On stages across the Seattle area, the spunky and energetic pop punk musician, Haley Graves, is making a name for herself. When we last spoke with the South Bristol native, she had just released her first single, “She Thinks My Pop Punk is Cringey” and was in the works of releasing her debut EP titled after the single. Now, Haley has grown in both confidence and fame as more and more people are hearing her music. The road to today was lined with experiences and connections that pushed Haley to bring her music to the next level.
About a year ago, Haley was still breaking into the music scene in her new home in Seattle while attending Berkely College of Music online, then Bellevue College, and working a full-time job. Soon, it became too much. “It was like the universe was yelling at me to just drop out of college.” Haley laughed. After discussing it with her parents, who were supportive of her decision, Haley began the process of dropping out. Not long after, Haley started to get recognition as an artist and has continued to grow in popularity today. Several DJs reached out to Haley wanting to play her music on the radio. However, Haley had not completed her first EP and did not want people listening to her original version of “She Thinks My Pop Punk is Cringey”. With the help of her producer, Amit Amram, Haley rerecorded her single and finished her debut EP before her planned release date.
“It was really cool having DJs reach out and ask for that!” Haley said, “My music has now been played on KEXP on multiple occasions.” This exposure created new connections for Haley. Despite working with a lot of men, Haley noted that she has a lot of strong, Black women in her corner. “I have a lot of positive people around me and a lot of Black people around me which is something I never had before.”
One of those connections is a woman named Payge Turner, who is a Seattle based singer-songwriter and was a top-12 finalist on NBC’s The Voice. As a woman deep within the music industry of Seattle herself, Payge’s experience and guidance was instrumental in Haley’s growth, both in her voice and networking. It was Payge who connected Haley to KEXP DJ and Black Tone member, Eva Walker. “Payge put me in a group chat with her (Eva) and five other Seattle musicians and they’re all Black women. It is a powerful group.” Haley commented. “I introduced myself and they welcomed me with open arms.” Upon request, Haley sent some of her demos to Eva for her to critique. After hearing Haley’s songs, Eva encouraged her to release her music. Other DJs were having the same thoughts. Marco Collins, who was one of the first people to feature Nirvana on the radio, reached out to Haley and now plays her music on his radio station as well.
Not only is Haley’s music available on the radio and all digital streaming services, but she is also demanding attention and captivating audiences at live performances. Over the past year, Haley played about 25 shows at various venues, including the Spanish Ballroom and Café Racer. Haley also opened for the Black Tones in October as well as Tiny Moving Parts, a band that was on her playlist in middle school, in November of this year. “It felt surreal to be in that presence of, I guess, them and being able to be backstage listening to their soundcheck.” Haley said about playing the same show as bands she was a fan of.
This June, Haley had the opportunity to perform at Taking B(l)ack Pride, a LGBTQ+ pride festival held in Seattle. Her performance made it on the cover of the Seattle Times article that covered the event and the controversy that surrounded it. Organizers of another Pride event sent a complaint to the Seattle Human Rights Commission after Taking B(l)ack Pride announced they would be charging white attendants a “reparations fee” of anywhere from ten to fifty dollars while the festival would be free for the Black and Brown Queer community. Because of this, the venue was full of press. “That was my first time in front so many cameras,” she recalled, “There were like two GoPro’s on the side of the stage, like five jumbo cameras, people take video and photos left and right.” This performance was just the beginning of Haley finding her place in front of the camera.
Haley’s first photoshoot was for the cover of her debut EP. “For me that was really intimidating. I’d never been in front of a camera like that, and I’d never had anybody style me before.” In the photos Haley is wearing black jeans, a sports bra, and a white and green leather jacket. “I realized how proud I was of my body and how much self-love I had for my body at that point.” This self-love and pride continued not only into other photoshoots and performances, but even into her music.
This past spring, Haley wrote and recorded a song titled “Pop Punk Princess”. “That was the first time I felt like I was letting my sexuality show.” Haley said. When she first recorded the song, Haley admits that she was nervous. “I was recording this song about how I am in love with this girl and that, you know, from small town Maine isn’t always the most accepted. So, to let that go and to not be afraid of judgement was definitely hard at first.” Haley recalled. Despite her nervousness about her masculinity in the song, everyone she played it for loved it. After playing it for her producer for her upcoming EP, Phil Peterson, he told her, “Everyone is going to vibe to this. This is going to be your song that everyone is going to love. It’s queer, it’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s makes you want to dance.” Haley didn’t believe him, but to this day “Pop Punk Princess” is her most streamed song on Spotify.
The overwhelming support about her sexuality from her colleagues, friends, and family has sparked a new level of confidence in Haley. The song has even opened doors for new conversations with friends that she was not able to have before. “I have an identity now. I recognize that I am a Black Queer musician. I am a Black Queer pop punk artist. I’m at a point now where I feel so comfortable being myself and being comfortable in my sexuality. It took a lot to get to where I’m at and I’m at place in life where I just really do love myself for who I am and I love my body most days,” she laughed. “I’m just really proud of who I’ve become especially coming from a small town in Maine.”
This transformation is displayed in Haley’s second EP “We’re Over” that is scheduled to be released February twenty-sixth. The EP will feature new songs, including “Miss Me” which is a crowd favorite. The songs are inspired by true events in her life about Haley finding herself and developing a new confidence. “I’m very excited about the new music. It definitely shows who I have become in the last few months,” Haley said, “It’s definitely less bubblegum and more self-love. It’s more empowering.”
After the whirlwind of events and achievements she has made this past year, Haley is excited to see what the new year will bring. Her plan is to focus more on content, which includes a music video for “Pop Punk Princess”, and not play as many shows. While the past few months have kept her busy and running in several directions, Haley is looking forward to slowing down and prioritizing what is important for her in both her life and in her musical career. To stay updated with Haley, follow her on Instagram @imcalledhaleygraves and stay tuned for more pop punk music from this budding artist.