By Rosine Alleva, José Oliveira Journalist/photographers – Rock At Night France, Switzerland
I always dreamed to meet a real Princess one day! In my childhood my mother always captivated me with Persian princesses’ stories. I had to wait the day of her 90’s birthday to live a real fairy tale, when I met a divine beauty in the Parisian subway, HAYLEN!
Her eyes of a deep green illuminated her charming face. She was seducing all the passersby, with her Gibson guitar and a 50’s mic, singing Marc ALMOND’s “Tainted Love”. With her strong melodic charisma, HAYLEN decided that the time had come to give free rein to her inspiration in a recording studio. Her first EP, “OUT OF LINE”, reveals a powerful singer-songwriter, searching to break the music rules!
RAN– It’s a great pleasure to come to Paris to meet you for the release of your first EP “OUT OF LINE” can you tell us a bit about your journey as an artist?
HAYLEN– Well José, we met one day in the Metro, ( five years ago I think.) where I used to play for a few years, where I officially was a musician from the Metro.
RAN– Oh yes, what a pleasant surprise to listen to this magic voice who sang Marc Almond title “TAINTED LOVE.” And there, my curiosity led me to stand in front of you and religiously listen until the end, to this beautiful piece!
H– This song works very well in my set, I sung it recently in front of 10 000 people and it really went well. Parallel to the Metro, I played regularly in a few bars in Paris and France. That‘s when I decided to start in the music business. Alone with my guitar! Finally recognized by the THE VOICE in France, a program followed by 8 million viewers. I had the chance to participate to 3 shows and sing a piece of PORTISHEAD “GLORY BOX”, which is a mythical song from the 90‘s, never done before on TF1 (french TV channel). I sang it on this huge mainstream channel with my „underground” style, I was quite proud of myself! After this incursion in THE VOICE, I had the 1st role in the musical “RED AND BLACK,” from the STENDHAL book where I played LOUISE DE RENAL. We toured at the “PALACE,” in front of 1 000 people for 4 and a half months and I devoted this year to the preparation of this 5 titles album with my musicians. In a tri pop, soul style, kind of a tribute to Portishead, with a bit of rock, hip hop … a mix of styles.q
RAN– Listening to this beautiful work, one of the songs reminds me of the voice of LISA STANSFIELD …
H– Really? Wow! What a compliment!
RAN– To achieve this work, you organized a “crowdfunding” …
H– I used a site named Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, working very well in France and with this new notoriety with THE VOICE and the musical, we managed to hit 250 people who supported us in this commendable operation. This allowed us to raise enough money to finish the album, totally independent .
RAN– “OUT OF LINE” is the title of this first opus. What does it mean ?
H– I think i’m out of line! (laughs) I can’t go where i’m dictated to go. I have trouble with orders. However, I accept advice and critics. It’s very important to me. But I have this need to feel my freedom, in transgressing the barriers and I don’t follow guidelines. I always have the need to follow my own path in fact ! OUT OF LINE is a bit the definition of my personality, what I like and what I want to show of myself !
RAN– The video of this title is really great . I think your father plays in it.
H– Yes, my father has the role of the evil! He’s an actor and director in Iran. A complicated story. He had to flee his country to be able to be free and live his art. Therefore, it’s true I also have this battle in me! He is still forbidden to live there. This doesn’t prevent him to stay active politically to try to release his country ! He made a lot of theatre plays. He played in Germany recently and in Los Angeles. He is able to live from his art. It’s also for my father that I want to succeed! For my family and everything he has done! He’s my hero!
RAN– To me the album is a success. What are now your expectations on this work?
H– Well , I was very mainstream with THE VOICE and the musical, finally it doesn’t really look like me. You’ve known me in the underground, (laughs) …I want to keep closer to this root. Make music by pure pleasure and pure freedom. I am inspired by things, people that I like who are not necessarily known of the main public but still ( internationally known) international stars. I wanted to be free to make this style, this Fusion between hip hop Jazz, Blues; soul too. All in English and one song in French.
RAN– Before THE VOICE you had already quite a few concerts in bars, as you said.
H– Yes you’re right! We met in Strasbourg before. I became the live Muse for Jack Daniels new whiskey (whiskey trade) and did a mad tour, 6 months on the road ! We changed city every weekend 350 dates !! I also played at the BALAJO, a rock hot spot in Paris!
RAN– I’ve been able to enjoy your easy contact with the public, how your voice reached the audience and I confess that you created a great atmosphere! I felt you had a huge potential! I ignore the Television world but I imagine that it can help to open the doors to your musical career.
H– it’s true it’s Television. It’s still something complicated, very weird. This is the media. The artists have no power….The media and all this policy around, they have it! I think some informations are blocked to some point because it’s the production who decides, it’s all based on contracts that are signed with the production … They decide a bit of our future! Me, I had the “chance” not to sign contracts with them, then it’s true that they didn’t make any promises! I rather took the advantage of the public which discovered me, rather than the institution! It gives me a complete freedom to make the music I love. Let’s say that the awareness of the public was the most noble to retain from this adventure! Not necessarily contacts with record companies, which may seem odd, because I think most people who do, want to sign! This was not not my goal.
RAN– Well, you still got a prestigious record from THE VOICE (not yet beaten so far) in just 5s all 4 jury members click when you started to sing “SOMETHING’S GOT A HOLD ON ME” from ETTA JAMES.
H– Oh Yes! It was amazing! What an honor! it gave me the opportunity to sing throughout, with energy. It was cool! And I have the feature in my life, to never regret what happens. I take life as it comes! I only keep the positive side!
RAN– We would like to know your influences.
H– it’s true that Amy Winehouse is a great influence because I think we have the same ones! In other words, it can go from Elvis Presley Rock n’ Roll through Frank Sinatra or a little more current artists as Lauryn HILL or Anderson PAAK, also a big star in the US, more evolving in the hip hop, in the new soul. It’s true I come from the rock but still with hip hop influences and a bit from everywhere. France is in the middle of everything, we are sensitive to the Italian, Spanish or even American and English music. I love Jazz as much as the rock n’roll or Blues and I didn’t want to choose a style in fact! I want to explore life. Throughout its complicity, its entire beauty. I don’t want to be confined in a small rock or soul box. I’m doing good music. At least I hope.
RAN– You want to have control ……
H– Yes obviously. But I‘m aware it requires a sacrifice if I want this control but I think it’s important and a bit the key to happiness when one is artist!
RAN– How old were you when you began to play the guitar?
H– I was 15! But I started Conservatory at the age of 7 with the violin. I’ve done 3 years Conservatory but I never excelled with the violin. It’s a very complicated instrument to master and I needed something which what I could sing, because I think I sang when I was 2 or 3 years old already! Music has always been part of my life. My artist father opened me to this artistic sensitivity. I was looking for an instrument to easily walk everywhere, that’s why I chose the guitar. The piano was very complicated. The bass is hard to connect, the drums ,forget it, it makes a lot of noise.
I like to be able to sing with an instrument easy to carry, the guitar! And I learned to play it alone!
RAN– Can you tell us about the themes of this EP?
H– “DONT GIVE IT UP”- it’s a song I wrote for myself, I wrote it also for all the friends who are Artists and God knows how much the artist life is complicated, especially in a country like France, where business takes precedence over artistic quality. The wrong actors in the movie, the ones who know people, have the contacts and are not necessarily the best. This is what happens in music as well. I wrote the song after my participation in this musical “RED AND BLACK”, a comedown after success which is a difficult time I believe, for any artist. A situation where hope can be flouted. At some point we say to ourselves, will I get there? And I think we have to fight for it, not give up!
“LITTLE STAR”- I was lying on my bed one day and looking at the sky that night, I saw only one star in the sky! Who saw us, human beings on Earth, doing all the nonsense that humans do, destroying our Planet! It’s a bit a committed/ protest song!
“GOOD THINGS”- I end with a positive note! Which for me, always takes precedence over the negative. I am a very spiritual person. Not at all in religion but in spirituality. It isn’t normal that we live in a world where the human being is self-centered. This is something that bothers me in a big city like Paris, where we are crammed together in the Metro and nobody looks at each other, nobody talks to each other and nobody does good things either for one or for the other. It may be a little utopian, but I wrote this song thinking it’s possible to do good things for others. As soon as I can help someone I try to do it, even when I don’t have a lot of money. If I see someone in need, I try to help him.
RAN– The credits for this work?
H– My great musicians, Andrew MAZINGUE (Cell and Bass) and Simon TRUXILLO (Machines & drums). With special guests as Romain DOMMERGUES and Antonin BOISADIN (Electric Guitar), Lucien FAVREAU (Piano, Rhodes keys), Emelyn CHIROL and Florence VENIANT (violins), Sophie DURTEST (alto), Emma PIETTRE (cell) ,Valentin COUINEAU ( Trombone), Neil SAIDI (Baryton sax) and Paul de REMUSAT (sax alto)
RAN– Thank you dear Haylen for these beautiful moments in Paris! All the best in your private and musical life! Just like in a fairy tale…once upon a time, a green eyes princess with a golden voice was rising among the stars.
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!
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- “While my guitar gently weeps”….for Freedom - December 1, 2019