Hayley Westenra
photo © Simon Fowler 2003

Hayley Westenra

Musical Discoveries: Would you please tell us a little bit about your backround.

Hayley Westenra: I was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and have lived there all my life. I have a younger brother Isaac, who is now 10, and younger sister Sophie, who is 13. I have been singing for as long as I can remember but things really started to happen when I was six and I performed the lead in my school's christmas play.

My mum and dad suddenly noticed that I could sing. From then on I performed in a number of concerts and musicals. My brother and sister are also really musical. Isaac plays the flute and is learning the piano and Sophie sings and plays the violin. So we used to go busking in Christchurch at the weekends to earn a bit of extra pocket money. One day a journalist noticed us and my singing career kind of took off from there!

Please tell us about your earlier recordings.

I have two previous albums that were released in New Zealand only. My first album called Hayley Westenra is a mixture of classical pieces and show pieces. My second album My Gift to You was a Christmas album. I think both albums are still available to buy in New Zealand and also on the internet.

What have been your musical influences?

I love to listen to a variety of music. The first classical CD I ever brought was by Andrea Bocelli. He is one of my idols and I think he has the most amazing voice! At the moment I love listening to Coldplay, Daniel Beddingfield, Delta Goodrun and Craig David.

Hayley Westenra
photo © Simon Fowler 2003

Where did you draw the inspiration for the music and lyrics for your music?

I draw my inspiration from a variety of sources from classical music, opera and pop. I liked to keep open-minded about music and I think this is reflected in my latest album Pure as there is a quite a variety of different songs on there.

And how would you characterise your music?

My album Pure is a mixture of classical music, Maori songs and more poppier pieces. I would like to think there is something for everyone on there. I have been compared to Charlotte Church quite a lot. I think this is just because we are both a similar age and have both sung similar songs. It's very flattering but I would like to think that we are different.

Would you say that the material develops in a particular way as the new album progresses from beginning to end?

The album has quite a variety of different songs on it but it does flow very well from beginning to end. We basically decided what my favourite songs were and put the album together from that. For example "Pokarekare Ana" is one of the key tracks so it made sense to start the album with it.

Please tell us about the selection of the pieces, the arrangements and the others you worked with during the development of Pure.

  Hayley Westenra
photo © Simon Fowler 2003

The album was produced by Giles Martin, son of Sir George Martin and a number of the songs were arranged by Sarah Class. It was great fun working with both Giles and Sarah. The pieces on the album are quite varied.

There are a couple of Maori songs like "Pokarekare Ana" which is a Maori love song (Maori is New Zealand's native language) and Hine e Hine. And there there are some classical pieces like "Benedictus," "Dark Waltz," "Amazing Grace" and "In Trutina" from Carmina Burana. I love singing these classical pieces and they suit my voice really well.

There are also some more poppier songs like "Who Painted the Moon Black," "Beat of Your Heart" and "Heaven." In fact "Beat of Your Heart" was written by Sir George Martin. One of my favourite songs is "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush. My mum introduced this song to me about a year ago and I completely fell in love with it.

Tell us about the development of your vocal style.

I haven't received any formal training for my voice but when I was about eleven I started lessons with a singing teacher to learn more songs and learn how to support and protect my voice properly. I've also had singing lessons with Dame Malvina Major which was a real honour! I learnt a lot from her.

Hayley Westenra
photo © Simon Fowler 2003


My voice has changed as I have got older. My range is broader and my interpretation of songs is greater, especially since I have been introduced to new styles of music.

How do the audiences react to your on stage persona?

I absolutely love performing! So far everyone has responded really positively to me in concert and I've had great feedback. Because I started so young performing now in front of big crowds don't seem so dauting as it might to other people.

What plans to you have to tour and promote the new album in the USA and elsewhere?

My album Pure will be released in the USA next April. I plan to go over there for two weeks in January for a showcase in Los Angeles and New York. I will then return in April and probably live there for a couple of months to do promotion.

There are no plans yet to tour in the USA but I would absolutely love to! Also I've just been in Japan and Taiwan promoting my album over there. I had a great time!

I've been really lucky to perform with some great singers. I sang with Russell Watson in concert at the beginning of the year have just finished a UK tour with Aled Jones. It was a brilliant experience.

I've also sung with Jose Carreras and Bryn Terfel at the Faenol festival in Wales. In fact I have concerts with them at the Royal Albert Hall in December. I can't wait!

  Hayley Westenra
photo © Simon Fowler 2003

Do you think that the internet influenced your musical career?

I think the internet is a great way to access music and find out about new artists so I think it has definitely helped me in that way. Also my website www.hayleywestenra.com is a great way for me to keep fans updated on what I'm up to.

How would you say the dramatic commercial success of "Pure" affected you?

I'm thrilled that my album Pure is doing so well. I'm definitely a lot busier now than I use to be! I'm really lucky as I now get to travel to lots of different countries and experience new things. It's really exciting!

What are your plans, hopes and dreams for 2004 and beyond?

I hope to continue recording and performing as much as possible. I've just started learning the guitar so I would love to start writing my own songs and include them on my next albums.

More Hayley Westenra
Pure Album Review

Interview, review and HTML © R. W. Elliot 2003
All images © Decca / Simon Fowler 2003
Last updated 16 November 2003

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