She is a young, blonde, internet singing sensation, yet somehow 18-year-old Hailey Knox has managed to separate herself from the hoards of teenage pop star wannabes. Despite her beauty and unrelenting charm it is Knox’s mesmerizing voice, which commands center stage. Her increasingly popular YouTube channel, which has racked up over two million views, first grabbed the attention of the music industry in 2014 with her captivating rendition of A Great Big World’s “Say Something.” After playing local gigs as one-half of The Knox Sisters, this New York native is now pursuing a solo career.
In June of 2016 Knox’s debut EP, A Little Awkward, was released through S-Curve Records. The playful pop album tastes like honey with five upbeat yet intimate songs including “My Worst Enemy,” “Awkward,” “Loopty Loop,” “Geeks,” and “Take It Or Leave It.” With an EP to her name, a tour underway and new songs in the works, 2017 is shaping up to be Hailey’s most exciting year yet. The artist took a few moments between shows to chat with me about how she got to where she is now and what it has been like to break into the music industry.
Thanks for talking to me Hailey. Where are you right now?
We just flew into Minneapolis. I went to Canada for my first time, which was a lot of fun. The first show was Edmonton, then we went to Calgary and now I’m in Minneapolis.
Before we jump into your debut album I want to talk about the experiences, which led to where you are now. You started performing alongside your sister Samantha under the moniker The Knox Sisters. Do you come from a family of musicians and singers? What was your exposure to music growing up?
Music was always playing in my house. My dad taught me guitar. He would jam and I would sing along with whatever he was doing. “Blackbird” by the Beatles was the first song I learned. My mom has been so supportive of me. She was my manager for a bit. When we were The Knox Sisters she would promote the heck out of my sister and me. We would play open mics and the Starbucks in town. We played every little place we could.
I did the talent shows in third and fourth grade. My second grade teacher actually had a piano in his classroom, which was cool. He pushed me to do the talent shows. In every area there was something musical. Growing up I loved watching [Justin] Bieber’s career. Right now I love Jon Bellion, Allen Stone, and Tori Kelly.
Your sultry and soulful voice is often compared to Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple. Who are your musical icons female or otherwise?
I listen to so many genres of music and think my style is a mesh of everything. Chance The Rapper has such a unique style. His vibe is really cool. I also love a few songs by Fiona Apple. I mess around at home and jam out to some of her stuff. That’s cool that I’m compared to her. I didn’t even know that.
I use the loop-pedal. One of the reasons I got the loop was because of Ed Sheeran, who is a huge inspiration. My parents listened to Stevie Wonder when I was growing up a whole bunch. I used to sing “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke. I love singing that just because it’s so soulful. I auditioned for something with that song. I love soul music.
Your cover songs are wildly popular and so much fun to watch! Do you have a favorite song to cover?
I love covering “Ain’t No Sunshine.” That’s always really fun. I randomly recorded that on my couch after I got home from the city. I was recording that day and went home, set up the camera and was like, “Let’s get this cover out to the people.” On tour now I am doing “Starboy,” which is such a fun track to play because it’s a hit right now. People really like it.
Your debut EP, A Little Awkward, was released last June. Talk to me about the songwriting and recording process for the album and how it compared to what you initially expected going into to experience.
We have a few songs which are a bit up-tempo compared the to EP that I am really excited about. I have been writing with some people in L.A. With A Little Awkward I got to work with Michael Mangini, Peter Zizzo, and Imani Coppola. We developed this awesome team and had great chemistry together. This is all new to me; co-writing, working with people and really opening up. I am excited about this album.
Are any of your songs more personal or significant to you?
There’s a song called “Don’t Got One,” which I have been playing the past few shows. That one is a bit more personal because it is a song about how you can have so many friends through social media and so many followers or whatever, but it’s having that one person you can talk to… The one lyric is, “I don’t got one.” It’s a little bit of an emotional tune, but I love the melody we created. Lyrically it’s a cool song. I can’t wait to release it. I use an electric on that one.
Do you predominately use an acoustic or electric guitar when you are recording?
I have been using acoustic but I am starting to get accustomed to electric. It’s exciting because now I am using a few guitars on stage.
When you get in the studio you can collaborate with a team, play with different sounds, and go in whatever direction your music takes you.
It’s cool. Walking into these sessions you don’t really know what to expect. You are meeting these people for the first time. It’s interesting. A lot of people work differently and begin songs differently. One session I was jamming out with these dudes in L.A. and we realized the progression was awesome so we kept building on that. We had a voice memo rolling while we did it. It’s awesome walking into a room and creating. It’s a lot of fun.
Your tour is taking you around the United States and Canada. What city or venue are you most excited to visit and play?
I always love going back to New York. I have my friends and family hanging out with me in the green room. Plus, I have never been to the Highline Ballroom before.
It’s a great venue. What can your fans expect next?
I don’t have a release date yet for the album, but I am putting out some music and I am very excited about it. I have been documenting the tour on social media as best I can to show people what it is like on the road.
Hailey Knox will be playing at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan on Feb. 16 and World Café Live in Philadelphia on Feb. 17. For more information, go to facebook.com/haileyknoxmusic