Local Artist Spotlight: Haley Heynderickx

photo by Niffer Calderwood

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring Portland songwriter Haley Heynderickx, who play Concerts at the Mural this Friday, August 11, with Telekinesis and SISTERS.

Certain songwriters can stop you in your tracks with just a few strums of the guitar and voice that cuts into your heart. Portland’s Haley Heynderickx is one of those artists. Her 2016 debut EP, Fish Eyes, gave listeners a taste of her rich, ornate musicianship and flourishing imagery — not to mention her warm and transfixing vocal performances. We caught up with Heynderickx to learn more about growing up in Forest Grove, Ore., her bluegrass beginnings, and getting inspired abroad.

Between Fish Eyes and The Bug Collector EPs, there’s been quite a bit of animal imagery in your music. What draws you to these ideas and themes in your music?

This is a neat question — I try to not think about it too much, but my gut theory is I feel a bit shy saying my feelings in complete sentences, it’s more fun when they embody an image that feels just as close.

You mentioned in your live session that your first instructor was a bluegrass musician, but the music you’re making now doesn’t really fit into that genre. What elements of bluegrass do you feel like you absorbed? What drew you to the sound you’re doing now?

My bluegrass instructor Steve Blanchard did a wonderful job of teaching me how “speed kills” and the importance of “paving the road.” It made me slow down and care about thoughtful rhythm patterns and finishing a song till the end. It was more of a discipline and thought process than the melodies of bluegrass that hit me.

The sound you hear now is a hodgepodge of influences from the past, from my friends in Portland, from travels, from what falls in front of me, weird melodies on hand, whatever makes it to the page at the right time.

The way you play and sing feels so heavy with emotion, in a really beautiful way. Is writing music an intense emotional process for you? Where do you start when you’re feeling inspired to write a song and where do you go from there?

That’s very kind of you. Writing can be emotional, yes, but I don’t restrain myself to this and write some pretty goofy stuff too. I start with trusting the feeling and seeing where it can take me.

Last year you traveled abroad to tour across Europe. What was it like playing your music in another part of the world? Did you have any major takeaways from the experience?

It was a great dream of mine! Getting to meet so many people from different walks of life… I was reminded how music and story telling can transcend many different boundaries.

For some reason I find a lot of joy being a stranger in a new space. Ironically nothing makes me sweat more than playing a tune to a crew of Portlanders that have heard me sing a dozen times, ha.

What’s next for you? Is there a full-length LP in the works?

It’s hot in the oven. Being mixed and mastered as we speak. Looking forward to having them in people’s hands by January this next year.

For those who’ve never seen you perform before, what can they expect from your set at the mural?

Thoughtful lyrics, too much stage banter while tuning, gooey intimate eye contact with my bandmates, and a good time.



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