Country music artist Hayley Marsten hails from Gladstone, Queensland. Her previous singles, off her latest EP Lonestar, are a tongue-and-cheek representation of her fun, flirty and quirky sides. The newly-released Coming Home, however, is an emotional punch-to-the-gut depiction of her parent’s divorce when she was just 13-years-old.
We were lucky enough to exclusively premiere the music video for you this morning, and now we share our interview with Hayley discussing emotional song-writing, new music and fun on the road.
Hayley, firstly a big thank you (!!) for letting us premiere your new music video for Coming Home. We love it and we’re sure others will love it too! I read that you had quite a hand in the pre-production of the video. What was the idea behind the video and how does that relate back to the song and its lyrics?
I wanted it to be very real. It is a very personal song and I wanted it to come across in a video and have those little extra personal touches in it and have all of these photos hanging around me, like memories, so that people knew that it was my actual natural life. We ended up shooting it in my Nanna and Poppy’s house, which I spent a lot of time in when I was growing up.
And I wanted to have a really dramatic dress so I decided I would attempt to squeeze back into my prom dress. I was holding the dress together … my makeup artist was holding the dress together … my Mum was zipping it up … breathing was a conscious effort once I had it zipped up but it all worked out in the end, it’s just that a lot of people than I did when I was 17 had to zip me into it! [laughs] It was nuts!
We shot that performance scene for about two hours or so just to make sure we got it all, but it was all the actors doing all the great stuff. We really kept it in the family. The guy who plays the Dad is another local musician in Gladstone and the little girl who plays me is the daughter of a lady I used to work with. The lady who plays the Mum in the video is actually my drama teacher from high school, who was a huge influence on me [and] my confidence on stage. Because I did a lot of musical theatre in high school and I knew I wanted to be a musician, and she really encouraged me that I was good at this and was something that I could do. She’s just the sweetest lady.
Because it is such a personal song, you’re going to have to share a little bit of yourself and it’s a lot easier when you actually know them – they’re not just strangers you’ve gotten off the internet to come down for a day. It was really special.
The lyrics are a steely depiction of your childhood in a broken home. You’ve spoken in many interviews about how the song has touched numerous people, who have then shared their own personal stories. Does this positive reception make you want to open up and write more personal songs moving forward?
Because this was very different to anything I had written in the past or even anything else on the Lonestar EP, it was risky to me to put it out. All the other ones in the past have been very strong, sassy and funny but this is very vulnerable. Seeing that people can relate to stuff so personal makes me think maybe I should be more honest in the ones moving forward. I’ve always been very honest about other things that are a bit more light-hearted, but when it’s stuff that has really upset and hurt you, I have always felt it was a bit hard to be vulnerable like that.
I co-wrote this song with Lyn Bowtell and she really helped me to sort through everything and relate more – “what you’re really trying to say is this, so let’s just be honest and just say it.” I should channel my inner Lyn Bowtell at all times [laughs].
I’ve said this before in other interviews, but they say music has healing qualities. I’m not sure if they were referring to when you write a song yourself vs. when you listen to a song; but was writing, and now performing, the song a sense of closure or a form of cheap therapy to reflect on what happened in the past?
Yeah, definitely for this song. I wrote it almost 10 years after my parents split up, so it was easier to reflect on it I suppose. When it’s right in the middle of happening, you don’t know to feel. It did give me a little bit of closure to get something down on paper, move on a little bit and not carry around so much hurt with it. It’s taken some time [to not] burst into tears at the end of [singing it]. It’s still emotional, but I’ve gotten used to it now – it’s not quite as fresh.
You mentioned earlier that you started in musical theatre when you were in high school. Is musical theatre something you’d like to get back into?
Definitely! I just have no time to do it at the moment. I was in a lot of musicals in high school. I was really into it and it’s always something that I’d like to come back to. I am a little bit dramatic, so this lends itself to acting but it has never been the right time to try and do it again. I’m trying to focus on the country music thing for a while.
As a theatre buff myself, I can’t help but ask – what is your favourite musical?
It’s probably Wicked. I’ve seen it twice now and it makes me cry. It has all the emotions in one thing – it’s amazing! In my high school production, our final year production, I was Jasmine in Aladdin, so I’ve always wanted to see a real version of it – not one done by high school kids – so that’s still on the bucket list.
You’re touring around the country with Arna Georgia and are currently on the Victorian run of The Tour with No Name. Are the photos deceiving or are you guys having as much fun as it looks like you are on your social media pages?
We get along really well so it’s easy to spend lots of time in the car together, do a gig, then go back to the hotel and watch The Bachelor. It’s a very good tour routine. The shows we did last month in New South Wales were wonderful. Most of them, we’d never been to that town before and to see people come out and support something they’ve never heard of probably and come buy CDs afterwards was so amazing!
It was our first time playing in Melbourne this week. We had a small but very lovely crowd of people who wanted to hear the new songs and the old ones – that’s all you can really ask for really. To have such a wonderful experience makes all the driving and the lack of sleep all worthwhile.
You’re both talented singers and songwriters in your own rights. Do you guys take the stage to sing a few duets together?
We do a couple of duets. One of the great loves that brought us together was Taylor Swift, so we sing a Taylor Swift song and then a bit of These Boots Are Made for Walking. We change it up every gig. We have theme nights. The moral of our lives and this tour is we’ll just wing it, so that’s a lot of how the duets come about.
Have you been previewing any new tracks as well?
I’ve played about four or five new songs this tour. It’s good to take them out in a safe environment where people aren’t going to judge you and can get an idea of if they’re actually good or not or if you just think they’re good because you had a lot of Sangria when you wrote them [laughs].
Does that mean we can assume that you’re working on new material for an upcoming album or EP release? What can you reveal about what you’re currently working on?
I am writing for an album right now. I know what it’s going to be called. It’s a bit different to Lonestar. I’ve been through some break ups, moved out on my own in my own place, so it’s all very different experiences than I was having when I wrote Lonestar. It’s going to be very similar style just a little bit more personal, but it’s not going to be a whole record of Coming Home – that would be a bit too far!
Apart from the tour, that is scheduled to end at the beginning of November? What other things do you have coming up?
I’m off to Tamworth in January. I’ve got some really great shows there and I’m opening for someone I’m a big fan of! I’m looking forward to getting back and having a big reunion with everyone that you never get to see because we all live in different states all across Australia. Next year I’ll be doing more touring and then hopefully getting into the studio about June, or cutting a single, at least, if I haven’t finished the album by then.
It’s been a really busy year and it feels like its flying past, but it’s been a great record that I’ve been really, really proud of. To see how much people have supported it, it’s pretty cool. I think everything happens for a reason, so it’s very lucky that this little EP came along.
You can catch Hayley performing alongside Arna Georgia on their Tour With No Name in a town near you:
Friday 14th September – Music Man Megastore – Bendigo, VIC (with Arna Georgia)
Saturday 15th September – Commercial Hotel – Terang, VIC (with Arna Georgia)
Sunday 16th September – The Loft – Warnambool, VIC (with Arna Georgia)
Thursday 25th October – Oodies Café – Bundaberg, QLD (with Arna Georgia)
Friday 26th October – Willy Ed’s – Gladstone, QLD (with Arna Georgia)
Saturday 27th October – Saleyards – Rockhampton, QLD (with Arna Georgia)
Sunday 28th October – Captain Cook Caravan Park – 1770, QLD (with Arna Georgia)
Thursday 1st November – The Green Owl – Brisbane, QLD (with Arna Georgia)
Saturday 17th November – The Milk Factory – Brisbane, QLD (supporting Imogen Clark)