It’s a busy and exciting time for Hailey Whitters, who is not only preparing for the release of her new album “Raised” on 18th March ( pre-order/pre-save here https://haileywhitters.lnk.to/Raised) but is also playing her first ever headline shows across the States. And, as I’m sure you are all well aware, the Iowa native will be appearing on the main stage at this year’s C2C festival, her first visit to our shores. I was so lucky to grab 15 minutes of her time to chat about all that, and more, over zoom, when she was back in her Nashville home for a couple of days in between tour dates.
It made me laugh when her name came up as “Corn Queen” on the screen…. so of course I HAD to mention that before we got stuck into the more “serious” questions! Tho’ I must say we both laughed a lot throughout!
LH “Corn Queen” hi!!! I love that title!
HW Oh really I should probably change that, it’s been on there a year now!
LH No, it’s perfect especially with this new album that’s coming.
1.LH Thanks so much for your time today. The excitement about “Raised” on all your socials has been off the scale … both from yourself and your fanbase…. and you’ve described the record as feeling like “the one I was always supposed to make“. Can you explain what you mean by that?
HW Yeah well I feel like “The Dream” was a record that given my experience with the industry I kind of HAD to make. I wish I hadn’t of had to tell that story and hadn’t have had some of those frustrations. But this record feels like the one I probably ALWAYS would have made celebrating my hometown , the people and place that inspired me to move to Nashville and chase Country music .
2. LH . I’m among the many who are so stoked to hear it! One thing I dislike these days it that often so many album tracks are available before release day but with Raised the one we’ve only got to hear so far is the current single, “Everything She Ain’t“… was it your decision to keep the other tracks under wraps to heightening the anticipation for next month?
HW You know this is my first record release with my label now, (Pigasus/Songs&Daughters/Big Loud) so I’m really leaning on them and trusting them with some of the process this time. It’s hard for me to keep them under wraps, I’d rather just drop it and let everyone have everything but I guess we have to do a little more teasing than that! I can’t wait til it’s here! Not that much longer.
(LH Ha the day after this interview it was announced that another track, “The Neon”, was due for release!)
3. LH I’m so glad that the lead single is doing so well… including getting radio play on Sirius XM The Highway which I know you were so thrilled about. And that’s a big deal which of course it shouldn’t be but I’m aware how tough for female country artists to get radio play Stateside these days. Where were you when you first heard it being played?
HW Aw thank you! The very first time I heard it I wasn’t expecting to hear it!! I was driving to Walgreens actually, and it came on… I thought it wasn’t due to be played til 10 o’clock and it was 9.45 so I’m glad I was in my car and caught it… I was a little frazzled as it was unexpected but it was SO exciting and I’m so appreciative to Sirius The Highway for picking it up, it’s been very cool!
4. LH So, of the remaining tracks, which are you most excited for people to hear on release day and why?
HW I’m VERY excited for people to hear ” Boys Back Home”. That one really feels like the centre piece of the album concept. I remember writing that and thinking ” this is really shaping the concept of the record a little bit ” . It’s a waltz and I’m a sucker for a waltz ! I love the feeling that one has, it’s nostalgic and a little bit like a love song.
LH Oh great, that was an all-female write with Jessie Jo Dillon and Brandy Clark I think, who I know you’ve worked with so well before.
5. LH I must say I’m intrigued to hear “Middle of America” as it features one of my favourite male Country artists, BJ Barham of American Aquarium…I gather you’re playing at The Ryman with them soon too (HW Yessss!) … how did that connection come about?
HW Well I love American Aquarium, and I’ve got to have more of a working relationship with BJ recently. In the last year we’ve been writing songs together. That song, when it was just me it felt like it was missing something. I really wanted more of a Heartland rock element, and Jake my producer said ” what about American Aquarium?” and I was like ” Heck, yeah!!”. So we floated the idea out to BJ and he loved it and was very receptive. I think that his performance just elevates the song to where it needed to be, where it needs to go. I think he’s like the secret weapon on that song. I’m just pumped to have this new friendship and relationship with them and I’m so excited to open for them at The Ryman. I hope it’s the start of MANY shows we get to play together!
LH Well they tour over here a fair bit so that would be great if you could come together!
HW Oooh do they? That would be such fun!
6. LH I’m so happy you’re continuing to release your albums on vinyl, especially as you have described this one it as a concept album that needs listening to top to bottom and you’ve added some little extras on the tracks in that format if I’m correct? Can you tell more?
HW Yeah we do! We have some interludes/preludes and little extra kind of stuff . Like the set up for “Our Grass Is Legal” …I won’t give too much away but it’s a fun little piece!
7.LH And of course release day falls in the middle of your first ever headline tour, which kicked off a couple of weeks back with a show in your home state of Iowa none the less…can you describe your feelings as you stepped out on the stage at Wooly’s?
HW Yes, I’ve played Wooly’s a few times as an opener and it was the kind of place I’d always wanted to headline one day. That was the kick off for the tour and I was very, very nervous because as a headliner you feel all the pressures….you hope people are going to show up, hope they’ll have fun and like it….so nerve-wracking! But walking out onto the stage I couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception right off the bat. So much energy being thrown at you and they sang every word all night long. So it had me up on a cloud, it was the best show to kick the tour off on and all the shows so far have been like that! It’s very validating, very fulfilling to go out and see that despite never having anything at radio here in the States that people are listening and hearing you, knowing every single word, buying the tickets and coming, it’s a really good feeling!
8.LH As you just said, headlining is a massive difference in SO many ways to being an opener… you can decide EVERYTHING from venues to stage props (I’m loving the giant corn cobs you take out there) . How much fun, among the hard work, was it getting it all together and what was your favourite part?
HW It’s SO fun! I think of it like planning a birthday party if you get what I mean! How can you make it fun and make people want to come, talk about it and enjoy being there? It’s like inviting people into my world a little bit. What I’m really enjoying is having 90 minutes to play with, opening slots have been incredible and they’ve been in front of a lot more people than on my own headlining tour at this point, but we get such a limited time slot. Getting time here to play things like “Loose Strings” and “Janice At The Hotel Bar” and “Ten Year Town” ….so many of those songs have been so instrumental in my career so far and to get time to pay tribute to those moments has been really cool.
9. LH And of course in just a few weeks you’re headed over here to play the main stage at C2C ….what can we expect from your set, have you decided on the setlist yet, are you bringing your band over, the corn cobs, will you have merch….please spill!
HW Yes, finally!! I’m not sure we’ll be bringing the corn cobs, I may just wear my corn skirt! But yeah, we get just 30 minutes so it’s going to be just straight bangers. I think we’re going to have to ask the UK fans what they want to hear and go from there. I’m so excited to finally come over and play for them so I want to make sure they’re hearing what the want to hear. It’s gonna be great… it’ll be a full band set, I’m just going to try to play as much as possible within that little window, I’m very excited! I think we will be bringing merch over, I’m not quite sure what yet, we haven’t had that conversation.
10 LH Then a few weeks after that there’s the Grammy’s, where you’re nominated for “Song of the Year” for co-writing Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile’s ” Beautiful Noise” . Congratulations!! Will you be going to the ceremony in Vegas?
HW Heck yeah I will! I’m so excited, just getting to go and celebrate with Lori and Hillary and the other writers on that song is already a HUGE win for me.
11. LH You’re away from home a fair bit right now, for all good reasons of course, but what home comforts do you miss the most when out on the road?
HW My dogs!! We have this joke, is it bad that you miss your dogs more than you miss your significant other, but I really do miss them a lot when I’m away! We’re trying to figure out a way to put a dog park on top of our tour bus so they can come with us!
LH Ha I’d love to see that! My dogs are the main reason I don’t travel more.
Hopefully we can lure you away even more for a headline UK tour sometime….
HW I would LOVE that!
LH In the mean time I hope our paths will cross at C2C and I can’t wait to hear the new album.
HW I can’t wait for you to hear it and I so appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)