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Hayley Sales on how she pulled herself from the brink as rumour left her ‘drowning’

In the dark confines of The Savoy Hotel’s gold-lined Beaufort Bar, Hayley Sales takes her place at a grand piano.

Gathered around her in hushed silence are some of the biggest movers and shakers in the UK.

The buzz is palpable as tour promoters, agents and TV commissioners settle into the seats, as waiters float between them carrying glasses of champagne.

It’s little wonder Hayley has drawn such an influential crowd.

The buzz around the artist has been ramping up thanks to her new single Lifeguard, as well as her well-received shows supporting Rufus Wainwright on his UK tour.







Hayley Sales opened up on the rumour that left her ‘broken’



Lifeguard – a bona fide hit – is a dreamy, slow-burning epic that bursts into life with a soaring chorus. Crowds, also, have loved her stripped-back piano-led pop music that effortlessly fuses elements of jazz and soul.

Sure enough, the throng of music industry execs are not left disappointed. It’s a virtuoso performance; each song radiates with a quality both intimate yet powerful.

Hayley is an unusual proposition in many respects.

She has already enjoyed a rich, varied career both within music and also, as an actress.

Her first album was released back in 2007, and she has starred in TV shows such as Cedar Cove, as well as films such as Deadpool 2. Next year sees the release of Corrective Measures in which she stars with Bruce Willis.







She talked about her new song



But disaster struck when her ambitious third album, The Misadventures, was shelved by her label after the team working with her changed.

Disillusioned and heartbroken, she could easily have walked away from music altogether.

But instead she came back stronger and is now in the form of her life.

In an exclusive Q&A with the Mirror, Hayley opens up about life on the road in the UK, the heartbreaking story behind new single Lifeguard and how she pulled herself back from the brink.

Where in the world are you?

I’m on a balcony overlooking Cambridge, and quite smitten. It’s fun to hit the main cities and towns over here. Yeah, I love it. I’m just obsessed with all the old buildings. I’m so north American, I’m like, look, it’s like older than our country, every building on the street.

You posted a gorgeous picture of Edinburgh on your Instagram.

Oh, I loved it there. I wish we’d had more time, next tour. There’s something really magical and wild up there, I don’t know. I love the history of everything too, so I’ve been enjoying myself.

Obviously you’re supporting Rufus Wainwright and you’re playing at the Palladium, which is such an iconic venue.

I remember being a little six year old and daydreaming about playing the Palladium, because I was just deeply in love with Judy Garland and all those legendary performers that have played there. So to say I’m excited would be a massive understatement, it feels like a dream coming true.







Hayley Sales opened up on the rumour that left her ‘broken’



What is it like working with Rufus?

He is brilliant to be honest, being a fellow Canadian and American I’ve loved him since I was a teen, I’ve loved him for years. So this is also a dream coming true. And just to watch him on stage, his artistry is iconic really. I mean, he has such command of just the stage and his songs are, when you hear a song and it feels like it’s been written for centuries, it’s just that, it resonates that deeply. I teared up every single show. And he’s such a sweetheart too. I got to hang out with him, we’ve been traveling quite a bit with him. The times I find to hang out with him between our sets, he’s so gracious and kind and fun and funny and everything you want from somebody when you get to open for them.

Your song Lifeguard has this sort of epic, dreamy quality to it? What’s the story behind the song?

I love that song, it’s so dear to me, I mean, dear, like heartbreakingly close to my heart. I wrote that the day after my whole life exploded.

A rumour exploded all around me and I lost every acquaintance. I was basically chased out of a town and lost my boyfriend of seven years. It was a heartbreaking experience. And I had a songwriting session that next day with two of my dear friends. And I could barely get out of my car to go into the writing session.

I was so just decimated and sobbing my little eyes out. I’m quite an emotional human as it is. So give me an excuse and I’m destroyed. But we went in and I told them the story and they’re like, well, the best thing we can do is just write it. And we recorded the whole, that vocal actually was recorded in their little basement studio apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles next to a refrigerator. And I could barely get through the song. We wrote it and recorded it in one day and I couldn’t really sing the vocal. I went back and whenever I do it again, it was just too perfect. There was something really broken about when you capture something in the moment. And so I’m really glad you love that song. I’m so excited to finally be able to release it and music in general, it’s been too long.

Are you happy to share what the rumour was that left you so broken?

I can’t give names, but there was a movie star that I went to write a song with. And essentially one of my dearest friends claimed that I said that I had had a fling with this man to my then seven year boyfriend. My whole life was burnt up from me and inside out in that moment. It just wasn’t true. I dealt with the pain of it anyways. And on top of that, I finished my last record for a major label and then the president and the whole company left. And the new team had decided not to release any of the music that the former team had been working on. And yet they wouldn’t give me back my album. I just felt like I was drowning. I mean, everyone experiences that at some point in my life where it’s just, you can’t catch a breath, you’re being swamped by just this despair shall we say. I mean, in the end it’s been the biggest blessing of my life, that was this huge turning point and all these amazing other doors opening. In some ways those doors had to slam shut and break my nose for me to find them. But that’s that, in the end, the worst experiences of my life turned into blessings. And here we are, and I’m playing the Palladium and I keep pinching myself.

It’s a really beautiful song and I can’t believe you’ve recorded it and did it all in a day. It feels like it’s one of those songs which would’ve had weeks dedicated to it to try and perfect.

The songs that really resonate with me the most tend to be the ones that just come out all at once, if that makes any sense to you. The demos are always the ones I keep or the songs I write once in an hour or two tend to be the ones that move me the most because you’re not trying to perfect them or overthink them, you’re just telling the story you have to tell because you’re a mess, or not a mess.

Is it a balancing act juggling the music and your acting? Do you gravitate towards any one in particular? Or is it something which you love in equal measure both as creative outlets?

They both fulfil me in entirely different ways. I find that acting is wonderful because you get to step into someone else’s story and explore the world through their eyes and their shoes and speak your words. I simply love it, but I think music is my soulmate. I mean, music’s kept me alive, music is much more terrifying for me because it’s my words and exposing the deepest parts of my heart. So I would have to say music, it’s my everything.

What I love more than anything, is being on a stage. The charge that you get from the audience and what you get to give back to them. I’ve always been a shy kid. I mean, my mom was to tell this story actually about my first show when I was in kindergarten, I sang Dreams to Dreams in Fievel Goes West. I hid behind my mum’s back all the way until they called my name. And then I walked on and it was all gone, it was home. I mean, maybe there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I have no idea, but it just felt the place I could be, it was my happiest place, I could be there forever. And then I get the applause, ran off and high behind my mum’s back again. So, performing is everything to me, it still is.

You mention your mum. And obviously your dad as well, he was in the music business wasn’t he?

So my parents are living legends that have never really come to light in some ways. My dad is a phenomenal musician and songwriter. We’re actually about to release his first song, digitally, ever. He’s 73 years old. I’m helping him with that. But in the 60s and 70s, he started a recording studio as a musician. He was invited to play Woodstock. He got to perform at the Ramones, the Grateful Dead, Hardy with Bowie, stuff like that.

And so he decided to focus on producing and recording music for other people. And then of course he has this crazy little baby called me. And he is the sole reason I’m still here as he has dedicated every second of his day to helping me when the s*** hit the fan, really. And so we got to record everything in his studio. He’s co-produced all my records with me.

My mum was an activist and journalist and dancer. And they’re quintessential 60’s couple. They met when they were 15 in high school in Washington, DC and they’re still together. Now they own a blueberry farm in Canada.

That sounds really delightful. It sounds quite a nice place to go to and to just try and sort of get away from it all.

It’s actually phenomenal for recording because I find I like to create a little bubble whenever I’m recording so that I go deeper. And so when you get away from everything, it’s like, there’s a buzz to cities and whatnot, which is phenomenal too because it inspires you. But when you’re isolated in that way, you really hunker down and deal with your ghosts and all the stories and memories in your head and capture it.







She has released a single with Sharon Stone



How important were your parents in helping guide you through some of the low times?

I call them my little angels. It’s the people that are there for you when everybody else is telling to give up, or worse, not even telling you anything, because they don’t care anymore, it’s those people. And I could not have made it without my little angels, my dad. And I think the way that they helped the most was, clearly everybody understood the trauma of it. And it took me two years really to get to a place where I felt it wasn’t completely apathetic to record another record, you know what I mean?

To me, I think the hardest part was I tend to be a very trusting person and see the best in the world and life. And I kind of view the world in this romantic glaze, shall we say? And it just broke all of that, it shattered it. I saw no point for a while. And while they all saw that, they kept steering me towards the romantic perspective that it was all leading up to something even better. And so I am incredibly grateful for my dad, my mum.

Going back to acting, you’ve done Corrective Measures with Bruce Willis, which is coming out next year. It’s a really interesting concept.

It’s going to be fascinating. I get to play a doctor at a jail for super villains. And it’s this whole play on how, in some ways the people in charge are more corrupt than the inmates. And I’ve been blessed enough to do enough films and TV shows at this point to realize that this is an incredibly special one. We were making things up as we went and it became its own little living creature. The story took on its own life, which I can’t wait to see.

What was Bruce like?

Openhearted. And he was really lovely to me. I had the best time with him, we’d always stay together between takes. He liked to just sit in the moment and he would just sit and smile at me. I really enjoyed him. I mean, honestly, I was so nervous. And he was very calm and made me very much at peace when we were working together and just a really sweet guy that would talk about his family and what he’s been doing.

Moving onto your music, what was it like to work with Sharon Stone on Never Before, which I understand was your first co-write.

A lovely friend of mine in the music industry, Joel Roman said I have someone that would love to write with you. She wants to write more and work with female artists and she loves what you’re doing. And I was like, okay, cool. Who is it? It’s like, it’s Sharon Stone. I was so nervous because I’d never done a co-write. When I write songs, I can’t plan it. If I do, they’re terrible. It’s one of those things where they write themselves and I just kind of get out of the way. And if I try and get in the way I write something no one wants to listen to.

I went to her house and she was gracious and passionate. And I think one of the most incredible things about that writing session was I was very young and kind of at that place where being riddled with my own insecurities about how I look and, we all are, I had my fake eyelashes and my little dress and makeup and all this. And I remember at one point she comes up and she just looks at me and says, “You realise that you don’t need any of this. It’s just you, it’s what’s inside of you. It’s what’s inside of you.” And it was this wonderful woman power moment where I just kind of… It changed the way I was going about being in Hollywood, shall we say?

Obviously, you were aware of the incredible films that she’s done in the past, but were you conscious when you first had that call from her of just how creative musically she was? She had this whole sort of side of her, which perhaps many wouldn’t necessarily know about?

I knew that she was a phenomenally intelligent woman and creative and was working on writing. And some ways I, being someone who’s also an actor and in that world of story, I feel like anyone who’s as brilliant as she is in diving into a story and fully enveloping that story and the heart of that character can be a phenomenal storyteller and writer themselves.

I was going to ask you about Judy Garland. You’ve talked before about how she’s a massive inspiration to you and you were sort of almost mesmerised by her as a child. Was she the main influence musically on you?

There were so many, but I think the thing about Judy that really impacted me at such a young age was the absolute transparency of her and the boldness of her vulnerability and she was just all heart. And I think that’s what that captured me because that’s what I wanted to do.







Hayley has worked with some huge names



Were you aware when you were young just how tragic her story was in many respects? I mean, a lot of people have come to the Judy Garland story through the recent movie with Renee Zellweger. What did you make of that? And did you think that captured her well?

To be honest, what I saw was someone that was incredibly sensitive and vulnerable and fierce. She never seemed to give up. You hear all the addiction stories and all the traumatic experiences. But what I saw was the fire that she just never let go out, even though everyone was kind throwing water on it.

It’s funny, actually, I remember my mum saying, because I kind of discovered her on my own. And I remember one of my mum’s friends actually said, “Well, do you have a problem with your daughter being so into a legend that had such a traumatic life?’. And my mum said, “Absolutely not”. She was a powerhouse woman that left everything on the stage.”

Lifeguard is out now

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWT-K9C4vgI

Never Before with Sharon Stone is out now

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hayley+sales+sharon+stone


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