Bands You Should Know – Hayley Sabella

If you know us, you know we’re fans of Hayley Sabella. We had her in studio back in 2016 where she gave us a preview of all of her new work since her first EP, King Solomon. It was love at first hear for us, and we could not wait until they finally came out on record. Well, that day is finally (almost) here, and her second full-length album, Forgive the Birds, is here. Produced by Daniel Radin of The Novel Ideas and engineered by Harris Paseltiner of Darlingside, Sabella’s second EP is landing on shelves and online on April 27th.

Forgive the Birds has been a long and slow process for me.” Sabella told us when we sat down with her to chat about how her work has grown since King Solomon. “I’m glad I took my time with it though -- it’s hard to write an album while you are actively in the process of finding your voice. I do feel like I found it through these songs, though, so it was well worth it. I owe a lot to [Radin]. He gave me a safe space to test things out. We made demos of all the songs at his house before we took anything into the studio, and he brought so much vision and life to the project.”

As Sabella says, she grew up “mostly” in New England. But it’s that “mostly” wherein her creativity lays. As the child of missionary musicians, a chunk of her formative years were spent living in Central America. It was in this strange new land that Sabella really found music – as a way to communicate, to put down roots, and to interpret the changes her life was going through. And beyond the indelible connection to music this time gave to Sabella, it also inspired her lyrics with the geographical and environmental differences she saw in that land and her New England home.

“Seasons, plants, seeds, water, sunlight, life cycle – all of that has the ability to be observed outside of you, and then applied within fairly easily. Growth, change, death, rebirth. It’s especially hard to avoid thinking about that kind of thing in New England. The landscape experiences such drastic changes in light and temperature, it’s truly impossible to not remember what a warm July night feels like when it’s 12 degrees and spitting wind and snow at your face.”

And when we ask after her first song written during that time of movement and change? “Next question please.” Sabella laughs. “Dang, that’s a tough question. I was 14 years old when I started writing songs. So much teenager, so much angst. So much thinking that you know more about the human condition than you actually do.”

She ponders a second longer. “[T]he first song I remember writing and finishing was called Murphy’s Law. It was about how the things we want most always seem to be out of reach – life was just so hard.”

But if her early years were dedicated to expressing her teenaged frustration, her more recent years have seen a change in style and tone. “If I have to describe my music in three words to a new audience I would choose… finger picking, honest and sweet.”

But it hasn’t been easy for Sabella to get to a place where she can accept this side of herself. As with any male-dominated field – even one with a history of iconic women – it can be hard to be taken seriously. And it’s easy for those not listening carefully to discern Sabella’s complex lyrics from the light, airy quality of her voice.

“Sweet is a quality I’ve wrestled with. I’ve always had this desire for my voice to have a bit more of an edge to it, perhaps because sweet voices seem to be taken less seriously as lyricists. Bob Dylan’s songs are more about what he has to say rather than about what his voice sounds like saying those things… Fortunately, we collectively seem to be moving to a place where a feminine voice can also be recognized as strong.”

As such, when we ask after her favorite song to cover her answer comes as no surprise – one from another strong, sweet-voiced woman: Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac, sang by Christine McVie. “It’s super fun to sing, and reinvent in a more decidedly folk style.”

So, what’s coming up next for Ms. Sabella? Her new album will be out on April 27th, and you can catch her at Club Passim with Rachel Reis on June 8th. But we can’t hesitate to ask out a little further with the classic question – where does she see herself in five years?

“If only I had a crystal ball!” she laughs. “I do hope five years from now, I will look back on lots of time on the road, more collaborating with other musicians, two new albums, and a good deal of time outside.”

We hope so too.

Read the full article on WGBH.

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    Andrea Wolanin