Some of you may know Haley Johnsen from when she was a semi-finalist on American Idol in 2012, but there is more to her than a powerful emotive voice and rockin’ guitar skills. Not only is Haley a force to be reckoned with but she’s also a role model for future boss ladies & a huge advocate for all ages music.
With two singles recently released, "Lift Me Up" and "Close to You", Haley is continuing to tour all over the states with bands like Wolfchild, The Wind and The Wave and Sawyer Fredericks. Still, even on long tours, Haley Johnsen stays connected to her local community in Portland. How does she do it? The Crush took an exclusive interview to learn a thing or two from the songwriter.
Congrats on releasing your new singles! Should we expect another full length soon?
Thank you! Absolutely…I have SO many new songs that I am just aching to get in the studio and record. My goal is to definitely have my first full length LP out by next year!
You've been on tour a lot this year! How did you get started in the touring world?
Honestly, it has just been a few connections that have enabled me to tour all over the country in the last year! I met my now Seattle based manager a few year ago and most of the tours I have gone on are with bands that he manages. If it wasn’t for Seattle based band, Wolfchild, I may not have been introduced to his connections and been able to tour the U.S with The Wind and the Wave, and Sawyer Fredericks. When it comes down to it, it really is all about who you know and if your music is a good match for that bands audience, which it was!
What is the most rewarding thing about being on the road?
Oh man, being on the road is like being in a time warp or different dimension. I would say the most rewarding thing about being on the road is bonding with the people that you are on the road with. Getting to experience a new city everyday with them, work beside them, watch them perform. You learn SO much from each other and just feel a lot more comfortable being vulnerable. When it comes to touring, performing, and selling your brand, there is no time for BS. I would also have to say that meeting new fans and gauging each new audience is a huge rush. You never know what to expect. Some nights, it might seem like you fell flat in your performance and then ONE new fan will come up to you at the end of the night, buy your CD, and tell you that one song moved them to tears and inspired them to make a change. So for me, to put it simply, touring is about CONNECTING!
What is the hardest part about touring? How can artists prepare themselves for it?
The hardest thing about touring is just the behind the scenes work that happens before and after you perform. You have to load all your gear in, set up all your merch, keep track of everything, play your show, keep a friendly face, tear down, making sure you don't forget anything, and finally have your beer or whatever and go to bed at like 2 am. It’s a wacky schedule and I have been physically and emotionally exhausted at times during tour. It is also VERY hard to be away from a partner for so many weeks in a row. Learning how to communicate while being on the road is in art form.
When you aren't on the road you are very active in the local Portland scene, teaching voice and guitar lessons, being on the #WCM board, co-writing and singing backup for local artists… What shifts have you noticed in the local scene in the last few years?
I have honestly noticed a huge shift in musicians improving their business model! People are starting to get better at marketing themselves, promoting their shows, and just overall interacting with the fanbase they have. I see a lot more of a hunger, [or] a seriousness in people now. I think people are realizing that if you want to be successful, you need to not only make the best music you can, but figure out how to SELL it.
I have also noticed that people have REALLY banded together and started to support each other more. I feel like my network of musicians who I know and who know each other is just growing and growing and that makes me so happy. Every musician, even new ones coming to town, should feel like their community has their back and can offer advice and a helping hand when asked. I think that's what makes the Portland scene so special.
What is your wish for the future of the Portland music scene?
I wish for more venues that will allow under age shows! From being a voice teacher, I know that I have so many young artists who want a chance to perform or go see artists that they’re inspired by, but they can’t. We need to create more opportunities for our youth to perform and experience live music!
What is your advice for artists just starting out in the scene here?
My advice is to find as many open mic nights as possible, stay afterwards and meet people, connect with people on social media, and just ask a lot of questions! Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask about good venues to play, ask bands if they will share a bill with you, and also go on the hunt for musicians if you want to build a band! There are a ton of insanely talented musicians here who are looking for work and a project they believe in. So to put it simply, DON’T BE SHY! :)
Check out Haley’s new singles, "Lift Me Up" and "Close To You," below. You can follow her on Twitter @haleyjohnsenmus. Plus, be sure to check out even more The Crush featured artists in our blog playlist below.
Interview by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov
Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov is the founder and executive directress for #WomenCrush Music. When she’s not leading the #WCM team, she’s coaching artists on how to live their best lives via her business DIA Music Coaching and travelling the world with her hubby and chiweenie pup. She currently resides in NYC and you can follow her at @mrsbossladywcm.