Hayley Warner impressed many during her stint on last year’s Australian Idol. Her powerful stage performances and down to earth attitude won her a cavalcade of fans who voted her all the way through to the final two, where she was ultimately pipped at the post by Stan Walker. Her debut single ‘Good Day’ was released just before Christmas last year to capitalise on the post-Idol buzz and then she vanished to begin work on new material.
Nine months on and Hayley Warner is back, armed with her angst-ridden new single ‘Hands Off’. We plonked on the couch with Hayley recently to talk about the track and her future plans. But we start off by asking her about the video for the single, in which she plays the jealous girlfriend possibly a little too well..
“I’m sure I’ve been in that position – in terms of jealous-wise, but I’ve never actually had someone do that to me. But if they do, I have a song to play them. It’s good. It tells a story – and that’s what I want to do. It’s so funny though. I think I’ve shot myself in the foot in the sense that I’m not going to get a guy anymore because they’ll be thinking ‘I’m scared of you’,” she laughs.
Naturally, her fans will be able to see through the ‘jealous’ facade. They’re fans who Hayley repeatedly describes as “the best in the world”, and they’re also fans who go to great lengths to prove their love for her.
“My fans are the best. Honest,” she says. “They have been with me from the very beginning, even in the dry seasons…. You know how you get excited about stuff but there’s no product? You can’t get everyone revved up when there’s nothing to sell them or show them. There’s a couple of chicks in the team that are just unbelievable. I’m surprised they haven’t got fired from their jobs. I should start employing them and paying them for the work that they do. And obviously it’s now out (the single ‘Hands Off’) and they’re really excited which is awesome ‘cause you do it for them as well.
Some of Hayley’s most dedicated fans went above and beyond the call of fan-dom, delivering a very special, very personal gift to the singer’s home.
“They made this website called ‘Warner’s Warnie’ and it’s a massive site where they talk about me the whole time. And they sent me a hat that they got professionally screen-printed and they took it around to every state that I had fans in and got them to sign it. So they signed it and then posted it onto the next person and then it came to my house. It had 20 or 30 signatures on it. Just the dedicated fans,” she smiles.
That said, Hayley’s been lucky enough to escape some of the crazies who can sometimes come out of the woodwork when one is in such a public position.
“They’ve been amazing. I know their hearts, I know where they’re at, so it’s fine. You’ve got to be careful always and keep your wits about you, but it hasn’t gotten to stalker stage or anything like that,” she says with relief.
Hayley flew to Los Angeles for ‘Hands Off’, getting the opportunity to write with Dan Pringle and another former Sony signing, Leah Haywood. Just the mere mention of her name and Hayley bursts out into her best rendition of Leah’s hit single ‘We Think It’s Love’. She giggles. “Nearly every day, she was saying… ‘SHUT UP’,” Hayley recalls. But we question that she must surely be too young to have remembered Leah’s hits ten years ago – she would have been just eight years old at the time. “No, I remember her,” she admits. “Because my best mate’s older than me and when I said the name she was saying ‘Oh my gosh – I used to love her’. I didn’t know that much about her and then I looked her up and started researching and then we were singing the songs.” Hayley then sings the chorus of another of Leah’s singles, ‘Taking Back What’s Mine’. “She had to sort of emulate Britney Spears. But yeah, that was an amazing experience, so every song that I heard of theirs, they just hit the nail on the head. So they’ve written tracks on the ‘Hands Off’ EP, but there’s one called ‘Silly Boy’ which we’re holding off for the second single, ‘cause it’s awesome,” she says. After the one track digital single of ‘Hands Off’ was released a few weeks back, the full four track digital EP has hit iTunes today. Hayley tells us that the ‘EP’ concept is one she’ll be replicating throughout the next 10 months. “Obviously being an unexpected artist, people don’t really want to chuck $20 into you, so it’s cool – it’s just five bucks, people can grab it and you know that they’re all good tracks on there because we sift through the crap ones. Whereas an album you might have two or three that are a bit dud that you just chuck in ‘cause you need to. Whereas these ones have been really sought after and really thought about, so it’s awesome in that respect,” she says. “What we’re going to do is release three EPs in the year, so it ends up being an album, but just in different sections of the year,” says Hayley. “It’s better that way because you captivate an audience for a couple of months and people don’t just skip through songs ‘cause they’ve got five good tracks to listen to. And then down the track in three or four or five months, do another one and then another one again, just so you’re always on the wheel, because in the industry you can so easily be forgotten.” She adds that though ‘Hands Off’ is obviously the lead single from the new EP, there may be another track (possibly two) that is sent to radio to back up the EP’s release. “I think there’ll be two or three off this EP that we’ll highlight,” she says. “So it’s just like some singles put together, which is kinda cool ‘cause it’s all the songs that people like and they can just grab the EP.” We also ask her whether or not it’s difficult to get noticed in amongst all the other Idol contestants that have gone before her. There have been seven seasons of the show, each with a winner, runner-up and countless other performers all trying to compete for elusive radio play. “I’ve been lucky,” Hayley says. “There’s been a couple of R&B singers like Stan and Guy and Jess Mauboy. And there’s been Ricki-Lee who fits kinda everywhere ‘cause she can do everything. Shannon Noll… you know. So there hasn’t been a rock chick in any sort of form that’s made it on that show whether they be signed or whatever. So I’m lucky in that sense that I’ve got my own little niche. But at the same token, every year there’s different artists who roll up so you’ve just got to make sure that you give Sony a reason and your fans a reason to stick by you. ‘Cause otherwise they move on.” For a girl who’s just 18 years of age, Hayley doesn’t half have her head screwed on the right way. A massive fan of Paramore and its lead singer Hayley Williams, she suggested to her label that she would fit perfectly in a mould made up of one part Paramore, two parts Pink, one part Killers and a sprinkling of Sneaky Sound System. She and her team have worked desperately hard to create something that they hope will resonate with the Australian record buying public. And she remains acutely aware of what’s expected of her and in turn, what she expects to get out of the Sony experience. “I want to be really careful and think about the kind of songs that I want to do and that’s why the time away and the time to get grounded was a good time. I got to really define who I wanted to be as an artist and ‘Hands Off’ is a good indication.” Hayley’s digital single ‘Hands Off’ is out now. Two more EPs will be released within the next 12 months.