HALEY HEYNDERICKX isn’t your unassuming 20-something folky singer-songwriter. Sure, it’s easy to be lulled into her rain puddle gaze by dulcet tones and droplets of astute fingerpicking. But once you’re caught in the reflection staring back, it’s difficult to draw yourself away from the bare-eyed honesty on display. Her craft is an expressive process, never rushed or forced, it seems. Songs appear to have been acquired and ripened, rather than actively foraged for in a thick crop of millennial anxiety.
Yet, the sincerity of her music’s narrative is only brought to life with the addition of artistic talent. Here there appears to be no shortage. You’ll find few better examples this year of the harmonious relationship achievable between human and guitar than on her debut album, I Need To Start A Garden, released in March. With debut record under one arm and guitar under the other, Heynderickx is set to take a step across the pond for an intimate show in Liverpool later this month. In preparation, Elliot Ryder took the chance to quiz Haley on her horticultural experiences, Portland’s precipitation and the not-so-joyous process of songwriting.
I Need To Start A Garden listens like an honest account; you appear to pose just as many questions to the listener as you do detail your personal experiences. To what extent was the record an outlet for cathartic release?
Many of these tunes were written when filled to the brim with questions. Uncertainty fuelled my songwriting, and recording it with people I love made me feel overjoyed. It allowed my past selves find rest, and new selves to settle in. I hope that doesn’t sound too vague, but I hesitate to say more than that.
Are you naturally confident when it comes to writing songs with a personal narrative?
Absolutely not, it is pulling teeth. But sometimes you get lucky and a tooth just falls out from natural decay.
Do the songs on the album reflect a journey towards your current state of mind, or were they penned with a contemporary perspective?
I wish I had been so clever to have created with a determined eye, but I can say with honesty it was a serendipitous accident. An array of chapters from the past present. I was growing into my person when writing these songs.
Like your hometown of Portland, Liverpool, is also well accustomed to rain. Is the pensiveness of rainy days something that is deeply woven into the fibres of your music?
Absolutely! With the rainy weather I can indulge my excuses to stay inside and focus on tunes. Most of my creator friends in Portland are all dungeon seekers who enjoy the dark outside as an excuse to remain inside all day and create.
I Need To Start A Garden has been received positively across the board since its release in March. To what extent was the record a solo project? Were any other musicians influential in the writing and recording process?
All the songs began in a closet, tested out on the occasional open mic, then given to the band to disassemble and reassemble again. It was a fun and patient process, I have to thank my bandmates Lily, Phil, Denzel for putting up with my slowness. And our homie Tim for playing beautiful upright on the record too.
Have your horticultural endeavours remained in the metaphorical realm since the album’s release?
Metaphorical madness admittedly. I write you now having finished five months of touring off the record. My last literal garden friends died on a previous three-month European tour, and since then I’ve been living out of a suitcase. For the endless American tour we kept a plant in the front seat cup holder. By the time we conquered the Midwest and east coast, the plant was huge and we then gave it to a friend. That’s the closest I’ve gotten to having a garden in a year.
What has the experience of playing the album live been like so far?
Depends on what day you ask! Ha. Some days have been lonely, some have been euphoric. The travels get a bit weary if I don’t get to see friends for too long, but I’m getting a hang of it. I have to remind myself that for most people, this is the first time they’ve heard the tunes live, so I do a meditative dance behind stage and trick on my brain to keep it humbled and creatively charged each evening. (or at least try to.)
You’ve previously spoken about feeling shy on stage in between songs. Is this something that has reduced since touring the album throughout 2018?
My shyness has definitely gained some defined muscles in the last year yet it still persists. Not sure if that trait can be conquered in this lifetime.
In the past you have toured Europe playing solo without your band. Will this be the case when you reach the UK in August?
Yes, but I’ll be (hopefully) trying out a 12-string for my solo set when I see you.
Will this also be your first visit to Merseyside?
Yes indeedy! Thank you for having me!
And finally, which of the two gardens best represents your album: neat and orderly or charmingly overgrown?
That’s up to the listener to decide, in a way, isn’t it? Thank you for your thoughtful questions!
Haley Heynderickx plays 81 Renshaw on Friday 24th August. Get tickets here.