An Interview With Haley Johnsen

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Haley Johnsen

28-year-old singer-songwriter Haley Johnsen is a risk-taker. From landing herself a spot in the top 24 of American Idol Season 11, releasing her debut EP Through the Blue in 2015, and playing The Troubadour stage in Los Angeles, Haley refuses to let fear inhibit her success. Haley “is a one-of-a-kind voice with gusto and soul, and mesmerizing presence. One of the Pacific Northwest’s most individual up-and-coming acts,” according to her website. She has toured with Texas-based band The Wind and the Wave, Seattle-based band Gabriel Wolfchild and the Northern Light, Season 8 Winner of The Voice, Sawyer Fredericks, and is good friends with famed American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips.

Despite all of her amazing success over the years, Haley hasn’t always felt as confident in herself as she is today. Haley’s struggle with inner doubt and self-reflection helped her develop into the strong, kick-ass Indie-folk singer we know and love today.

A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how you got started. How long have you been singing?

Haley Johnsen: I would say the first official age I began singing was around 3 years old when I first watched The Little Mermaid. Throughout my youth, you might have found me singing in a closet so no one in my house could hear me. I was painfully shy and didn’t want anyone to know I could sing. As I got older and warmed up to the idea, I began singing in my college A Capella group and Chamber Choir, and from that point on, I continued to develop my voice as a professional singer-songwriter.

ppAPP: You were a contestant on American Idol and ended up making it to the top 24! That’s amazing. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it shaped you as an artist.

HJ: Being on American Idol was a game changer for me. I was so terrified each time I made it through an audition, but the adrenaline was enough to make me realize that I was in it to win it. I had to overcome a lot of inner doubt and I worked as hard as I possibly could to prepare for each performance. Being on the show was one of the most fun, terrifying, and life-changing times in my life. It made me realize how much singing and music means to me, and I began to realize I have a responsibility to myself and the rest of the world to do something with the voice I was given. (Right: Haley and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.)

Click here to watch a bit of Haley’s American Idol journey!

APP: Who are your influences?

HJ: Brandi Carlile, Bonnie Raitt, Florence and the Machine, Eva Cassidy, Grace Potter, Aretha Franklin…I could name so many more! These are the women who inspired me to sing with power and grace. 

APP: What’s the story behind one of your most popular tunes, “Feel The Water?” 

HJ: “Feel the Water” first came to me during a guitar lesson with my bandmate. I created the chord progression and structure of the song, but it took me almost 3 months to put words to the tune. When I finally did, it’s almost as if it wrote itself. It was as if a voice in my head was telling me to believe in myself, so that’s what I wrote about. I expressed how it feels to be afraid to do something, and how much I had been struggling with being confident in myself. I had been feeling numb, and this song helped pull me out of that. I think now this song could be for others to reflect on what might be going on inside themselves, and what areas they are longing to be more courageous in.

APP: Where do you find inspiration to write music? Do you have a particular place you like to go, or any type of method that helps you think creatively?

HJ: I used to rent this little Airbnb Cabin in Hood River for a weekend at a time. I would go there by myself and just write for hour and hours and demo out my songs. I definitely need to be alone when I first begin to brainstorm ideas for a song.

APP: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

HJ: I always warm up my voice for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes if I really need to pump myself up, I’ll do a few pushups to get the blood flowin’. I always take a moment to breathe, close my eyes, and check in with myself. I give myself a little pep talk and say “Hey, you’re awesome. You got this.” I think centering myself before going on stage always helps me stay grounded during the performance.

    

APP: What has been your favorite venue to perform in?

HJ: My favorite venue I’ve played so far was The Troubadour in Los Angeles. Artists like Elton John and Joni Mitchel got their start in the music industry by playing there, and it was just such an honor to stand where so many other legends had performed.

APP: What do you hope fans will derive from your music?

HJ: I hope that my music speaks to those who need to hear it. A lot of my music is just me working through something, telling myself I just need to take the risk and believe. So many people don’t pursue their passions because they don’t think they can do it or it feels too unfamiliar and scary. I believe that tapping into your creative self, no mater how “successful” you are in it, is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. I want to inspire that.

APP: If you could perform a duet with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

HJ: I would perform a song with Florence and the Machine. She just seems like such a fun and sweet person to be around, but she is also such a force of nature on stage. She’s not afraid to wail. Singing a powerful ballad or something with her would be a dream.

APP: “When You Lit The Sky” is your latest record, as it just came out this August. (Love it, by the way.) Is there a particular track on that album that is close to your heart?

My last track “Carry On.” This song came to me 3 days after the Pulse Night Club Shooting. I was feeling very distraught and just wanted to write something that was comforting to me. I strived to convey the idea and possibility that we are all stronger together when we show empathy. I want everyone to know that they are not alone, and that we need to show our love and compassion for one another now more than ever. 

 

Follow Haley:

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All photos are courtesy of Haley’s website/social media.
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An Interview With My Brothers And I

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My Brothers And I

Made up of brothers Erik, David, and Scott Wurgler, along with childhood friends Jordan Roach and Johnny Iliyn, this five-piece, indie/alternative band from the Pacific Northwest is ready to take the music world by storm. With their debut album Don’t Dream Alone set to release on September 18th, My Brothers And I will fill your speakers with lulling harmonies, throwback guitar riffs and memorable tunes that will leave you smiling. Keep reading to learn more about this awesome band, and to get an exclusive first listen of their new song “Granted” which comes out this Friday on their debut album. (Only available here on A Perfect Playlist!)

A Perfect Playlist: Introduce yourselves & tell me a little bit about how the band got started. What inspired you to start the band?

My Brothers & I: Johnny Iliyn, Keys. Jordan Roach, Guitar. Erik Wurgler, Bass. Scott Wurgler, Drums. David Wurgler, Lead Vocals.

performing(MBAI) Erik: We had all been playing in bands when David showed us a few song ideas he had recorded on Garage Band and for a high school kid at the time, they were pretty good. Because our other music projects had slowed down at the time, we decided to start writing songs together and shortly after booked our first gig. We just told our friends: “Hey, my brothers and I are playing our first show together” and then people started calling us My Brothers And I, the name stuck.

APP: How would you describe your sound?

(MBAI) Johnny: Our sound is full of throwback vibes, it’s catchy and easy to listen to. We have tight grooves and harmonies that support some really soulful melodies.

APP: When do you become inspired to write a song? What’s the first thing you do when you get an idea?

(MBAI) David: The first thing I do when I get an idea is record it on my phone! As for inspiration, we can become inspired to write a song at any moment. Sometimes just one line of lyric will find its way into my head, other times inspiration comes through the routine of practice. Sitting down at the piano and playing the same old songs and then boom, you just starting playing a new one. We don’t rely on just one songwriter or one approach and I think that’s what makes our music special.

APP: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

on stage(MBAI) Scott: While I recognize albums like Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as being amazing works of art, I’m not arguing my personal choice for greatest album of all time. I think when anyone tries to answer this question their reasons are going to be very personal, about how they connected with the music and lyrics. There’s a nostalgia factor. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me that’s How I Got Over by The Roots. It’s an album that communicates all the highs and lows of life. It’s real, moments of brokenness but also triumph, as well as encouragement. I hope there are people out there that connect with our album in that way.

APP: What’s your favorite thing to write a song about?

(Erik): I don’t know yet. I feel like we’re just getting started. Judging by this album, our one and only, it’s definitely relationships, good or bad. The highs of “Maddy Brown” or the lows of “Nowhere to Run” and “Mistakes”. But for most of music’s history, the topic most songs have been written about is love. There’s nothing new under the sun, we just try and do it a little different and be as original as we can.

APP: Who were some of your musical inspirations as a kid, and who are they now?

erik(MBAI) Jordan: Well, as kids I can remember being at the Wurglers’ house when David was probably 12 years old… He would be in the band room by himself, with the microphone turned on, singing along to Nirvana turned up full blast. So, a lot of the typical hit music from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Currently, we’re all big fans of anything from Allen Stone to James Blake to Misterwives – two of those guys we get to play shows with, which is nuts. This is always the hardest question to answer, because we’re inspired by literally every genre of music, but you won’t necessarily hear them all when you listen to us.

APP: Dream collab?

(David): We would all love to pick Ryan Tedder’s brain. From writing to producing, that guy does it all and he does it well. A dream collaboration as far as performance though, it would have to be singing with Adele. Playing and singing with her would be amazing, we all really love her style, too.

APP: What are some of the venues you’ve performed at, and what is your dream venue?

(Johnny): We’ve only played along the west coast, so venue’s like The Showbox in Seattle, Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, and The Doug Fir and Aladdin Theatre in Portland. But our dream venue is easy, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado!

recordingAPP: Describe your upcoming album “Don’t Dream Alone” in three words. Is there a particular reason you named it that?

(Erik): Harmonies, Catchy, and Authentic. The title “Don’t Dream Alone” comes from lyrics found in our song called “Dream”. We felt like it described the journey we’ve been on to get to this point. Us three brothers moved back home to afford the privilege of working on music and playing gigs. We then caught the eye of a manager from LA, who then got us our first record deal, and now we’re releasing our debut album. We all had the same dream but we never could have accomplished anything on our own.

APP: I got the opportunity to listen to your unreleased debut album recently. I absolutely loved “Granted,” “Scars,” and “Maddy Brown”! Without giving too much away, where did the inspiration for those songs come from?

(David): Thank you, we really appreciate that! I can’t give too much away about “Maddy Brown” because it’s all in the song already – Haha! Yes, Maddy Brown is a real person. After I met her I started writing the song, but we never actually dated or even went out or anything. “Granted” was inspired by a combination of things we were all going through in different relationships. We were all so caught up in ourselves and in our work that none of us were treating other people the way they deserved.image

(Scott): …and, with “Scars” we wanted to speak hope into people. If you feel afraid or alone, just know we’ve been there, too, and it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. Sometimes when the foundation is bad, we need to be broken down before we can be built up. But, just ignoring your feelings and waiting for time to be the change you seek, is not the answer.

APP: Anything else you want to say to readers of A Perfect Playlist?

(Jordan): Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoy our music! Our debut album “Don’t Dream Alone” is out everywhere music is available on September 18th!

Click below to hear “Granted,” an exclusive track from the band’s debut album, Don’t Dream Alone!

Find the band below:

Twitter

Website

Instagram

All photos courtesy of David James Visuals & Instagram.