The American-Canadian singer-songwriter teamed up with the Hollywood actress on the jazz-leaning ‘Never Before’ earlier this year
Losing a record deal is one of the toughest and most painful things that can happen to an artist. That feeling was felt immensely by American-Canadian singer-songwriter Hayley Sales when it happened to her recently. She says, “My whole world was falling apart.” In the midst of all this, Sales moved to Los Angeles, where through a friend she was put in touch with acclaimed Hollywood actress Sharon Stone who offered to collaborate with her on a song. That song is the soulful “Never Before” which was released earlier this year and includes Sales’ soulful singing and piano playing as well as Stone’s poignant lyrics.
Over a Zoom interview with Rolling Stone India, Sales talks to us about working with the Basic Instinct star, how romance influenced the new track, her future plans and more.
Before we get to the song, tell me about how the collaboration with Sharon Stone came about? Did you meet her or know her from before?
I didn’t know her. I moved to L.A., and I lost a record deal and my whole world was falling apart. So, of course, probably not the best idea to just go to L.A. [laughs]. A dear friend of mine at an agency knew that I was kind of floundering and falling into the land of false eyelashes and eating disorders and whatnot, and wanted to introduce me to someone and didn’t tell me who but was very interested in writing songs and was phenomenal at it. And I’d never done a co-write. I said, ‘Yeah, sure, of course.’ I’m just walking down the street in Hollywood, I pick up the phone, and I hear, ‘Hi Hayley, it’s Sharon Stone.’ I was so excited. I mean, I was in shock and excited and literally almost tripped into traffic [laughs]. So basically, she’s written songs before and wanted to collaborate. That’s kind of how it happened and then I went to her house and she’s such a gracious, gracious woman, it was the best first co-write of eternity.
You mentioned that you hadn’t done a co-write before. What was the experience like with this being your first time? Did you go into it nervous? Or did you have something in mind that you wanted to take into the session? Or was it a blank canvas?
I’ve been writing songs since I was basically a baby, but I’ve always done it by myself. I don’t write songs, they write themselves. I’ve gone through years of not writing a single song, I can’t force it. A lot of people are brilliant at forcing it, but it just doesn’t work that way for me, I suppose. So, I was pretty nervous that I’d get there and fail miserably at the whole process. I chose to go in without much of an idea, just to kind of see what would evolve naturally between us and what we’d create. But honestly, the second I walked in the door, she was so warm and so sweet. She just sat down and talked to me for two hours before we even started writing the song because I’m sure she could tell I was a wonderful package of nerves [laughs]. And then I was relaxed, and we just started creating and then it just happened. I find I create really well alone. My piano is my best friend. I talk more to the piano than anyone else. And she came into that private space with me, and it was magical.
Talk me through the session. Did you go in with a keyboard or piano and what was the entire session like? You said you guys spoke for two hours before writing, what did the pair of you talk about and how did the session progress from there?
She has a gorgeous grand piano right in the middle of her living room. So essentially, I sat on the piano bench, and she sat on the couch and we started talking and one of the things that we talked about first actually was about how she met the Dalai Lama and when I was a little kid, I got to interview him and so we started talking about all of that stuff. But then also that segued to her asking about my life and me kind of expressing that I had success young, wasn’t very grateful, didn’t know how lucky I was, lost it. It’s happened to lots of people.
Then she basically was saying, ‘Well who are you behind everything? If you had one song or one goal what would it be?’ I realized my whole life it’s been romance. I moved so much by and not just find a guy fall in love, but the ups and downs of life and just this romantic outlook on the good and the bad, and the wonderful and the ugly. She basically said, ‘Well, let’s do it. Let’s write that song, let’s write that, the vulnerability mixed with the strength all into one.’ And we saw the tip of the iceberg. And we decided we wanted to write about that one moment. You know, that moment when your world stops, because you’re so in this other person’s world, you’re so in love. Then it just kind of spiraled, we just sat there, she made me lunch and I was there the whole day. By the end of the day, we recorded it on my iPhone, just a quick scratch. And that was it. It was the turning point for me as an artist.
I heard Judy Garland when I was five, and I somehow fell madly in love with the Forties and that whole era and kind of grew up in a different time. And didn’t necessarily think that other people would want to hear that. It was something that wasn’t very popular. I was kind of a lone ranger at that time with my love of this stuff. I had chosen an easier path for me, something that scared me less by doing this kind of acoustic stuff, which was wonderful. But she nudged me towards being really me and just getting rid of all the minutia and the facade that I built up around myself.
You’ve had music released earlier, so was Sharon aware of your music? Why do you think she wanted to work with you specifically?
She had heard my songs to the best of my knowledge. I think she’s excited by story and by the opportunity to write and, you know, being a woman and I was in a kind of tough place. I think it was also her wanting to really get in and be an angel. Kind of lift me up and give me a platform to really express myself because it can be hard. I mean, once you’re down, there aren’t many people that help you up at first, and then there are special humans and she’s one of them.
I’m aware you’ve got plenty of material in-store, what’s next on the agenda for you?
I had just finished my record in March of last year, which now has continued, I kept recording, I just couldn’t stop because that’s all I could do. It’s like a 30-song record. But I just finished it after losing a record to a major label and then doing a whole other record. But now I’ve been on my parents’ blueberry farm on Vancouver Island in a little cottage. Fortunately, my dad who’s a guitarist, and producer, has a recording studio right here. So, you know, I plan on releasing songs and hopefully continuing stuff with Sharon and hopefully touring. I mean, the stage is my home. So, it’s been heartbreaking to not be able to be on it, but hopefully, that appears and traveling and just doing music. Sitting at my piano and practicing Gershwin and Chopin, that, and possibly some films and just right now it’s kind of in this in-between stage. I’m sure we all are and seeing how things go with COVID and whatnot and hoping for the best.
Watch the music video for “Never Before” below and click here to stream the song on other platforms.
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