Jackie Hayes talks isolation, creativity and inspiration

By Brett Herlingshaw

Everyone at some point in their lives has felt isolated. That may seem like an obvious thing to say, but there’s so much truth in it. People have at many points in their life, felt isolated and toxic negativity. Jackie Hayes knows this all too well – the musician has brought her own perspective to this through her triumphant debut album, ‘Over & Over.’

This has been a long journey for Hayes. Over the last four years, she has worked her way from playing Paramore covers to a small room of people to playing shows to hundreds and having a devoted fanbase. Jackie has done a lot of growing up in the meantime, and one of the things includes taking life slower in general.

Falling into the trap of setting extremely high expectations for yourself, which we’ve all done, is something Hayes has worked through over the years. “I think that when I was younger, I had these very rigid, high expectations for myself, which were honestly irrational. And I think that’s the biggest difference between me a few years ago to me now – that I don’t have that same mindset anymore.”

Hailing from Waukegan, Illinois, Hayes has always gone against the grain. From a young age, she would play the piano in a church choir while competing in talent shows – covering emo royalty Paramore and Pierce the Veil. Jackie was ousted from the church for her irreligious beliefs, but she found her new home in the DIY punk community. At 19 years of age, she was working part-time jobs while recording music, and Over & Over retains this independence.

Touring is another area in which Hayes excels. You can see videos of her energetic performances on YouTube, which will convince you of the presence she has live. Hayes used to suffer from awful stage fright, which convinced her to make the push to become her ‘true self’. She realised, “I need to step into my true self because I was very, very scared.”

When she changed her name, Hayes soon realised she had become who she really wanted to be.

Success can mean many different things to many other people. Hayes defines it as wanting to make making and performing music her full-time occupation (which I think we can all agree is the dream). It’s also about happiness, which for Hayes, comes from fulfillment. “To be happy in what I’m doing as well, that’s a crucial thing. I want to be happy and I want to be fulfilled.”

Jackie also wants to be happy about the music she is making, and make it on her own terms. “If I can continue on that path, I will feel like I’ve achieved success. I don’t necessarily need to be the biggest artist out there as long as I can continue to have these experiences that I’ve had this last year and provide for myself off of music.” Over & Over as an album, reflects that, with the sound of someone who is confident in their approach to music, balancing punchy lyrics and production that incorporate rock and pop in interesting and inventive ways.

Creative control is another area that artists value immensely, and Jackie is no different. When asked if all the songs are everything she wants them to be, she says, “I have more resources this time around to achieve that. This is the first time that I’ve ever recorded stuff in a professional studio. I recorded most of the vocals in a professional studio this time around and some drums.” Each time an artist creates an album, an EP, or even a mixtape, they seem to get closer to what they envisioned, and for Hayes it’s no different. “This is definitely the closest, and I’m sure the next album will be even closer.”

Before we close up the interview, we get to ask if she has a message for her UK fans, and she replies with a lovely and honest answer. “I’m just thankful that people take the time to listen to things and to support someone. I’m just thankful for that – you know what I mean? People take the time out of their days to listen to your music.”

Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlingshaw