I had the opportunity to interview vocalist Halie Loren by phone this week. Her most recent release, Heart First (CLICK HERE TO BUY) rose to number one on the ITunes Canada Jazz chart, and has not only received increased popularity in the U.S., but high praise in Japan as well. Halie, who will be performing this weekend (Sunday and Monday, May 27th and 28th) at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts in Port Angeles, Washington, talked to me about her path to becoming a jazz singer, her success in other countries, and what it takes to convincingly sing a song that she didn’t write.
From Alaska to Oregon
Halie Loren grew up in Alaska, and moved to Oregon in her early teens. She told me that the move wasn’t necessarily a career move, but it certainly didn’t hurt her development. Her father wanted to have a job that didn’t require him to travel so much, and the family landed in Oregon. Halie, who had been singing since “birth” as she put it, and had her talents recognized by her family at an age as young as four years old, consequently had an opportunity for more exposure than she would be able to receive on a small island in Alaska.
The Jazz Influence
Loren did not have parents who were musicians, but there was always music around the house, including an eclectic album collection with a substantial amount of jazz and blues in it. The combination of that, combined with one of the lone radio stations where she grew up being a jazz station, was enough for her to fall in love with the genre. Halie also noticed something about her voice that contributed to choosing jazz as a genre.
“I would listen to Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Diana Krall. I totally loved the music, but I also realized that my (vocal) range seemed to lend itself to a lot of those vocalists. It was really low for a young person…and I’ve always really had a lot of fun singing it.”
Halie has seen a rise in popularity in Canada and Japan, and I asked her what the difference was between these countries and the United States. I also suggested that she had been treated like a “rock star” in Japan.
“Well maybe not a “rock star”, but perhaps a “jazz star”. Is there such a thing? I think we should invent that if there isn’t.”
“Fair enough”, I replied. Loren suggested that aside from her signing with a Canadian label, which has contributed to her success up north, that the musical landscapes and the different appreciations that these countries have might also help. In Japan specifically, Loren hints that the language barrier might be outweighed by their appreciation for authenticity.
“I definitely create music from a very authentic place, and have musicians around me who do the same. I think they are able to pick up on the authenticity and the creative place that it is coming from. It creates something pretty honest, and I think that appeals to people.”
Creating Authenticity When Covering a Song
I suggested to Loren that I felt that when a singer was recording or performing a song that they didn’t write, it is always the most convincing when they can somehow tap into the heart and the meaning of the song and has made it personal when they sing it. I asked her how she goes about making songs personal, and she told me that there are very few songs, especially jazz, that she can’t find at least some small connection with.
“I see a lot of my role in singing standards as being a storyteller and as an actress. There is always a seed of an idea in every song that I have experienced or that I can understand. And I feel that my goal in performing that piece is to bring that out, and as a result, it becomes my own story.”
Authenticity on Stage Versus Studio
I asked Halie if it was easier to tap into that authenticity on stage or in the studio, and she explained that every single album it is the struggle to do so in the studio. She explained that sometimes it can be difficult to be as spontaneous in the studio, and not have to worry about all the technical details.
“The (live) performance aspect…being in the moment entirely really helps with feeling almost transported into the song. My goal every time I go to the studio is to get a little bit closer to that feeling.”
Halie Loren will be performing this weekend at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts in Port Angeles, Washington this Sunday and Monday, May 27th and 28th. Her new album is Heart First which can be purchased by clicking here. To listen to the full interview, which includes how Halie Loren approaches her songwriting, click here. Her website is www.halieloren.com. She can be followed on Twitter @halieloren and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/halielorenmusic.