Today Chicago’s Jackie Hayes shares her new single ‘Focus’, the latest taste of her debut album Over & Over, out October 28th via Pack Records. Produced with longtime collaborator Billy Lemos (Omar Apollo, Binki, Dua Saleh, Lava La Rue) and mixed by Henry Stoehr of Slow Pulp, it’s the follow up to Hayes’ 2021 EP There’s Always Going To Be Something, which saw her receive support from the likes of i-D, NME, The FADER and Jack Saunders on BBC Radio1 and Matt Wilkinson on Apple Music 1. ‘Focus’ follows previous singles ‘Wish It Was’ and ‘Bite Me’, as well as Hayes’ recent live dates supporting the likes of Claud, Sunflower Bean, and The Regrettes. ‘Focus’ is released today along with its video, which was directed by Sarah Ritter.
Fans who preorder Jackie’s debut album Over & Over are also in with the chance of winning an exclusive Jackie action figure: there are only ten up for grabs. Read more here.
Speaking about the track, Jackie says, “I struggled in the past with taking my time on things, because I was facing all of these external distractions and pressures and believed I needed to rush into things in order to achieve success – which is the exact opposite of what I should’ve been doing. I was burning out on what I once loved to do, feeling impatient, and that in turn was expediting my burnout because not only did I have unrealistic expectations, I was also wearing myself too thin. Trying to release recurring intrusive thoughts that have a hold on me but having no idea how. I saw a quote online once saying that an anxious brain is an under-stimulated brain but I’m already doing so much, I’m not sure what would ever be enough to fulfill me if I’m still feeling so dull.”
After playing her first live shows in years in early 2022 (supporting Briston Maroney and Sunflower Bean), Hayes went back and re-recorded many of the songs on the project. The validation of performing live led her to admit dissatisfaction with her previous work, where a desire to achieve perfection led to her over-editing vocals; “I forgot that I can sing,” she confesses. However, while working on the batch of songs that make up the record, Hayes was dropped by her then-label, and lost her voice from the exhaustion of touring. At the same time, she had to get stitches from a wine glass exploding in her hand at her day job, which meant she couldn’t properly play guitar for a month. Over & Over reflects the frustrations of this stop and start pace, and many of the songs feel like collective manifestations of Hayes reasoning with herself to keep going. Retaining the rough around the edges, sparse production and guitar work of previous EPs, the debut is a razor-sharp portal into Hayes’ thought process, and establishes a newfound focus for her as she explores what it takes to make music that feels true to her entire being.
Jackie Hayes believed in herself more than anyone else from a young age, entering county fair talent show competitions where she would cover emo bands like Paramore or Pierce the Veil, while also playing piano in the church choir before she was ousted for her irreligious beliefs. Sneaking out to play DIY shows in and around her hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, she then moved to Chicago alone at age 19, where she worked various full-time jobs throughout the pandemic to make ends meet while making music. To move forward into her next chapter was a process of looking back for Hayes. She explains how a recent return to the alternative music of her youth has made her feel as though she has “come full circle”, allowing her to recapture her independent, imperfect spirit and reframe her relationship with external validation by approaching creation “just for the sake of it.” Whilst “there’s not a single love song” on ‘Over & Over,’ the record is Hayes finding solace in her own spirit – “knowing that I can stop doing this whenever and completely change course made it easier to keep going”. In the end, it’s only her own voice that matters.