Haley Smalls’ star is on the rise. The Toronto native is a singer/songwriter who effortlessly infuses R&B and hip hop to create a delicious mix that pleases the aura palate. This is evidently clear with her new single and cinematic video “Do Better”. Not only does she do as the song tile implies, she finds herself of the precipice of being the next breakthrough artist.
As a songwriter do you find yourself writing from a personal perspective or you creating a different narrative or character or each composition?
I think for me it’s a little bit of both. Everything I write I can relate to in some way, whether it be that I experienced it directly, indirectly or whether it’s just a part of my reality either as something I’ve witnessed, imagined or dreamt about. I’m really big on relatability in my music, and so I like to keep my lyrics kind of open for interpretation. I feel like we’re all living different versions of the same story.
Listening to your songs are from multiple styles anywhere from R&B to hip-hop and everything in between. How do you decide which direction to go with the song? Do lyrics determine that or are the lyrics written to fit the music?
I usually write my lyrics to fit the music so I do create some sort of melodic shell first and build around that. As far as styles go, I think the decision is based on different things at different times. I mostly sit and work in the studio with just my main producer and the style direction can come from just a vibe or a feeling at that moment, or sometimes it’s just that we want to experiment with something. I think versatility is important, and I think that an artists’ sound doesn’t have to be based on genre. If you can develop yourself as an artist to the point where you can still sound like yourself on any song, then you can transcend genre.
When you got started you were posting cover versions of songs. What affect did that have on deciding what direction to take with your own music?
I wouldn’t really say that the covers had a direct impact on the direction I took with my own music, but I would say that doing the covers definitely helped me to refine my skills. Most artists start out imitating their idols and then slowly if they keep at it, they naturally learn how to make things their own. So for me, it was once I connected with my producer [Megaman] that I started to experiment more with my original music. He pushed me to try different things that I was hesitant at first to try, but I’m grateful I did because those same things have become a large part of my sound and musical skill set now.
You wear many hats being a singer, writing songs and as an engineer. How are you able to balance and prioritize these when creating music?
Well I think that if anything, these skills haven’t required any balancing because they’ve become essential tools for me in my creative process. Learning how to record myself and mix/master my music has helped me to know what I want my music to sound like and to understand the very multi-faceted
process that goes into creating a song. This way, whether it’s me or someone else mixing my music I have a way to communicate, collaborate and really just be involved in the making of my music which is empowering as an artist. I think in any business, the more you understand all of the processes that go into the creation, distribution, and marketing of your product, the more successful you are likely to be.
Watching your music videos you seem to put a lot more effort into them than most artists. When creating music is there any emphasis to a visual aspect of the song?
Sometimes I’ll visualize or have ideas for a visual when writing a song, it really depends. For the most part, I’m focused on the song’s creation and once its finished and I’m happy with it I’ll start brainstorming ideas for a visual. I really can’t wait to be able to start implementing some of the bigger ideas I have for my future visuals, it can get limiting trying to express your vision as an independent artist but I am grateful to now be in a position with some more support.
It wasn’t that right around the turn of the century that artists seemed to be comfortable with licensing their music to movies and TV. Now it seems everyone looks to license their music to movies and TV. When you create a song do you sometimes think, “this would be great on this TV show” or a particular movie genre?
Oh definitely, some songs just sound like they would be great movie soundtracks. I’ve felt that way many times about my songs, and I’ve had a bunch licensed to TV shows as well. I think it makes the song come alive in a new way.
You have a new project coming out. How does it differ from some of your other releases?
Yes, my new project is called Until This and I think the biggest difference will be the amount of support I have for this project in comparison to my previous projects. So the scope of what I can do with this project has broadened, which is exciting because this brings new opportunities and new ways to express the music and get the music out to more people. Musically, it is diverse as my other projects have been and it will represent my growth since my last project.
I understand the ongoing theme on the project is love. What is the easiest part of love to write about?
Yeah, there will be a bunch of love songs, some bops about making money and acquiring success and financial independence, also about feeling myself and just expressing my confidence. Love is overall an easy one for me, especially because I find it to be one of the most relatable things to write about. It doesn’t matter about your age, gender, race, or where you live – we can all relate to matters of the heart.
And the most difficult?
I’m not sure that I find any real difficulty in writing about love. I’ve heard a lot of artists say that they have a hard time writing when they’re not going through a heartbreak or when their love life is stable. For me, it’s not the case. When I first started writing I only wrote when I was going through something, but as I became a more experienced writer I learned how to channel other things in my reality so that I could still tap into the same kind of emotion while living an emotionally stable life, which is how I like to keep it. (laughs)
After the new project is finished what are you looking forward to next? Is there a tour or life shows in your near future now that the world is starting to finally settle down?
I would definitely love to go on tour, and we are definitely planning for some live shows. I think right now though I’m just focused on releasing a few more singles from the project. There is a lot of planning happening behind the scenes, so I’m just excited to see everything unfold.
– Dave Weinthal