Britney or Christina? It’s the question pitched to Haley Joelle, rising pop-star. She gives a smile and thoughtfully reinforces how both icons offer something uniquely different in their own way. It’s a diplomatic response and something very telling of the 18-year-old who already has a #1 song on Billboard charts.
Growing up in West Linn, Oregon, Joelle notes she didn’t have a particularly emphasized musical upbringing — neither parents played any instruments or were much musically inclined. Despite this, Joelle recalls the family’s piano as a central piece of her childhood growing up. “The piano in my house was kind of a random thing,” says Joelle. “My parents don’t play any instruments or sing. But growing up, I played the song Yankee Doodle so much that I have relative pitch now because I can always get middle C.”
Despite not having a preexisting foundation in anything music related, the 18-year-old artist soon found herself immersed in various pursuits, such as dance and choir. Yet songwriting always remained closest to the young artist’s heart, a craft she naturally gravitated to and excelled in. Soon enough Joelle’s path entwined with Richard Harris, an esteemed Los Angeles music producer and songwriter.
“Richard’s basically been my mentor,” says Joelle. “He’s very creative while knowing how to handle the business side of things. He’s helping me figure out parts of the music business that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
With Harris compiling the tracks, Joelle takes over the second leg of the process by writing or co-writing over them. It’s something not a lot of teenagers can say they’ve done — collaborating with a big LA music producer while physically living in a completely separate state. But it works for Joelle, not only because she’s musically gifted but because she’s already mastered good decision-making.
It’s hard to explain when first chatting with the humble artist over the phone but it all makes sense when she shows up to shoot some photos with us at Marmoset headquarters.
With her dad in tow to the photoshoot, Joelle radiates confidence and charm, offering up school stories to us as we transition from shot to shot. She speaks highly of her roots and family, constantly mentioning what they’ve provided her throughout pursuing her big dreams. “[My dad] is so smart on the business side that he’s basically become my manager,” says Joelle. “He’s really pushed me in realizing I can do this.”
With a support system in place and Joelle's raw talent, it's already the perfect formula for making a name for oneself in the music industry. But what's refreshing about the young pop star is how she speaks passionately when it comes to helping others through her music.
"I have a birthmark on the side of my face, it’s a sideways heart, " says Joelle. "I don’t think that’s a coincidence, I think that was meant to be there. I’ve always been a very happy smiley person and have pushed through the hard or tough times. That’s what I really want my listeners to feel like too — that they can get through anything and come out even stronger. And that happiness is on the other side."
Next steps for the teen pop songstress? After her high school graduation, Joelle is taking a gap year to live in LA and work in the music industry. The journey isn't something out of the blue or a surprise exactly, it's a big step toward achieving the next big goal in her music career — it's where the young artist can grow in her songwriting experience and connect with production contacts face to face.
And while Joelle is still a high schooler, she already knows how to deftly navigate her resources and network. When asked about ever experiencing ageism she notes she's not afraid to let her work and ideas shine forth.
"The people I've worked with have been so supportive. I let the songwriting do the talking. If we’re in a session, I’ll go on with writing the song — that’s how I prove myself in a sense. It's all about showing up, to keep showing your face. It takes time but ultimately people will start to recognize your hard work."