For an artist accustomed to weaving tender tunes that tug at the heartstrings,Queensland country kween Hayley Marsten is a breath of dazzling air; equal parts charm, sass and some seriously stellar songwriting, this vibrant young artist has firmly stamped her style in the country world over the years, most recently demonstrating her growth and finesse with the release of brand new track 'Wendy'.
Deftly blending significantly personal narratives with a shimmering twinkle in her eye, Marsten's latest sonic endeavour touches upon significant heartbreak, but bursts beyond the cliches and instead ultimately celebrates the strength and tenacity of her mother who held the family together after her 22-year marriage breakdown. Part calming warcry to anguish and part modern country gem, 'Wendy' marks an exciting new chapter for Marsten, and before she jumps on the road for a heap of shows starting this Friday, we grabbed the divine lady herself to chat creative catharsis, emo fringes and her ultimate guide to surviving a broken heart.
TIANA SPETER: Hello beautiful Hayley Marsten, thank you so much for chatting with me today! Your tracks both break my heart and make me smile, and your latest single ‘Wendy’ continues this tradition. Obviously not an enviable lyrical backstory – but how does it feel to have this beautiful tune out and about in the world?
HAYLEY MARSTEN: Omg hello beautiful Tiana! That’s the songwriter end goal, tears and smiles haha! It was a funny turn of events to get to writing ‘Wendy’ but I’m so glad to finally have brand new music out after releasing from the same EP for 2 years, I’m jazzed to the sky!
TIANA SPETER: So, let’s not beat around the bush – you began writing ‘Wendy’ on a hotel room floor after a spectacular heartbreak, being broken up with over the phone…always such a great time, isn’t it? But also inspired by your mum’s resilience…how cathartic was it to write this track? And also, how did your mum react to it??
HAYLEY: It truly was spectacular style, writing it on a hotel room floor, at a wedding, three days after the infamous phone call! I had this idea to write a song called ‘more like Wendy’ but it was a completely different idea. So I was there in the hotel the night before the wedding, eating cheese & drinking wine (because hello single girl, party of one) and I’d brought my guitar thinking I wouldn’t be able to write because I was so defeated and the chorus for ‘Wendy’ just fell out. So it’s about the break up yes but I mean, when someone does it over the phone, you don’t really want to give them top billing do you? And my Mum is such a strong woman, after her marriage to my dad broke down she was very classy, never said a bad word about him and really held our lives together and carried on. She was very shocked the first time I played it, it was on the ‘Tour With No Name’ with Arna Georgia at our Gladstone show (my hometown), so it wasn't just her hearing it for the first time but a lot of my family too, there were tears.
TIANA SPETER: You recorded ‘Wendy’ at Love Hz Studios with Matt Fell, who you also worked with on ‘Lonestar’. What was it like this time around recording-wise, any significant differences getting back in the studio? Is it a process you enjoy?
HAYLEY: I love being in the studio and hearing a song that I’ve only ever played with my guitar and me come to life. It was a bit of a different experience this time because Matt and I had worked together before we knew each other better, which always makes it so much easier!
TIANA SPETER: And not only did you unveil ‘Wendy’ in its sonic glory, we also got gifted a very fun accompanying music video. Firstly, can I borrow your moustache, it’s for work I swear. And secondly, it gave you a chance to flex your acting skills. How did the concept come to fruition?
HAYLEY: I was saving the mo for the museum of modern art but I guess I could give it up for a good cause and the fellas love it! The team at The Filmery and I had been going back and forth with some ideas for the video, all that were very different to this one. I had a few where I wanted to play things that Wendy likes and then different Wendy’s throughout history. Then Duncan and Brock called me one day about it and pitched me the idea, having all these characters coming into my life trying to show me the way of Wendy and I was like ‘ Yes, I love that but I wanna play all those characters’ and they were like oh yeah that is so much better. Any chance to do a bit of acting, the tears were even real! and brag about my one and only award on my mantle, 2011 Gladstone State School Drama Award, that’s right suckers, I got it (too much?).
WENDY (HAYLEY MARSTEN)
TIANA SPETER: And you collaborated once again with the legendary Lyn Bowell, seven-time Golden Guitar winner and probably overachiever in the best sense of the word. And you worked with her on ‘Coming Home’ which has notched up a heap of love. What do you think it is about your tunes that endear themselves to readily to people? And are your songs always particularly autobiographical?
HAYLEY: She is a bloody overachiever, amazing songwriter, killer voice, nicest person you will ever meet. I think that for me, the reason I am a songwriter is to share my stories or the stories of those around me, whatever it is I’m writing about I want it to be real. I think that’s what people connect with, there’s nothing worse than listening to someone sing a song and just feeling the insincerity in it, thats not what country music is about in my opinion. All the songs on my previous releases and more so, all the songs that will be on my debut album will be are very autobiographical. I don’t see it being any different in the future, unless I get really happy and have to write about other people’s break ups?? The horror!
TIANA SPETER: You’ve got a heap of live shows up your sleeve over the next little bit, including the Norfolk Country Music Festival and VDM Festival amongst many others. But casting an eye back over your previous live shows, is there a particular standout live moment for you, whether it was memorably good, bad or hilarious?
HAYLEY: I think touring last year with Arna Georgia, she is one of my best friends and we spent most of the time crying with laughter, she is an amazing songwriter and entertainer so getting to watch her every night was the best. But I think the best part was the last tour leg in QLD, we finished with 3 sold out shows in Bundaberg, Gladstone and Brisbane and had people singing along to our songs, I cried.
TIANA SPETER: For an artist so linked to the country scene, I wonder…what bands or artists did you grow up listening to? How did you arrive in this magical world of country?
HAYLEY: I was a quasi emo/scene kid in high school. Chunky straight emo fringe with a curly hair do anyone? I listened to a bit of a wacky mix when I was a kid my parents liked some electic stuff; The Corrs, The Cranberries, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams. Then when I was in school, probably bopping along to All Time Low and wondering why none of my songs seemed to fit in any of the genres my friend’s bands were playing, my lord and saviour Taylor Swift appeared. It was like someone turned all the lights on and was like ‘here’s where you fit’. I still love Tay and I think her songwriting is still amazing but that early country stuff, that was so autobiographical and raw is really where I learned it was ok to be honest and share your stories. I still don’t write people’s names into songs like she did....yet .
TIANA SPETER: And what artists would we catch you currently listening to? Any particular bands or artists get a flogging when you’re on the road between shows?
HAYLEY: I am still in love with Ruston Kelly’s album that came out last year ‘Dying Star’ and I’ve been listening to a love of Aussies; Gang of Youths, Gretta Ray, Julia Jacklin, Clare Bowditch’s new song ‘Woman’ is an anthem. And still flogging Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, Ashley McBryde’s ‘Girl Going Nowhere’ and Brandi Carlise ‘By the Way I forgive you’. it’s quite the mixtape at the moment.
TIANA SPETER: To slowly wrap things up, you’ve obviously got a whole lot on the go with the new track, live shows ready to roll, partaking in Brisbane City Council’s 2019 Cube Effect AND launching a bi-monthly songwriters night. Exhausting schedule as it is, but I also have spied you have a Pozible campaign on the go as well which is edging closer to the $15,000 target. What’s this process been like? And what dance will you perform when you hit the golden target?!
HAYLEY: Yes I just thought I’d cram in as much as possible and see if I still survive! The Pozible process has been an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand it’s been so overwhelming amazing to see all the support from people who want to hear this new music but also very daunting in the way that if we don’t make it then I don’t get any of the money, a very all or nothing situation. But we only have $3500 to go so I’m crossing everything we get there! I don’t know yet, it will have to be the dance to end all dances, maybe I need to involve some special guests? I have 20 days to figure it out and the people who support me love watching me embarrass myself with my dance moves so I’ll definitely be giving the people what they want.
TIANA SPETER: And finally, your track ‘Wendy’ is a pretty personal and cathartic look into a broken heart. What’s your ultimate advice for someone going through a similar experience? What’s Hayley’s top tip for surviving heartbreak?
HAYLEY: Buy yourself a break up present, you and your heart deserve it (still thanking myself for my glittery doc martins). Wallow for a bit but ultimately you have to realise that you broke up for a reason and if you have to try to convince someone to be with you, they need to go directly into the bin . I guess, I just tried to stay busy and focused on the good things in my life (I was on tour straight after it happened so that really keeps your mind off things) and cut all contact, just do it. Listen to me, the break up oracle! I also go the Zoe Foster Blake (my queen) Break Up Boss app and read her book Love! Because I’m a sucker for self help. If all that fails, get into the bath with a whole chocolate cake and listen to Red by Taylor Swift and have a recreational cry, I mean or you could listen to ‘Wendy’! ;)
HAYLEY MARSTEN'S BRAND NEW TRACK 'WENDY' IS OUT MAKING THE WORLD A BIT MORE BEAUTIFUL RIGHT NOW. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER