What was the first album you bought?
It was at Tower Records, and I believe it was the first NSYNC album. Gosh, I have such fond memories of going to Tower Records and purchasing one album with my parents. I'd convince them to help me buy it.
Who's an artist you’re loving right now?
I feel like there's so many incredible artists right now, it's honestly hard to keep up because everyone's releasing amazing music 24/7 — we're all on the same cycle now because we've all been cooped up, just writing and in our feelings.
Obviously, Olivia Rodrigo is doing incredible. I love Girl in Red. I love Billie [Eilish], I think she's great and a super, super-nice person too. Honestly, my answer is that I'm just proud of anyone who is brave enough to release music, be vulnerable with other people, and share that.
Have you had a moment where you’ve been starstruck?
I saw Emily Blunt at a restaurant — she was a couple of feet away from me. I just panicked, stared, and was breathing heavily. The other one I'll never forget, that I'm also traumatized by, is when I saw Sia. We were going to the same birthday party, but she was just leaving. I just watched her, I didn't know what to do. She's one of my favorite songwriters, and she just drove off! I was like, that was your moment! That was your moment, Hayley, and you missed it!
How has the past year affected your songwriting and recording process?
It affected it, for sure, because you're now doing Zoom sessions. The song I just released, "Chance," I wrote over Zoom, which is a very different experience. I had to set up a recording studio at my house and recorded it here.
It was cool in the sense that I felt like I became more self-sufficient — not being able to go anywhere, not having many social obligations. You're kind of sitting in your feelings, like I said — journaling, having these thoughts. I feel like a lot of people changed jobs, moved, so a lot of people have this gift of space and time to think. I think that was one of the silver linings of such a challenging time.
What inspired “Chance”?
Speaking of being in our feelings, I was going down memory lane — flashes of what you've experienced and was that actually real or not real. I was thinking about how I had all these opportunities with women, and how I just never took a chance on myself — so, therefore, I never had a chance with them. And I was like, oh my gosh, like that was my whole adolescence! Complaining and being upset that I didn't have a chance with these women and I didn't even take a chance on myself. I didn't even believe in myself, that I was worthy or that I had something to offer. So that's what inspired this song.
I directed a music video for it that captures what would have happened if I had taken a chance — that amazing relationship you will find and will experience when that love is reciprocated both ways in that honeymoon stage.
What’s your favorite lyric on “Chance”?
I love these lyrics because they're very straightforward. Like, "I was a no, never maybe / I knew she'd never take a chance on me." It's just very, like, straightforward. I love "How did it go / we'll never see" because, not that I have regrets, but I wish I would have believed in myself a little bit. Granted, I probably would have experienced heartbreak as well because sometimes it's not reciprocated — but at least I would have tried!
What I'm trying to do with my music, fans, and listeners is to inspire them to try and go for it. To have those experiences of heartbreak and love without that self-judgment suffocating you.
If I were to listen to the first time you played through “Chance” vs. what we hear in the recorded version, what would be different?
It was entirely different. When I recorded the demo, it was an upbeat song — a full upbeat dance track. There was something about it that just wasn't working. My executive producer on the album, Danja, came in and was like, "It needs to be a ballad." I was like, "No, it does not! [Laughs] This is an upbeat song!"
We just slightly changed the chords and made it more melancholy and it allowed the song to lift and have more space to just be. That's what's so amazing about creating in general is that it starts one way and ends another way — like life, you think you want one thing, and then you go the other way. That's what's so fun about it.
What was it like working with Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon; X-Men: Apocalypse) on the music video?
It was very challenging because it was a very small crew, obviously — we shot it having to do the CDC protocols and all that stuff. But I'm so excited about the music video, because my DP was a female, my editor was a female, and my producer was a female, I'm female! There was like this female energy on set, which you just don't get very often — especially behind the camera. So that was really, really cool, and then it just felt like a family trying to make this happen.
I met Alexandra over FaceTime and she believed in the vision, so I was super grateful to have her part of it. I think she did a wonderful job. I hope people like seeing a biracial love story, seeing that on their screens and knowing that it's possible.
What has the response to "Found My Friends" been like?
It's one of my favorite songs that has just really felt, sonically, like me. It was born through a very challenging time, realizing that I didn't have to be my worst enemy and keep beating myself down — I could be my own friend to myself. I'm never going to be alone because I'm always going to have myself, and that's not something we really acknowledge or celebrate.
I actually wrote it before the pandemic — I was feeling that in January, February, and then everything shut down. I loved shooting the music video, I directed that video as well. We shot it on film, my first time shooting on film, and then "Chance" was also shot on film. I had been at home, I hadn't been performing, I hadn't seen people — so shooting that music video was great because I was able to rediscover my confidence. And dance! I missed dancing.
Are there any small details on I’m Too Sensitive for This Shit that you think fans might have missed the first time around?
I was really proud of I'm Too Sensitive for This Shit, it was a title that I was holding on to for so long that I really wanted to share with people. When I was writing that EP, it was a very challenging time. We wrote it in Joshua Tree, and we're in this desert. I feel like there's this desert energy and this space to it — the desert is beautiful, but it's also scary, because you're in the middle of nowhere. I feel like knowing that context when you listen to the EP again, you can feel that dark, almost unsettling energy throughout.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
I think it changes every year. Currently, Pride, for me, is a celebration of where you've been and where you are. I think it's just a moment of acknowledgement of your journey in life and loving yourself. It's so cliché, but it's so hard to love yourself. It's so challenging. I don't know why we make it so hard for ourselves. It's so hard to be truthful to yourself, and then on top of that, share that with the world, and then fight for that equality.
I used to be terrified of Pride Month because I was like, "Oh my gosh, someone's gonna find out I'm gay if I go to that parade." I was uncomfortable, because I was like, I'm gonna be outed. Now, I realize that's not what Pride Month is about. It's about acknowledging and celebrating who you are and where you are in your journey.
BuzzFeed: I think we were at the same Pride parade — New York's World Pride in 2019.
Hayley: World Pride! World Pride was epic. Mine was super emotional for me, because that was the first time I had been in a parade. You're out there for hours, it was so long. It was crazy. I was like, all these people are coming out to celebrate us and fighting? Allyship is the coolest thing, especially when you're fighting for someone else's equality and love. It was so cool to just see everyone in the street in New York, just celebrating, kids dancing, it was awesome. I'll never forget it.
It's emotional. I feel bad that I was so afraid of it for so many years. I just was terrified of it, and I wish I hadn't been.
What are you most looking forward to about live shows?
I think the given of being in the vicinity of other humans, celebrating with one another. I do have to say, though, there's some social anxiety that I'm experiencing as things are opening up — seeing humans and not feeling like you're in a danger zone. I think that we're gonna have to kind of work through that. Especially people who deal with anxiety, it's gonna be a little challenging, but I'm just so excited to share that space and energy with fans and friends, being outside performing. I'm ready to not have the computer screen performances.
I know you have a lot of young queer fans — is there a recent fan interaction that sticks out to you?
You know, I haven't had many this past year. What's been really cool is I've been doing IG Lives and bringing in fans. It's just been so awesome to have face-to-face, even though it's through the internet, conversations with my fans and seeing where they're at, how their day is — simple stuff has been so meaningful to me. It's so easy to feel isolated and alone, and I definitely go through that all the time. It felt so supportive and awesome to just be able to see them — we're doing this, we're getting through this, we're doing great, keep going!
I'm going to keep doing more of them, but I wasn't because I was afraid I was going to see naked images or something! Now, I'm just going for it — it's awesome.
What's next for you?
I'm focusing on my song "Found My Friends," my new song "Chance," and just getting back into things. I have some new music on the horizon, and I'm excited to share it with everyone and eventually go on tour.
Buzzfeed: Are we going to see a new album in the not-too-distant future?
Hayley: In the future, it's definitely in the future!