Embracing the self: Hailey Knox

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Photo by Maggie Friedman

Soulful pop artist Hailey Knox just wrapped up her debut headlining tour and is still celebrating the release of her latest album Hardwired Mixtape.

Released last November on S-Curve Records, Hardwired Mixtape features an eclectic blend of sounds. Produced by Mike Mangini and Peter Zizzo, who also discovered her, songwriter Imani Coppola, and Knox herself in Garageband, Hardwired Mixtape is only a sample of what this young artist is capable of.

Shortly after a photo shoot at Rough Trade NYC, Hailey filled us in on her musical influences, the production of her latest album, her favorite guitar, and what it was like on her first headline tour.

You seem to have a very eclectic sound. I’m curious as to how you describe it.

I always said like soul-pop, but I think it’s sort of evolving into different things with the music I listen to. I think because I have a soulful voice, I feel like it tends to lean towards that soulful world, but I’m also a singer-songwriter, and there’s some of the indie sound too. It’s a lot of different things.

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I think with the Mixtape there are just different genres you can hear.

You mentioned that you are influenced by what you listen to. Is there anything in particular?

I like a lot of rap and a lot of different genres. I like Alan Stone. He’s really great. I grew up listening to Justin Bieber and all the Disney stars, honestly, like Miley Cyrus. I think I just really looked up to all those people, all those Disney people, which is funny, and I wanted to be like them.

I really love Billie Eilish right now. I just think her sound is really unique. Her voice is the main focus on all the songs, and her lyrics are so good. Tierra Whack is really good. She’s a rapper, and the production is really simple, but her flow and everything—she’s just really talented. She just seems like a really cool person. I like a lot of rap. It’s funny I listen to rap stuff, but I don’t really rap myself.

Do you find that rap kind of comes out in your production? 

I think a little bit; with the stuff we’re making now. Some of the stuff I’m working on now, I think maybe I’m trying to expand on production sounds. I think with Mixtape there wasn’t a definitive sound throughout, which I kind of liked because it was showing different sides of the production and things that I like.

But I think going forward I want to try to find a producer who maybe produces in a specific way for each song, you know, and have a kind of cohesive sound.

Getting back to your last album, it really was a mix of sounds. Is that kind of where the title Hardwired Mixtape comes from?

Yeah, “Hardwired” was the last song written after all the other songs. A lot of these songs were from three years ago, and some of them I produced on Garageband in my bedroom. It’s just like they’re from all over the place. There’re some songs from my first EP when I worked with Peter Zizzo, Mike Mangini, and Imani Coppola, and so those are from that era. When I first released that EP in 2016, songs like “Bitch Bitch Bitch” was from three years ago. Then “Hardwired” was more recent, so we molded them together into this Hardwired Mixtape, and it works. We named it a mixtape for that reason because it’s kind of all over a bit, but I like that it’s kind of scattered in that way.

I like the title Mixtape because to me I find your sound has an almost nostalgic feel and then mixtape brings me back to that time when mixtapes were a big thing. For the songs on the album, were they influenced by a particular time in your life?

“Traumatized” was a song that I’ve been playing for the last few tours I’ve been on, but I think it’s really about feelings of just being uncool. I think it started from a conversation I was talking to the producers at the time when we were writing the song, and that one’s about being self-consciousness. I think a lot of the songs are about self-doubt and just feeling hardwired differently.

Then the mixtape is called Hardwired, which we named the whole mixtape after that song because I think that’s one of the strongest ones on the album and the most vulnerable song I’ve written. I wrote that with a friend of mine in California, Maggie. It was cool because I started in my bedroom, just playing on guitar, and I had the little melody. Then I ended up showing it to my friend Maggie when we were in Los Angeles, and she helped me finish each verse and just kind of get across what I was trying to say. We were just having a conversation, and she helped me craft it into lyrics. Cowriting is great, and it’s cool because she’s a good friend of mine, so we write really well together.

So, you just finished up your debut headline tour in March. How was that? 

It was very cool. Having people come out from the past tours and tell me, “Oh, I saw you on Charlie Puth, I saw you at your last tour,” or something. It was just a really cool experience having it be my own tour.

How did you find it, having your own tour and not being with someone else?

It’s a little more pressure, I guess because I was nervous going up there. But just having people be there for me is cool, because as an opener a lot of people in the audience are there for the main act. So, it was just kind of cool that people came for me.

What about people who hadn’t seen you before, how was their response? 

It’s so weird, the tour was such a blur, but it was really cool because people were singing along to “Hardwired,” and somebody actually shouted out a song that was not on my setlist. I hadn’t played the song in like a year, but I kind of managed to get through it. They had shouted out an old song of mine, I think it was “Geeks.” It’s just cool seeing people request songs from my past EP that they know. It was just weird.

What are the guitars that you play with? 

For this past year, I used my Dad’s Taylor. In the past, I’ve used a Little Martin, which is kind of like the guitar Ed Sheeran uses, and it’s good for looping because I use a loop pedal when I play live.

Which one do you prefer?

The Taylor—I really do like the sound of this acoustic. It’s just really warm. And it’s one that my Dad’s been playing since I was little. It’s just cool that I’m taking it out on the road now. It’s a little bigger and more difficult to carry around, but it just sounds so great.

 

 

 

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Samantha Stevens has been singing along with the radio for as long as she can remember. Guided by a love for music, she spent the better part of her childhood performing in classical and contemporary choirs. But straight out of high school, she decided that she wanted to see the world, and so she did what any young adventurer would do…she joined the navy. An entire world of sounds, music, and stories opened up to her, and she found herself inspired by it all. In 2015, she retired from the Royal Canadian Navy after over a decade of service. Since then she has achieved a BA in literature, will soon have an MA in journalism, and is even a trained journalist and reporter. Currently living near Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Samantha has written for a wide variety of publications including Spill Magazine, Stereo Embers Magazine, and the North Bay Nugget. She still sings for the sheer joy of it.

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