mr. White himself, “it’s your life, not your career.”
Are you narrowing down your choices about what you’ll be doing after high school graduation?
I wouldn’t say that I quite have things narrowed down yet. I know I’m going to be a singer/songwriter. But I also know there are so many things I want to learn and study just for the heck of it. I plan to go to college eventually, whether it be right after high school (starting my senior year in September) or after a year or two of doing the diving fully into the music thing. Only time will tell!
Hayley Reardon was fantastic at the New Bedford Folk Festival. Her song writing makes my ears smile. Her’s is a star on the rise. Check her out. You’ll be glad you did.