Exclusive Artist Interview: Haley & Michaels

RA: Hi everybody my name’s RA Beattie with Bedell Guitars. Today we’re chatting with Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels of Haley & Michaels. Guys, thank you so much for chatting with us today.

Shannon: Thanks for having us.

Ryan: Thanks for having us.

RA: If you would, give us a little background on how long you have been playing together and a little bit of your history together.

Shannon: We met here in Nashville at a little coffee house called the Frothy Monkey. We found out that we actually grew up three miles apart in Northern California, but never knew each other and started playing shows together. That was in 2012, and that same year we actually wrote our first song together and that got nominated in the National Independent Music Awards and forced us to come up with a duo name and it all started from there. We dissolved our solo projects and just became Haley & Michaels.

RA: Shannon, when did music really start playing a significant role in your life?

Shannon: You know I’ve been in love with music and singing and writing songs as long as I can remember. Honestly, there are home videos of me singing around the house when I’m two years old. In high school I was in choir and ended up traveling the world to seventeen different countries singing and then went on to become an opera major at UCLA. I think that in those years, high school and college, I decided that I wanted to do this actually as a profession and that’s the dream that I wanted to pursue. Even though it ended up being nothing like opera, I knew I wanted it to be music.

RA: You actually answered a question that I was going to ask you: Was there a particular point in your musical career, where you said “I could do this for a living or this is what I want to do.” Since you answered that, we’ll pose that question to Ryan.

Ryan: I think it’s more like you just don’t have anything else that you can imagine doing. Then if you’re lucky, money very slowly starts to follow, and people start to have a response. You start to wonder, this seems to be creating those opportunities. I think the business side of it is a natural evolution in doing something that you love, because you don’t what else to do with yourself.

RA: That makes total sense. Ryan, did you start by playing the guitar, or how did you really get into music?

Ryan: I grew up in a family owned musical instrument store in California, so I’ve been around it my whole life and I think that’s why it never occurred to me to do anything else. From the I can remember being five years old and being in the music store and getting guitar lessons, so it’s always kind of been there.

RA: Shannon, did you come from a musical family as well?

Shannon: I did. My mom played guitar and sang while growing up. Not even as much she was the only musical person in my family, but I just grew up around music. There was always music playing. A lot of our family activities were centered around music, so I would say so.

RA: If you guys would tell me a little about playing a place like the Grand Ole Opry. I remember the first time I walked in there. I had goose bumps just from being in the place. What did it feel like as a musician to take a step on that stage?

Ryan: When I first came to Nashville, the Opry was the first place I went. It was a dream, but there’s nothing that makes it real like stepping into the circle on the Opry. I think also just to throw this added thing of looking across the circle and seeing my wife, and my duo partner, was pretty surreal. I still haven’t totally digested it.

Shannon: I would say RA I agree with you. The first time that I walked in my whole body I just broke out in chills. It was just so powerful. I had been a couple times as a fan and then to be backstage was just so surreal. My favorite part was actually rehearsing with the Opry band right before we went on stage. You’re standing backstage and this is the first time you’re playing these songs and it’s hard not to be nervous before hand thinking about how are we going to play these songs twice and have it work out. The minute the first note that the Opry band played I just felt completely at ease and completely inspired, because they are so amazing. The rest of the time I was just geeking out that they were playing songs that we had written. I was just a fan of them and getting to play music with them at that point. It was a really exciting time.

RA: Tell me as the Opry is certainly a bucket list or venue or a milestone I would assume for any artist. Are there any other major venues that you guys see as bucket list venues or places you would just love to play?

Shannon: Yes. Actually we grew up with Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View being a really big venue for us that we’ve always just dreamt of playing. Then there’s one that I’ll let Ryan tell you, because before every single show we always do our little ritual.

Ryan: Something I agree with personally, it’s Shoreline. Before every show we get our band around, put our hands in the middle, and we do the “3-2-1 Madison Square Garden.” We’ve always done it. I think that point is no matter how small a show might seem, it’s all Madison Square Garden. Play every show like you’re at Madison Square Garden. I saw a show that Garth Brook did there where he had Billy Joel and every song he was accompanied by one of my heroes, outside the fact that Garth is one of my heroes. I was a kid when I saw that, so I think for me the whole thing, not just Madison Square Garden, but seeing all of these people there, and seeing their reaction, there seems to be something very spiritual about it. I think that’s kind of a bucketlist place for us as well.

RA: I’m going to switch gears and ask you guys about Nashville and about the music scene there. I’ve been traveling to Nashville for probably a decade. It’s been really interesting as a non-musician to see Nashville to go through this major transformation culturally where it seems like it’s changed a lot. Being on the inside of the music scene, how do you guys see Nashville and the whole scene changing? If it is?

Shannon: It’s changing. In a way I feel like it’s changed even since I actually moved here. I’ve been making trips back and forth since 2006, so ten years now, but I actually moved here in 2011, so it’s been five and even in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen it go through some changes. And in a funny way. Ryan and I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame this weekend and he pointed out a piece there, that reminded us of the cyclical nature of the music industry being in Nashville or anywhere and so in a certain way I feel like it’s going through a lot of changes, but at the same time it’s also kind of cyclical and it’s just kind of at what point on the circle are we today. Ryan, I don’t know if you want to elaborate on that at all? You’ve been here longer than I have.

Ryan: I have, and I’ve kind of seen all of it. You know what’s interesting right now, Nashville and country music is so broad, and Nashville is so broad, as far as what’s expected into the country format. The reason I think that’s a beautiful thing, is because every genre of music has outside influences. It’s just really cool to see country really embracing. I think the thing that make country music and Nashville great, is that if a song should be about life and should be real, but musically it’s cool to see all different things being embraced. The thing Shannon was referring to was back in the sixties and seventies.

There were all these different times when country got away from what some people deemed to be country and then it goes on to Dolly Pardon, Patsy Cline, and other things that cross over, Elvis. There’s objections to that too, and then it comes back. Merle Haggard comes back, everyone says country is coming back and then the next thing comes along. It’s just kind of this funny thing, so when someone like Sam Hunt, when someone like that comes out, and there’s some people about it that are up in arms, I think it’s funny because it’s been going on forever. Then Chris Stapleton will come along and everyone will say that it’s trending back. I think that the reality is that country music is very very broad, and Nashville’s very very broad, it always will be. I think that’s the point of what Shannon was pointing out from the Hall of Fame.

RA: That makes total sense. Speaking to that cyclical nature, do you see your music changing and do you guys feel like you’re constantly evolving? Do you have a style that you really like? How does your environment there influence you as players and musicians?

Shannon: One of the great things about living here is that you do get to collaborate with a lot of different musicians, artists, and writers. As Ryan said, most people have different influences, so you’re always expose to different things. I think one thing that Ryan and I have really honed in on is just our sound, who we are, and what type of songs feel like us. I think we’ve always had a vision for that, but we haven’t always been able to express that vision accurately through our music.

Ryan: We capture it in the studio.

Shannon: Yes exactly, and in the song writing to some extent. I think that in a way we’ve evolved and grown a lot, but not that our vision has necessarily changed. It’s just that we’ve learned from the amazing talent that is in Nashville and we’ve also grown as musicians, but I think that our eye has always been in the same place. I feel like we captured it just better this time.

RA: Tell me, what are you guys working on now?

Ryan: Right now we just been in the studio the last couple of months. We just finished our latest project that we’re really excited about. To go back to something you asked a minute ago, I definitely feel that it’s not only an evolution for us, but I feel like, back to the point Shannon was just saying, I think we finally have captured that sound that we’ve been going after. I think we’ll be putting out something where we don’t feel the need to have disclaimers, basically. I think it will be everything we just talked about as far incorporating what we love about country music, and the reason we moved to Nashville as song writers. You’ll hear a lot of other musical influences that we’ve also grown up with. It just feels like us. That project will be coming out soon and we’ll definitely keep you posted when we have specifics.

RA: We can’t wait to hear it. For readers and listeners here, what’s the best way for them to connect with you? What’s the best way for them to interact with your music if they can’t see you live?

Shannon: I would definitely say our website haleyandmichaels.com and then also Facebook. All of our social media really. We do a lot of sharing behind the scenes on our Snapchat account which is HaleyNMichaels. They didn’t have enough letters for the full thing, so Haley, the letter N, Michaels. All of those platforms we’re pretty active on there and respond ourselves. We love when people reach out to us.

RA: Well, it’s been a pleasure chatting with both of you today. Thank you so much for taking the time and thank you so much for playing our instruments. We really appreciate your support and really appreciate what you guys are doing.

Shannon: Thank you.

Ryan: I just want to add. Sincerely. Growing up in a family business with music. Not [inaudible 00:15:05] important part for me about the Bedell family of guitars, but also the quality and integrity with which they’re made. It really does mean a lot to us personally.

Shannon: Yes it does.

Ryan: I can honestly tell you that the songs from the new project on our end of it have all been written on Bedell guitars, so we’re Bedell artists and just want to throw that out there. Thank you guys for having us and including us.

RA: I’ll make sure to relay that to the craftsmen. They love hearing that kind of feedback, so they’ll really appreciate it.

Ryan: Absolutely. I happen to be vegan, so when Sami showed me the Vegan guitar I was totally on fire about it. I absolutely love it. Yeah. Shannon’s got the Coffee House guitar, which she just absolutely loves.

Shannon: Love it.

Ryan: It plays beautifully, so just want to throw that in there too.

RA: That’s wonderful. I really appreciate it. Again, thank you so much and I hope you guys have a wonderful rest of your day.

Shannon: You too. Thank you.

Ryan: You too. Pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for your time.