The artist behind the haunting melodies and soulful lyrics of 'Sober' Hayley Mengel has released her latest single, 'Keep Your Head'. She was born in Malawi, Africa, as a child, landed in Australia seven years ago, and is no stranger to music.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Malawi, which is in Southeastern Africa. We moved and lived in various rural parts of Africa due to the nature of my father's work. We lived quite a simple and remote lifestyle and spent most of the time outdoors. You had to make your own entertainment and there weren't many opportunities like there are in Australia. I miss the culture, the bush and even the smells but Australia is my home now. I'm an Australian Citizen and am so grateful for the all the opportunities and growth it offers and I don't think I would have been able to achieve what I have achieve without that.
It took a while to get used to it life as an Australian. Even though we speak the same language, some people still don't understand me. We joke about it a lot at home.
Additional fun facts, Australia Day 2012... We had just arrived in the country a few days earlier. We heard about Australia Day and we were super keen to get involved. We woke up early, painted our faces, walked around the city waving our Australian flags around and wondered why we were the only ones... We later found out, we had the wrong day! Yup... We laugh about it now but at the time it was really stressful and embarrassing as we were just a little family from rural Africa trying to fit in this huge, foreign place not knowing what was going on.
2. Congrats on becoming one of the top 40 finalists in the Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition! Can you share your thoughts on that?
I was super excited to find out my song, "Sober" made it! Probably one of the best days of my career yet. I just walked around with a big fat smile on my face all day! I did not expect it and I felt proud to be up there competing amongst the likes of Matt Corby and the Veronicas. The Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition supports such a great cause and I'm thrilled to have been involved in a small part of that. I believe using music as therapy helps, more than people can imagine. How do I know this? Because it's my therapy! :)
3. What is the message behind your latest single, "Keep Your Head"?
'Keep Your Head' is about coping with the highs and lows that life brings everyday. People try and bring you down but it's because of their own insecurities. I just want others to know that whatever they are fighting or battling with, it will pass. It's about pushing through and living in the present. You can't change the past so stop going over it. But live in the present and there are so many good things to come in the future.
4. When was the first moment that you knew you would be a singer/songwriter?
My family on my mum's side were very musical. She tells me stories of how she, as a child, would visit her grandparents and have the whole family around playing instruments and singing. There was always music playing in the house and in the car when I was growing up and one day, mum bought me this little pink keyboard and microphone and I just knew I wanted to be a singer. So I guess I was about eight or nine years old. I would practice everyday and choose a song that I would just go over and over until I could sing it properly.. I remember driving everyone crazy in the house just singing "Lost Boy" by Ruth B over and over again until I was satisfied.
'Zombie' by the Cranberries was another song that I just had to get right! In fact, it was the first song I performed live... Well in front of my school. Haha. Songwriting was not something I planned to do though. This is just something that came naturally to me.
5. How would you describe your genre of music to someone who has yet to hear it for the first time?
Mmmm, I'm not even sure I know what that is! I would probably describe it as indie pop or maybe even indie rock.
6. What are a few favourite highlights from your music career so far?
Having my music being recognised. Every step forward is a highlight. It was a highlight just to produce my first song and receive feedback from supporters and followers.
My favourite highlights:
My first interview by Lili Creame from Radio Fremantle.
Each and every review that I received on triple j, and of course getting air time on triple j unearthed.
Making it into the top 40 finalists of the Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition.
But honestly, it makes me happy to know my music is getting out there and people are relating to it.
7. Who do you derive inspiration for your songwriting?
I get inspiration from musicians such as Amy Winehouse, Amy Shark (I love her), Angie McMahon, Aurora, Florence and the machine, Lana Del Rey and so many more. I am constantly listening and picking up ways to introduce a little quirkiness into my songs.
Inspiration for writing comes from everyday experiences. I don't sit down and make myself write. I just play the guitar and come up with some chords that sound good and then start writing something for it. I don't want it to be difficult. Life is full of inspiration. High school, work, home.... So many emotions, people and memories to work with.
8. If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be?
Love this question! I would love to sing with Angie McMahon. I've seen her perform live and she seems so natural and doesn't need to put on a big act to get a big audience. I learn so much from her. She interacts with the audience so beautifully and seems to be extremely talented and does it so effortlessly. Obviously, she works hard but she gives off this impression that she does it because she enjoys it, like, "no worries, we're just going to sing a few songs now" like she's just singing in her bedroom.
9. What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Don't give up. It is a demanding industry and it's so easy to get yourself feeling down by comparing your talent to others and falling into the trap of trying to do everything too quickly. It's not a race. It's a marathon. There is so much I could say here but I would end up using two pages! Take it one step at a time and celebrate the small achievements because you will experience lows as well.
Well, I have written a few songs, which is all I need to left is to produce and release them. I'm hoping to get the next one out by September/October 2019. I am working on a plan to start performing live in various venues in Perth within the next 6 months while releasing new music regularly. I am currently looking for a good back-up guitarist, so if you know any, send them my way. A lot going on at the moment. But I will keep you all updated. :)
Shout out to Hayley for being the sweetest person to come in for the interview! This 17 year old stands strong and sings in the face of life's challenges. As Hayley puts it, "It's a roller-coaster ride."
Don't forget to show your support to Hayley! Her latest single, 'Keep Your Head' is below!