Photo: Jace Lumley
It's not often you find an artist whose aura of genuineness precedes them as they enter a room. Gavin Haley is one such artist. The pop singer-songwriter's debut EP Long Game just dropped today and it's a testament to Haley both as an artist and a person.
For Haley creating Long Game has indeed been a long game. It's a project he's put his heart and soul into, and it shows. From deeply emotional songs like "Like You For Real" to thought-provoking tunes like "If It Was Easy," we couldn't wait for the chance to speak with this bright and up-and-coming musician. Creative and pure at heart, Haley took us into his world, as we touched on childhood Halloween costumes, sports, and of course his newest release!
OTW: Gavin! I know you're currently on the road with Ashe on her Ones To Watch presents tour. But I want to know about your all-time best and worst gig ever?
Gavin Haley: Salt Lake City recently was pretty incredible. We played this super small venue, and all the fans just packed in. It was so amazing and very electric. It's tough to do that when it's just you and your guitar. But everyone was so receptive and it was just a blast. The worst experience though? I don't know. I've played through a lot of shitty shows where like no one cares at bars where people talk over you.
OTW: That's the worst.
Haley: Yeah! But recently in Santa Cruz, the sound guy couldn't quite get it right. So I hopped down into the crowd and just played. It was fun! It turned out to be okay. As for the worst tour experience? I'd say just trying to find food in the middle of nowhere. In every major city, I have to find a Whole Foods because I have a very restricted diet. It's either that or eating Lärabars and trying to survive off of that (laughs)!
OTW: What can you not eat?
Haley: I'm just gluten-free and vegan. It doesn't seem like too much but then when there's fast food or when people get Subway, I'm like nah.
OTW: The tour wraps up just before Halloween, so I have to ask, what are your plans? What are you going to be?
Haley: I'm trying to get to Oct 25th, and then we'll decide. Haha! We'll see, there's some stuff happening in LA that I'll try and go to if I'm back here.
OTW: What's been one of your most iconic costumes?
Haley: I'm pretty weak when it comes to Halloween. I always decide last minute. The best costume I had when I was 11 and had really long hair at the time. My sister shaved most of it, and we left a really long strand in the back and braided it. And I was a Padawan. I had a lightsaber and everything.
OTW: Wow, you committed to it. I'm proud of you.
Haley: Haha! It just happened. My mom came from a more conservative background, and so she didn't let us celebrate Halloween. So I would sneak out with my friends and go trick or treating last minute. But I really don't know what I'm gonna be this year! Maybe I'll just find a wig and do that? (laughs)
OTW: Wigs are so in right now! Well, circling back a bit to your beginnings, what's your earliest musical memory?
Haley: My dad had a guitar he never played. I remember trying to play it, and getting a dime because I didn't know picks existed. I was so young. But I think the first time I thought, "Wow music is really cool," is being in church singing along. Or going to my first concerts, which were always Christian music and getting my guitar when I was 13. I remember only being able to play these two chords, and I would do it for hours. My first musical memory would definitely be playing my dad's guitar.
OTW: So you kind of got started in music via the church?
Haley: Kind of. That's where I found my passion for music for sure. Like I never learned music the "proper" way. When I was cycling, I would always use music to get my mind off of the training. I'd be in Europe for half of the year and that's where I started writing at 17 or 18. I'd make melodies and write songs and that's when I realized I was gonna do this. Then I came to LA and didn't really know anybody. And all up to now it's been a blur. But I definitely started just sitting in a room in Belgium playing guitar.
OTW: That sounds magical in itself.
Haley: It was! And it's still what I'm doing now.
OTW: How was the transition from cyclist to musician, and why'd you feel the need to make the jump?
Haley: It was tough! I'd been cycling my whole life, and many people don't know much about the sport. I was only pro for a year, but I couldn't do the intensity of the proper training that would let me stay at that level. Music was the only thing that made me not depressed during all of that time. So, I decided to chase another passion that I've had for a long time. Music kept me above water for a long time.
OTW: Are there any skills that you brought from cycling to music?
Haley: It's difficult. it doesn't translate skill-wise. But I know how to win. That sounds dumb, but I know how to not stop. Other people quit, but I don’t stop. I just keep going. It doesn’t matter how slow or how fast, I just know where I wanna go. I can put my head down and cancel out a lot of the bullshit, which is good to do here.
OTW: Staying focused is important. And I know a lot of people out there who are making career transitions to follow their real-life passions. What advice would you give to people thinking about making a jump like that?
Haley: Being nervous and antsy about it is always going to happen. People just get caught up in that. We get taught that you're supposed to be comfortable in what you're doing. And if you really have something you want to do, you've gotta go do it because you're not gonna come back here. Right? You're not going to come back to this life. You won't get the chance to do this again. That's the motivation for me. I'm like, I need to do something I want to do. If you're thinking about something all the time, you can probably make that your life if you spend enough time on it. It the initial jump though that's hard. Because I think once you've gone for it, it's not as scary anymore.
OTW: I'm taking notes. What's one of your biggest accomplishments so far?
Haley: Oh, we’re just getting started! I'm so happy to be here to be honest! This tour is a really big goal for me. You know, getting to a place where I can just travel. It's funny because your achievements are changing as you go. Two years ago, this is all I wanted. And it all just keeps changing. Now I'm looking at stadiums like, "How can I get there?!" So far it's just been having people sing back the words to my songs on this tour. It's amazing.
OTW: What is that feeling like?
Haley: Unreal. You never know if a song you wrote in your bedroom or bathroom - who knows where I wrote some of these things! It’s just… I can't even describe it, but it feels really good. That's the biggest achievement.
OTW: Tell me the story behind your new EP Long Game. When did you start making it?
Haley: I've got over 400 demos, to be honest. And it wasn't something where we were pulling from all of it. The EP really came from the best songs I'd put together in the last eight months. And it's a story. Long Game is about not knowing what's going to happen but also not ever being willing to stop. There's a lot of good messages on the songs. Even though they sound sad, there's major positive feelings in them.
OTW: How would describe each song on the EP in one word?
Haley: Okay so "Low Beams": Smooth. "Like You For Real": Feels. It'll put you in your feels. "The Way I Am": Sad. "Show Me": Hopeful. "Light Codes (Interlude)": Different. "Scars and Tattoos": Record. That's a record. "Long Game":. It just feels big. And "If It Was Easy": Stadiums. Or Light? Light is cool. It just feels big though. We'll call it light, because it's got a good message.
OTW: When you're not making music if ever, what are you up to?
Haley: I'm hoopin' for sure, basketball. I can't right now because of this micro-fracture in my foot.
OTW: How'd you get that?
Haley: I don't know! Probably from basketball. I was tryna get up there and landed badly. So either that or chillin with my friends. I don't go out too much. I like to kick it with my friends and go out into nature. But I'm always writing so that's always happening.
OTW: You mentioned basketball. What position do you play?
OTW: I sensed guard energy from you, but I didn't want to project!
Haley: Yeah! (laughs). When I'm out there, I'm floor general. I like to make plays.
OTW: Call them out! Situate them. Do you have any favorites teams?
Haley: Lakers! I started watching the NBA when I moved to LA. Lonzo Ball is one of my favorite players. He got traded, to the Pelicans. Bless his soul now… trash. But we got Lebron and AD. It's gonna be crazy. LA is about to go up! It's gonna be a good year.
OTW: Ok tell me, who are your Ones To Watch?
Haley: I'm running back on some old albums, Frank is so good. Being on tour, everyone's DJing different albums so I've been listening to a lot of stuff I haven't heard in a long time. Nostalgic. But new people. I feel like all the people I think are blowing up have blown up already! I like AUGUST 08, he's my homie. Channel Tres, Duckworth is dope. Niko Rubio just dropped her first single. She's gonna be making some waves. I'm listening to everything though. I like to study.
OTW: Lastly, we know you're a songwriter, true to form. What song would you want to sit in on the writers’ session for?
Haley: Oooh. I would love to sit on a few sessions with Ed Sheeran, because I feel like the way he puts together his stuff is very simple and proper. Man, there's a lot of songs. Probably "White Ferrari" or "Nights" by Frank Ocean. On "Nights," where he goes, "Every night fucks every day up," that line is crazy! People sit in sessions for hours trying to make shit like that. And it just seems so effortless, though I know it's not. I know he works very hard, and I would love to see that.