Hayley Mary is recognisable to most from The Jezabels is returning to Adelaide playing songs from her 2020 EP The Piss, The Perfume plus a few new ones including killer new single Would You Throw A Diamond. Hayley talks with Hi Fi Way about her fondness for Adelaide and her plans for the rest of 2021 including some new music.
It’s great that we can start talking about live shows after a horrible 2020 for the industry?
I managed to get a couple in, I was pretty lucky, but it is so good that there’s actually festivals and bigger things starting to happen now and not everything’s seated.
Have you found that you’re a little bit rusty or is it still taking quite a bit of rehearsing to try and get back to a point where you were before the madness?
Interestingly for me, I was just at the beginning of this new solo endeavour so I’m not so much rusty as it was all new and so there’s a certain rusty that’s involved in that, like you’re getting your muscle memory, you’re learning a lot of new stuff and putting it all together in a show. It’s kind of a challenge in comparison to, say, playing with the band for however many years where you know what you’re doing. So in a way it’s like, I’m a little bit rusty in terms of singing and all that stuff but at the same time it’s not for the reasons of being out of practice. I’ve just never had the chance to tour and that’s one of the things that I’m really looking forward to and miss is that ability to do a bunch of shows in a row that actually makes you good at performing. Every six months doesn’t quite cut it in terms of getting good and getting your chops up so that’s what we really need, the ability for consistent touring to happen.
How have you found the transition going from the Jezebels was to being Hayley Mary in your own right and being responsible for everything that goes into putting a show together?
That’s the question of my life at the moment. It’s like it’s both the blessing and the curse of being in a band is that there’s a shared responsibility and all that stuff so I’m finding it a massive challenge but I’m finding it massively rewarding. I think like with any partnership or group or whatever you fall into certain patterns where certain things aren’t your responsibility, certain things are, sometimes you can get in a rut with that so I’ve been quite aggressively thrust into the position of being responsible for everything. Even the stuff that I don’t know that well, like the technical side of things I’ve had to learn a whole different type of communication. I have to answer emails more than I used to because no one else is going to and if I don’t then the ball stops rolling. Yeah, I’ve found it a necessary part of my life actually at this stage of my life to turn a new page and take a bit more responsibility and it’s all the more rewarding in a way.
Was that also hard when you started playing those first solo shows that you didn’t have the well-oiled machine being The Jezebels behind you?
Yeah, one hundred percent. It was actually a bit of a crude shock to me at first because I guess along the way I forgot how much work actually went into becoming the live band that we were in particular. And even the recording band, like the things that you know work and the strengths that you have with the different players and that kind of thing, the personalities and how they go together, all that stuff actually is magical cocktail of luck slash hard work when a band works. So putting a solid band together is like, I think maybe I just didn’t think about it but I was like, oh, you expect a certain calibre immediately and you realise some of that stuff you can hire professional players, you can hope they all get along and work, are cool and have a good vibe, but also technically savvy, but not too… there’s all this sort of stuff and then you realise that nothing compares to years of playing together either so the biggest thing for me is just trying to get as much time on stage with my various band members. That’s the other thing, because everyone’s hired guns in a solo situation they have other things so they’re not always there, it’s not always that primary concern. I’ve got a lot of interchanging with different players and managing that. I’m really enjoying it to be honest. I’m learning a lot from different players and their styles, their professionalism and it’s quite amazing but it’s just an onslaught of coordination that I’m finding exciting actually.
Did it take you a while to find your sound, that artist you wanted to be and the music you wanted to make?
It felt like it took forever. I can’t remember, I think it was 2016, I’d always known that I’d do something solo. I think I probably subconsciously expected it would go a bit more poppy just because you know, female front person in a poppy rock band you’d just expect that maybe they’d get together with some producers and go super pop or something. Instead I started that direction and I really struggled with it. One, it’s really hard to write good pop music, like good pop music that’s not vacuous. Then two I didn’t really like it. I found that my voice actually sounds better with noisy rock guitars behind it, possibly even more noisy than The Jezebels so I ended up going the opposite way than I thought I would from the band which is interesting but also it just took me ages.
I wrote with heaps of people, I lived in London for a while, I was in the US for a while, I kind of got thrown in the room with heaps of different types of artists and producers and learned a lot from them all but mainly what I learned was who I wasn’t and what paths I didn’t want to go down. There was still this kind of void of well, but then what am I? And it was only really quite recently, like the last three years or something that I started getting a notion of my own voice and what suited it and what kind of songs I wanted to write. I still don’t know though, it’s always a work in progress but I’m definitely feeling comfortable.
Does anything in particular influence that or is it just trial and error with what you’ve been talking about by working with different writers and producers?
It’s definitely trial and error but also I think picking up the guitar was a massive thing. Not being dependent on another person to play the instrument or produce the track so much. I mean, I still depend on other players to finish it and to properly record a track but to be able to write like a draft of a song, get the structure all together, start fleshing out riffs and ideas that really only happened when I picked up the guitar a few years back. That happened because The Jezebels had to cancel, we had a world tour cancelled because Heather had to go into chemo, it was 2016 and we had this record out, our third record, Synthia, and we’d just couldn’t do anything to promote it because we couldn’t go around the world and play. So my manager and I had this idea that I would drive around America playing to radio stations like acoustic versions just on my own.
I didn’t play the guitar before that, I knew like a couple of chords but no way. You can see some of the footage of those terrible performances and I still wasn’t really a guitarist but it urged to get a bit more autonomous in my ability to perform the songs sort of out of necessity. From there, I started slowly writing on guitar and I was encouraged by meeting Johnny, my partner who’s in into guitar very much and he was like, “You just need to pick up a guitar and start writing songs, just crap songs.” He pushed me a lot.
I thought your debut EP The Piss, The Perfume was fantastic and probably should have got a lot more attention.
Aww, that’s kind. There was a pandemic that got in the way of it and it was pretty bad timing. But at the same time I’m grateful to an extent for the extra time to get the live band together to build myself up more like going out there and pushing an EP would have been good but at the same time now I’ve got a lot more to push and I know a bit more where I’m at. Yeah, thanks for that.
Is there an album coming out?
I did have intentions to put out an album and I recorded an album’s worth of tracks during COVID but we’ve decided to hold off on releasing an album, we’re going to do smaller… what’s the word?
EP’s or something like that?
Yeah, so it’s not one hundred percent certain at the moment. We’ll be announcing it soon, I think sometime this month but basically we’re going to be putting out smaller offerings to grow momentum in the hope that at some point touring will open up a bit more fully, there’ll be international stuff and then we can drop a debut album because you only get one and it would be a shame to drop a debut album on a pandemic kind of environment where I’ve got a lot of a connection to the UK, being Scottish and having written a lot of my EP there, I’d like to be able to go there, I’d love to be able to go to America so I am sort of holding off a bit on the album thing until we can. We’ll still definitely be consistently releasing music so it’s coming.
For your show here in Adelaide can fans expect to hear the EP and maybe a few new ones plus a few Jezebel tunes in there as well?
You’re not going to get any Jezebels tunes, I’m sorry. The only time I play Jezebels songs is when I’m on a solo acoustic thing. I just think it’s a little bit unfair to ask another band to play because some people have announced that The Jezebels are over and we’re not, we never broke up, I never left the band, we just don’t really do anything. It just feels a bit wrong to play the band’s songs with another band. I feel like those musicians are very integral in the sound of the songs and I like to keep a full band thing separate. I do occasionally do a Jezebels cover in my acoustic set but not with a full band.
It’s great to know that The Jezebels are at least still bubbling away in the background.
Yeah, we’re talking about doing stuff. It’s our ten year-anniversary of our first album this year. We’re talking about doing something around that but I’m not sure what the shape of it will be.
Do you still remember the bushfire fundraiser event in Adelaide?
That was a great, great event. I loved that event. Let me say my band’s come a long way since then so I’m excited to see the people of Adelaide again. I’ve got a fondness for Adelaide and for this project because that was one of the shows we got to do and then all hell broke loose. I feel like we needed to get back there because it was such a great crowd. Feels like we’ve had a fair bit of support from Adelaide in particular with my solo stuff. I’m really excited to get there.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Hayley Mary at the UniBar Adelaide on Friday 30 April. Tickets from Eventbrite…