Below the Salt is the debut album from Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Haley Blais. Her gorgeous, dream-pop album is lush and lovely with elements of bedroom pop and hints of nostalgia. Below the Salt also features production from and collaborations with Tennis.
Haley Blais shares news about her album, collaborating with Tennis, nostalgia, and more.
How has your 2020 been? It’s been a crazy year, but you have a new album.
Yeah, that’s the only beacon of light for me right now. It’s been … much like anyone else, I’m just trying to relax. I recently just moved, and so that was another stressful aspect of my crazy year, but yeah. The album is coming out, and I’m really excited for that. It’s dropping on my birthday! So it’s my birthday gift for myself.
How was it making Below the Salt?
It was really great. It was the first time I’ve ever had a properly produced album where someone else comes in and gives their take on it and tries to help me develop the songs, and it’s not just me struggling and writing in dumb thoughts. It was a really great learning experience, and now I feel like I know what to do with my music, whereas before I was really flailing, so there was a lot of guidance and partnership for it that was really great.
Can you talk about the songwriting? I read somewhere that if you think that a song is not written in 20 minutes, it’ll never be finished.
Yeah, so, I’m trying really hard to take my time with writing songs lately, and that if they’re not written in 20 minutes … because I usually have this weird thing in the last couple of years where all my songs have to be written in 20 minutes or less, or they just happen to be that way.
I’ve never really spent that much time on writing a song, and now it’s been a great experience taking my time and using months of my time to finish a song. So, for this album, I think a lot of the songs were done like that, where I had to take my time with them, which was a cathartic experience because it wasn’t just a manic throw up on page and done with it.
I really, actually listened to myself and took my time and also had collaborators in to help sculpt the songs, which was really cool. We have Tennis in on a couple song, and they really changed the way a few songs evolved, so that was really awesome.
How was it collaborating with Tennis?
It was great. I’m such fans of them, and when they came on board, it was like a dream come true. They’re such a great team, and I felt like they were taking me under their wing, and I felt like the little baby and they were my parents. They have such great ideas, and Pat [Riley] is a producing genius.
They took songs that were really slow ballads and turned them into more pop or upbeat kind of cruising songs, especially “Too Good,” which was originally an organ ballad only that was 30 seconds long, and it was just this idea I had and they really expanded on it. Now, it’s this kind of synth pop song, which is something I never thought I would put into the world personally, but I’m glad it happened. I love it.
It’s super dream poppy.
Yeah, a lot of Kate Bush influences there in the studio.
You mentioned Kate Bush. Were there any other inspirations as far as the instrumentation?
Totally. We channeled Carole King a lot in the studio with Tennis. We had a mantra that was just like, “Carole King, bitch. What would Carole do?” She’s a huge inspiration for me as a songwriter, and that whole era of ’70s singer songwriters that are women. I’ve grown up listening to her music, so using her as inspiration for a lot of these tracks was kind of inevitable for me. Kate Bush. A lot of drum percussion had Kate Bush inspiration. Mostly those two powerhouses. They really funneled their way into the songs.
You’ve describe Below the Salt as a coming-of-age with no real coming of age. Can you say more about that?
That’s a hard question, because yeah, all the music I have written up to now, there is like this twinge of nostalgia. I think this album kind of caps that off, and I’m ready to move on and make music that has different tones to it, that doesn’t as naturally go towards this, I don’t know what another word would be, ‘not-nostalgia’ really resonates with me.
Any music I’ve written ends up that way without me trying to do that, so yeah. It’s a coming-of-age vibe to it without coming of age because I’m turning 26 and feel like I missed my mark on coming of age. I don’t know. It’s a hard question because I don’t even know.
How was singing and doing the vocal work?
Really good. We did it sporadically throughout a few months. A lot of the tracks that I did vocals on were done in March of last year at a cabin, and they were originally supposed to be just demo vocals, but I kind of got ‘demo-itus’ and decided to keep them all because they worked out really well and I loved the emotion behind it.
It was before we had produced a lot of the songs differently too, so there was kind of an emotional contrast to the way I was singing it in March, which is the way it ended up being produced in August. I liked the disconnect there, for me personally. I know probably no one would hear it, but for me, I can hear it, and I liked that. It was good, and I liked having Alaina [Moore] in the booth with me sometimes.
You can hear doing really high, kind of vamp-yvocal moments in “Be Your Own Muse” at the end. She just hopped in and started singing, and I didn’t stop her.
What’re your plans now as far as promoting the release of the album?
Yeah, I think it’s kind of up in the air, because obviously, normally, we’d be revving up to go on tour or have already been on tour to help promote it, but I’m kind of excited to let it live and not do too much in terms of promotion, just kind of let it go, people can listen to it, and enjoy it.
Now, it’s finally out of my hands, because it feels like I’ve been sitting on this album for years. To me, it’s been out for two years, because it’s been in my head as this whole for so long, and now I’m like, ‘when’s the next one coming out?’ I’m ready to start moving on even though no one’s listened to it yet.
Do you have any thoughts on your next album?
Yeah, I’m writing. I just moved out and no longer live with a roommate, so I have the freedom to play and write music up until 3 or 4 a.m. and not worry about anyone. I’m excited to just become a hermit and write music for the next little while and put it towards the next album, which is really exciting, the prospect about that.
How do you feel about livestream shows?
I think that we’re going to do a short one on September 24, but I haven’t been too active on doing live streams too much. I’ve personally been enjoying the break, to write, sit with it, and prepare to release this album. I think we’re going to do one, but I’m not huge on making it a big thing.
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