Charleston native Haley Mae Campbell has been in Nashville for over a year now, and it’s been a time filled with some pretty notable firsts for her, like her video “Oughta Be” making it onto CMT, and a song she co-wrote getting released by another artist.
Right now she’s excited that CMT’s New Women of Country put her single “Oughta Be” on their Spotify playlist, and she has a spring tour in the works. She says Charleston can expect to see her back on one of its stages soon.
For now, let’s get her take on what this video debut on CMT means for her as an artist, and more.
You’ve got your own video on CMT! How does that feel?
It feels really amazing! It’s definitely been a dream of mine for the past few years. I’ve had so many incredible ‘firsts’ this year, and this one is by far the most special.
How did your music video debut on CMT come about?
I met Leslie Fram (VP of CMT) a few years ago at Charleston Music Confab, when I performed as part of the “Change the Conversation” showcase. Ever since then it’s been a huge goal of mine to earn the privilege of having a video on CMT. After shooting this video with Randy Alan, I knew it was something special, so I reached out to Leslie and after reviewing it with her team, she gave me the green light! I hope everyone loves this video as much as I do. The concept was inspired by a scene from one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer, which makes it even more personal.
How would you describe your performance development from Hugs & Disses where you were following professional direction, to the radio-friendly “Phone Home,” to your more signature Lovers Lottery — how did you change as a performer in a studio setting?
My love for music developed out of my love for performing (I was in musical theater growing up), so the stage has always held a special place in my heart. However, performing with a band is definitely a very different dynamic than performing in a play. When I released Hugs & Disses, I had only ever performed in cover bands or solo acoustic. I held my album release show at the Charleston Music Farm, and I was pretty nervous getting up there. But I had some great mentors and some pretty strong inspirations to look up to. While developing my live show, I spent hours watching performances online of anyone I could think of (Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Kelsea Ballerini, Carrie Underwood, Grace Potter, etc.). I tried to pick up on the most exciting parts of their performances, and work them into my own, all while navigating my own personal style. It’s an ongoing process, of course, but I’ve come such a long way since my very first original full-band show (at the age of 16). I’m comfortable in my skin, and in my newest era of music, and I think that confidence is what excites people when they watch my show. In a studio setting, the same confidence is key. I’ve learned how to trust my instincts when it comes to new music, and found people that I love working with to help me bring it to life.
What was your main vision when you searched for a band after your first forays in the studio?
After my first experience in the studio (Hugs & Disses), I knew that I needed my bandmates to be my friends, first and foremost — people that believed in me, my music, and what I was doing. The vision was, of course, to bring the songs from the record to life, but also to have the time of our lives. My first band consisted of some of my best friends at the time, and we went on from the album-release show to complete a three-week tour of the East Coast. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that with just anyone at the time.
How easy or difficult was it to find dedicated bandmates? What was your approach?
At the time, there wasn’t too much of a country music scene in Charleston. Or at least, not one that I knew of. Luckily, I had grown up going to School of the Arts, so I knew lots of kids who were musically inclined. I was able to ask friends, which was definitely a blessing at the time. I was just getting started on my musical journey, so having that support system of people to lift each other up was key.
What was playing alongside Sheryl Crow like at First Flush Festival? That’s amazing!
First Flush! What an incredible experience. It was my first time ever playing the main stage at a festival, and it was definitely the stuff of dreams. I opened up the festival with 45 of the most exciting minutes of my life. It was one of those unforgettable moments that reassures you of all the times when you may have doubted yourself, your dreams, and your goals. Of course, just to be on the same bill as Sheryl Crow was incredible. I still have the poster!
What doors has co-writing opened for your creativity?
I didn’t co-write much until I started visiting Nashville around age 14. It’s always such a unique experience, because it allows you to draw off of someone else’s experiences, ideas, and energy, rather than just relying your own. It makes writing songs every day feel exciting, instead of just intimidating!
What insight has collaboration given you into your own songwriting style or technique?
Co-writing has definitely shown me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to songwriting, which is great, because I can team up with people who are opposite of me. It’s become pretty clear that I’m a melody-driven person first and foremost, which is something I may never have noticed without the insight of other writers.
With your move to Nashville, what is you main goal right now?
My main goal here is to grow in every sense of the word. I’ve been here just over a year, and I can already see some big changes with my style, songwriting ability, live show, and pretty much every other aspect of my artistry. It’s such an encouraging environment, and everyone really wants the best for each other. I love meeting new people and learning from them. The best thing you can do for yourself in Nashville is to get out there and experience as much as you can.
What are you up to right now in terms of songwriting?
Right now is an exciting time because along with writing for myself, I’m writing with and for other artists. For the first time ever, I had a song that I co-wrote be released by an artist other than myself. It’s a really inspiring feeling!
Do you have a songwriting ritual?
At this point, song ideas randomly pop into my head and I immediately write them down in the Notes app on my phone, or if it’s a melody, I quickly voice memo it before I forget. I usually give myself some time to sit on the idea, or bring it up in a co-write and take it from there. I almost always write on the acoustic guitar, and I have to work on the lyrics in the Notes app. Needless to say, my iPhone is full of bits and pieces of songs you’ll hear from me (hopefully very soon), as well as songs that may never see the light of day.
Did you play violin or piano on “Lovers Lottery”?
All of the fiddle on “Lovers Lottery” was played by my incredible violinist Ryan Gilmore. He’s been playing with me for about four years now, pretty much since the beginning. I did play violin in middle school, but unfortunately didn’t keep up with it enough to play live. But maybe one of these days I’ll pick it back up and have Ryan show me a thing or two! The piano and organ parts were played by Justin Brown, another incredible musician I met here in Nashville. As for myself, I played acoustic guitar on the “Lovers Lottery” record.
When you play live shows, can your audience expect to see you change instruments?
As of recently, they can certainly expect to see me switch guitars a few times! For bigger shows, I bring two acoustics (one of which is black and covered in glitter) and an electric. It’s a new aspect of the show for me, but super fun because I get to keep things exciting.
What is next for performances?
Right now I’m working on booking a spring tour! I’m really looking forward to seeing some new cities, as well as some familiar ones. I hope that as more people get the chance to hear my new music, I’ll have the opportunity to make some new connections with fans and friends. I can definitely say that you’ll be seeing us in Charleston very soon!
What is your go-to band when you pop in your headphones out on errands?
It’s constantly changing, but at the moment I’m hooked on the new Maroon 5 record, Red Pill Blues. I just found out they’re playing the Super Bowl Halftime Show, so I’ll be highly anticipating that performance, and taking some serious notes!
When are you craving inspiration, what songs do you listen to?
Some of my biggest inspirations right now come from the CMT Next Women of Country. If you haven’t heard of NWOC, it’s a program that focuses on lifting up the new females in country music, all of whom are phenomenal! I was fortunate enough to have my song “Oughta Be” added to their Spotify playlist recently. Some of my favorite songs at the moment are “Tailgate” by Raelynn, “One More Red Light” by Cassadee Pope, and “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves.