When it comes to Haley Jonay, performing and writing songs that change people’s life is no impossible feat. At only 18 years old, she has become a performer with a “head full of dreams that are becoming a bright, shining, and unbelievable reality,” as she puts it. Her first album, which she wrote and recorded herself, titled Haley Jonay, was released in 2014, and she continues to perform at hundreds of shows. Better yet, her newest single, titled “All the Bright Places” was inspired by Jennifer Niven’s incredible novel of the same name. She is here to speak about what makes her so passionate about music, to give an inside look into how the “All The Bright Places” song was created, and to share her advice with other young singers and songwriters.
When did you start singing/songwriting?
I was singing before I could talk, or so my mom says. Music has always been my constant, love, and passion. I remember writing my first song when I was about seven. I was so proud of myself, and I still remember it to this day. I think it’d be a number one hit.
“You and me together,
we’re like glue and paper.
A beaver and sticks,
a house and bricks.
We can do anything. Yeah!”
Since penning that masterpiece in 2005, singing/songwriting and I have been inseparable. I taught myself to play piano when I was seven or eight, guitar when I was 12, and ukulele when I was 14. I’m obsessed with learning to play new instruments. I’m currently trying to learn to play banjo and mandolin.
Was there a defining moment in your life that really made you realize that you were meant to make and perform music?
My entire life my parents have provided me with unlimited possibility. They never stifled my dreams, creativity, or happiness. I remember going to the Hannah Montana concert with my mom when I was nine. I was absolutely awestruck and mesmerized by the entire experience. I looked over at my mom with tears in my eyes and said, “I want to do that one day,” and she replied with a smile and a simple, “You will.” My entire life has been synonymous with my love of music, but it was at the Hannah Montana concert on December 9, 2007, that my destiny was set in motion.
Who is your inspiration, and why do they inspire the work that you do? (musically or otherwise)
I’m inspired by my mom. She is so selfless, loving, and hardworking. She’s always there for me. She’s my best friend. I want to be like her when I grow up.
I’m really inspired by Taylor Swift. She’s one of the best songwriters and performers of all time, charitable, and such a genuine and beautiful person. When I met her last year, she called me a “beautiful woodland fairy,” and all my dreams came true. She inspires me to pursue my dreams fearlessly and with grace.
Ed Sheeran is another one of my huge inspirations. I was at his meet and greet in 2013, and we sang “Lego House” together. After we sang, he said, “Your voice is beautiful.” He was so cool and down to earth, and minutes later he hit the stage solo and absolutely killed it. His songwriting, work ethic, and talent inspire me to be better and work harder.
I’m inspired by the people who work day in and day out to make the world a better place. Whether they are bringing awareness to/working towards gender equality, racial equality, world peace, the environment, LGBT rights, etc. they are making a difference. How could I not be inspired? We all can do our part to make tomorrow better.
What was it about ATBP that inspired you to write the song “All the Bright Places”?
In August 2015 I bought ATBP, went home, opened it up, and read it in one sitting. At this point, it was about 3am, and I was in tears. The story was so beautiful, complex, and eye-opening. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was forever-changed. The novel sheds light on such an important issue and lets readers know that they’re not alone. This novel is luminous.
What was the process like for writing “All The Bright Places” and just songs in general?
I woke up the next morning after reading ATBP with a single line in my head: “you were made to fly, but what happens when a bird runs out of sky.” I instantly went to the piano, turned on my voice memo recorder on my phone, and started playing a chord progression. Immediately lyrics started flowing, and within fifteen minutes, I’d written “All the Bright Places.” When I write songs, they can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few months to finish.
There’s rarely a day that goes by where I don’t at least jot down a couple lyrics into my phone. Lyric ideas happen everywhere at anytime. I usually come up with lyrics before melody, but when I get a melody in my head I’ll record it into my phone. Sometimes songs are composed of multiple different lyric ideas that I piece together, and sometimes they’re written from scratch in one sitting. It really just depends. No two songs are written the same way.
What has been the best part of releasing a song that has touched the hearts of so many people and readers of ATBP?
It means the world to me to have fellow ATBP readers tell me that my song affected them in some way. The support and love they’ve shown for my song is beyond my wildest dreams. This is the very first song I’ve ever produced, recorded, and played completely by myself, so to have so many people give such positive feedback is incredibly gratifying. Whether it’s a tweet, fan art inspired by the song, a caption using my lyrics, etc. it never fails to make me smile. My fans are forever my bright places. I am especially grateful to Jennifer Niven for saying so many lovely things about my song. She is such a beautiful person inside and out, and I am absolutely honored by her support. She is a huge inspiration to me, and I can’t even begin to thank her enough for writing ATBP.
What advice do you have for other aspiring singers/songwriters wanting to come out with their own music?
Never give up, and believe in yourself. They sound cliche, but they are the absolute truth. I know how scary it can be putting yourself and your music out to the world, but you cannot let your fear of rejection restrain you from making your wildest dreams a reality. You are full of infinite possibility, and as long as you work hard and stay true to yourself, you can do anything you want.
What is your next step and what are you planning to work on in the future?
I’m currently recording my second album, which I plan to release in early summer 2016. I am so excited for my fans to hear the music I’ve been creating. I’m so proud of it. I recently put together my band. My drummer is Chase Allen, my bassist is Xander Meyers, and my guitarist is Blake Streicher. They are insanely talented, and I can’t wait to hit the stage this summer. My shows are gonna be on a whole new level. The best is yet to come.
You can keep up with Haley Jonay on Twitter @HaleyJonay, and you can purchase “All The Bright Places” here.