Musical Discoveries: How did you actually get started in your music career?
Hayley Griffiths: I started individual singing lessons at the age of six after my Mum thought I should do something productive with my endless singing around the house and along to the radio! These lessons naturally geared me over the years towards a classical training through preparation for the Associated Board Singing exams.
Also, part-time alongside my schooling I joined a local performing arts school, "Laine Theatre Arts," which I attended for ten years after school and at weekends. This is where my love for performing really grew. From an early age I joined their Agency, I had my first singing job by the age of eight, and I was often taking time off school to go up to auditions in London.
So I guess my music career started from those early days, a continuous journey of learning along the way. I was fortunate enough as a child to get parts where I got to sing on BBC Radio 2, in the West End, at the Barbican, and at Sadlers Wells.
Where were you raised and where are you based today?
I was born and raised in Surrey, England. I still live or rather am based in the house I grew up in, although I would probably count my suitcase as my home for the last five years!! At school I relished all the opportunities we had to perform be it the yearly musicals, taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or Choral Tours to Prague and Tuscany. In my final A-Level year I got to sing the soprano soloist role in Carmina Burana with a professional orchestra and choir.
I left school determined to be a singer or actress and kept auditioning whilst temping and waitressing day to day. Luckily I auditioned for Riverdance and havenít looked back since!
What were some of the most exciting moments of your work with Riverdance?
I started Riverdance when I was just eighteen. I had a days notice from accepting the job to pack for a three month tour. I'd never left home before so it was a daunting but fabulous experience. I had to grow up pretty quickly and look after myself! I have now been a part of the show on and off for the last five years and have so many great memories.
I sang at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow and did the whole of the Japanese tour; I just loved it. Japan is my favourite place in the world! I had the great honour of singing for the Emporess Michiko of Japan. The final show in Tokyo--where we were based for a month--had a standing ovation that lasted a good fifteen minutes after the show was over. Iíve never experienced anything like it; the audience just didnít stop clapping! We also performed in Beijing the week before the Olympics; the atmosphere was electric. Plus I had the chance to climb the Great Wall of China.
How did you get involved with Lord of the Dance?
I auditioned for Michael Flatley at Shepperton Studios in 2005, where he was rehearsing for a new show called Celtic Tiger. It is still to this day my scariest audition as it was in front of over 100 people! The entire cast and crew were watching.
I was offered the role of Erin, the Goddess in Lord of the Dance. She is a mythical character that has three great Irish songs interspersed through the show. There is a wonderful Gaelic number called "An Mhaighdean Mhara."
Through Lord of the Dance I have toured nearly every state of America, been to Chile, Puerto Rico, and as part of a one off tour of Feet of Flames in Taiwan, performed in front of 20,000 people each night.
When did you decide to record a solo album?
In 2007 I was touring with Riverdance and at the end of the tour we had a months residency in Boston, so I decided to give myself a project and record a Musical Theatre demo CD. Once prepared, I went under recommendation to the Surefire Music Group facility to lay down the vocals. And here it all started.
After the session, Surefire's CEO Jared Hancock, asked if I would be interested in returning to Boston to work on a full-scale original album with them. Nearly a year later when I had a break from touring I flew back over and we started the writing process. After numerous trips and little sleep, we have a complete album!
Can you tell us about how you developed the style, selected the music and, aside from singing the lead and BVs contributed to the tracks?
I'm a classically trained singer and Surefire Music Group has a predominantly R&B and Hip hop background so together we have merged our styles and influences into this really refreshing New Age sound. Our aim was to create something modern and edgy for the Classical Crossover Market whilst still capturing an ethereal haunting ambiance. We have combined Classical/Celtic Vocals with modern arrangements that are more akin to Pop and R&B music, and then, incorporated meaningful lyrics, dramatic melodic progressions and heavy percussion.
Every song on the album has a cinematic overtone, which we hope will compliment many film and TV scores. We wanted each track to have a unique sense of drama to it that would stimulate visual imagery to the listener.
I have been fortunate as an artist to have co-written/produced the entire album from start to finish alongside Surefire. The lyrics have been the fundamental key to the album; telling stories from perspectives unfamiliar to most pop records.
Please tell us about the writing, recording and production process for this new album.
I'm lucky that within Surefire Music Group, I have access to a wealth of experience and talent. There are five different producers and four writers, so we were able to utilize the many skills of each person where necessary. From the beautiful piano solos in "Haunted" and "Blank Canvas," wonderful guitar work in "What is A Champion," to the brilliant vocal arrangements throughout, the diverse musical background of the team is well represented.
Our first single from the album, "Separated by Glass" was a very personal track for me as it was written as a dedication to a friend who tragically passed away. I hope that through the song, our listeners may also find comfort in their own personal losses.
And some of the other tracks?
We took inspiration from so many places, the film The Illusionist created our vision for "Vanished"; as we wondered what impression we would leave on the world if we were to seemingly disappear! For the song, "Haunted" we delved into a darker side and wrote as a woman who had been murdered and is coming back to take revenge on her killer. This is in great contrast to our anthem, "Our Love," relating the strength of a couples love for one another to the strength of nature. For "Is this A Dream" we worked with Surefire writer Neil Letendre whose melody-driven approach gave the record a very addictive quality!
Imagery is key to the project. When I first heard the intense ever-changing drum pattern which evolved into "Silent As the End," I loved the epic drama about it and developed a visual idea of a woman returning to her hometown destroyed by war. Developing the instrumentation for the cinematic feel was fantastic and made a perfect choice for the last song on the album. The song deserved an unconventional format with none of the expected choruses or a bridge. Every word in the lyric was to count. The tension is increased further by a more classical sounding vocal than the rest of the album.
What can you tell us about the writing and recording processes?
The writing process is a continual development, where you are building layer upon layer. Once the lead vocals were laid down, we would go back over the whole track and incorporate background vocals to create the texture.
We spent many hours in the studio. We were so consumed by the recording process, it was very unusual to leave the studio before the sun came up!
What would you say about the importance of "image" to a female performer these days?
With the pressure young women today face under the scrutiny of the media I cannot say that image isn't important. I do though think that for any female artist in the industry it is essential to remember you can be a role model to your audience. It is vital to stay true to yourself and not become brainwashed by publications to fit a certain critique. If one takes to heart the medias incessant strive for perfection, it can become quite consuming.
But, that is not to say that naturally this industry is at least 50% based upon an artist's appearance rather than vocal ability. You can't run away from the fact that as a performer, part and parcel of your job will be the acceptance of the constant analysis of what you are wearing and how you look. If you can show respect for yourself, your audience will show respect for you too.
What have MySpace and FaceBook amongst other social networking tools done for your career?
Myspace and Facebook, along with Bebo and Twitter have all allowed me to open my music up to a much greater audience. I have had access to potential fans worldwide instantly and they can follow my career exactly as it is unfolding. Posting status updates gives that personal approach as an artist to let people know where you're performing or what you're up to.
With the availability of sites like iTunes if fans like the musical snippets that can be heard on my pages, there are direct links to purchase. One of the best things about the social networking sites is the instant contact you have with your fans where they can actually leave comments and messages on your profile. By posting online blogs, videos and picture galleries your audience will now always feel connected in ways that they couldnít before.
Aside from your music career, what piques your interests and occupies your time presently?
The majority of my time at the moment is occupied by juggling life on tour with the release of my album. But when I do have a second to myself, I can usually be found shopping. My downfall is shoes; I have well over a 100 pairs! I also love going to the gym, but really just so I can eat everything I want! After touring Japan last year I am a huge Sushi fan, could eat it three meals a day, seven days a week!
How do audiences react to your live performances and how does performing on stage make you feel?
There is nothing better than the buzz and adrenaline rush of actually performing live to a crowd. You spend so long cooped up in the studio writing the music but the chance to sing songs you put your heart and soul into to a live crowd is what its really about. I have spent years touring to incredible audiences worldwide in Riverdance and Lord of the Dance with songs by award winning composers, but it's nothing in comparison to the feeling of performing my own songs!
What kind of things will you be doing late this year and next year to promote the new album?
I am so excited for what the next year will bring. It has taken the whole of this last year to develop the music and style of the album and finally it is now ready for people to hear, and I hope they love it as much as we do!
In November I am thrilled to be performing at the opening parties for the New York City and the Boston Horror Film Festivals. For me to debut tracks from the album in NYC is a dream come true in itself. We will be doing radio and TV promotion alongside the release of the album in the US and the UK.
I am touring the UK with Lord of the Dance and have a Far East tour lined up for next year. We have a number of fantastic performance opportunities coming up over the next year so we will have to keep you posted. Who knows what is around the corner or where I'll be in eighteen months time but fingers crossed it will hold great things.
With this being your first release, but reflecting on the past and future, how do you feel about digital distribution vs physical product?
As an independent artist the availability of digital distribution has enabled people to hear and buy my music that would otherwise not have been able to do so. Fans also have the choice to purchase individual tracks that they like rather than a full album. Once purchased online it is instantly downloaded making it quicker and easier to put onto iPods etc.
However, many people still love having the physical product in hand to add to their CD collection and I donít think that will ever change. I think as long as you can have both options accessible then people can choose. The physical album will also have exclusive photos, and the album lyrics.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers before we conclude?
If you've read this far thank you very much for your patience!! I hope youíll stay with me and follow me on my journey. Check out my website for tour dates and song previews. Hope to see you at one of my shows soon!