Normal Is Overrated | Interview: Haley Pharo

fotoboy62 | Citizen LA

Yes, Haley Pharo is lovely.  Her face, her voice, and her words all work together to produce a physical persona that undoubtedly melts hearts.  Haley’s true beauty, however, emanates from wisdom and an appreciation for life.  The fearless singer/songwriter is on a mission to leave the world a better place than when she came to it.

Haley’s poignant songs are comprised of life lessons coated in a sweet musical veneer that is simple and accessible.  Tracks vacillate from melodic hooks to anthemic choruses which hint at tonal qualities found in Blondie, No Doubt and Tory Amos.  An interesting blend of synth samples creates a playful clean sound reminiscent of 80’s Pop without sounding dated or retro. Haley’s songwriting abilities are more than evident.

Yet beyond all this unbridled musical talent, we can appreciate Haley for being a simple girl with simple dreams.  Haley carries a heartfelt conviction to share the gift of music while navigating through an unmerciful industry that eats adorable popstars for breakfast…

And she’s biting back.

Citizen LA: You we’re in the Amazon at an early age.  How has traveling affected your music?

Haley Pharo: I think traveling is the greatest educator there is.  Seeing some of the more poverty stricken parts of the world has taught me to be grateful for everything… I’ve been very lucky.  

Citizen LA: After taking a good look at some photos on your MySpace site, I immediately saw that there was a benefit to both parties.  You were happy that you were there, and they were happy that you were there.

Haley: I walk away from those situations gaining more than I could ever imagine giving someone.  All they want to do is give you all the joy they possibly have.  And that’s what I want to give back to the world.

Citizen LA: According to your bio, you make it a point to keep a very detailed journal.  Are you an open book when you’re out in public?

Haley: The way that I know to be vulnerable and best express my feelings has always been through writing and through music.  I think in everyday life I’m a little more of a closed book or a “question mark”.  I’m very warm, but to get to know me takes quite a bit of time.

Citizen LA: Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert?

Haley: I just consider myself a weirdo.  Hahaha.  I think I’m a total goofball… and a bit of a square peg in a round hole.  I’m sure my high school guidance counselor agrees.

Citizen LA: Yeah, all the best ones are square pegs in round holes.

Haley: Being normal is over-rated.

Citizen LA: Looks like you’ve been at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time many times.  How do you account for that?

Haley: It’s been one adventure after another.  Like a domino effect of getting lucky.

Citizen LA: Synchronicity?

Haley: I just stumbled down the right road.  I met a buddy who was a background singer for Justin Timberlake when I was 12.  He took me under his wing, and then I was just one thing after another.  My parents encouraged me to be exactly who I was at that moment.  At every moment!

Citizen LA: We usually learn more from our failures than our success.  How comfortable are you with your failures?

Haley:  I embrace my failures.   If I hadn’t made a millions mistakes, I wouldn’t be who I am now.  I’m grateful for all of them, good and bad.  You can either choose to let your mistakes make you ‘bitter or better’.

Citizen LA: So you’re a pretty brave person?

Haley:  I’d like to think so.  Worst case scenario you fall flat on your face, but you can get up and try again.

Citizen LA: In your bio, you mention “honesty” when collaborating with others.  How do you remain honest in the entertainment business?

Haley:  I think it has a lot to do with my upbringing.  It’s important as a songwriter to always be honest with yourself.  So much of it is people telling you that you are ‘so great’, or that it was a ‘great idea.’  And you look in the mirror and say ‘No.  No.  That was stupid.’  But it’s ok.  I think being critical of myself has helped me stay honest. You definitely grow from criticism.

Citizen LA: It’s key.

Haley:  There are a lot of opinions out there… but at the end of the day; the one that matters most is your opinion about yourself.

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Citizen LA: Now how long have you been in LA?

Haley:  5 ½ years.

Citizen LA: This city can chew you up.  If you don’t come to LA and meet the right people relatively quickly, it can be tough.

Haley:  I’ve heard horror stories from people being new to LA and meeting crazy people, but I haven’t had that experience.  I was so fortunate. I’ve met really cool people who have been weirdoes themselves who celebrate each other’s uniqueness.

Citizen LA: I guess that’s what keeps the right people in LA.  

Haley:  That keeps people sane here.

Citizen LA: Unless you start out insane.

Haley:  Maybe that’s what happened to me; I’m crazy and I just haven’t noticed it yet.

Citizen LA: About the music itself… over-production is a definite soul-killer.  How do you keep your songs from becoming pop-garbage?

Haley:  I think it goes back to that honesty thing.  I think when it goes too far you just reel it back in.  But keep the message of the song, which is most important. Not necessarily what radio wants to play or what is cool that month. It’s always a battle trying to find that “just right” area.

Citizen LA: And it also helps to be working with someone like Andrew Dawson.

Haley:  Yes, we were in the studio a few months together.

Citizen LA: So, from a production standpoint, what have you learned about producing your music?

Haley:  Andrew always encouraged new ideas and helped me to push the envelope further than I would have originally thought to do.  I learned to not have any boundaries, have fun, let go, and don’t over-think it.  

Citizen LA: Do you see him working a lot from intuition?

Haley:  He has his own flavor.  I think his ideas and my ideas worked out really nicely together.  He is so talented and so kind.  I don’t have enough nice things to say about him.  Honesty I don’t think there’s anything the man can’t do.

Citizen LA: That’s a huge compliment.

Haley:  I’ve been very fortune. Everyone that I have worked with has been so talented.

Citizen LA: Again, the right place at the right time. 

Haley:  Yeah.

Citizen LA: I noticed that you are very comfortable on stage.  Is that Haley the “little girl” or the “grown up”?

Haley:  The stage is my playground.  Oddly enough, it’s the one place where I feel all my walls go down.  All the fantasies and dreams I had as a little kid up come to life on stage.  When I perform, it marries the adult me with the five year old me.

Citizen LA: So what inspires you?

Haley:  Anyone I come into contact with is inspiration.  We have so much to learn from how people handle themselves; the way people treat you.  My biggest song writing motivator is relationship driven.  So it comes in handy that I have picked guys that weren’t very good for me.

Citizen LA: Are you a little heart-breaker?

Haley:  I think at times, yes, and at times I’m the one that gets stomped on.

Citizen LA: So relationships inspire you. Los Angeles inspires you.  Does Texas inspire you? You’re from Texas, right?

Haley:  I’m from Dallas.

Citizen LA: Very nice people… and very good BBQ.

Haley:  And VERY good Tex-Mex.  I miss it.  They don’t even have queso out here.  Velveeta just doesn’t cut it for me.

Citizen LA: An ex schooled me on the finer points of “queso”.

Haley: Texans do love their queso.

Citizen LA: So what words of advice do you have for the little girl in Dallas who believes they have what it takes to be the next you?

Haley:  Never stop believing in yourself… and don’t take “no” for an answer.  You’re going to hear “no” a thousand times before you get a “yes”.  But all it takes is one important “yes”.  Rejection is just a small part of it.

Citizen LA: Were you always this confident?

Haley:  Actually, I was a really shy kid.  I hid behind my mom’s leg and wouldn’t talk.  But one day I saw a girl sing a song from The Sound of Music at a family talent show and told my mom I wanted to do that.  My mom said, ‘That’s really weird, you don’t want to be a singer…  you’re gonna be a loner if you’re a singer.’  After that I nagged the crap out of her to let me sing.

Citizen LA: You seem to do it well.  Everyone’s paying attention.

Haley: I’m tryin’.

Citizen LA: No. You’re doin’. 

Haley: Hahaha. Ok.

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