Haley Smalls discusses her musical journey, shaping her creative vision and process as an artist, her new single, her upcoming project, and what’s next

Toronto native Haley Smalls got her start in music at a young age after her parents, who recognized her talent, signed her up for singing lessons.  She was vocally trained in classical music for 4 years and studied Speech Level Singing with Toronto vocal coach Falconer Abraham, all of which helped her to become skilled in using the full range of her voice.  She started booking studio time at the age of 12 and songwriting and working with various producers in the US and UK.  In 2013, she met the Grammy-nominated, multi-Platinum producer Megaman, her now longtime producer, who she says took the time to fully understand her and her musical tastes and strengths, allowing her to figure out what kind of artist she wanted to be, rather than fit into a mold of what others thought she should be.  Although she became an overnight sensation in 2014 when Beyonce shared her cover of “Pretty Hurts”, Haley worked hard to get people to recognize her as an original artist and to gain visibility for her original music.  Haley’s 2015 debut This is Me showcased who she was becoming as an artist.  She then released a series of projects that included 2017’s Heart of Gold, 2018’s The Cure II, and 2019’s Summer Nights.  2020 and 2021 saw her release a series of tracks, each of which help her develop and elevate her sound as an artist.  Most recently, she released her single “Do Better”, inspired by the fact that everyone can do better at times, whether it’s a feeling we have towards ourselves or the people we keep in our lives.  With the right team around her and her recent signing with V Nation helping her to be her most authentic self as an artist, her most recent singles, which also include “I Do” and “Bass”, have helped to signal what’s to come for this rising star.  With a focus on expanding her brand and reaching new fans, as well as releasing her new project and hopefully touring, make sure to keep this young talent on your radar!  You can connect with Haley Smalls and stay up-to-date on all upcoming music, news, and tour dates via the following links:


Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | SoundCloud | iTunes/Apple Music | YouTube | Deezer | Tik Tok





You started your musical journey at a young age when your parents recognized your unique talents and signed you up for singing lessons.  You booked studio time at the age of 12, wrote songs, and worked with producers in the US and UK.  What can you tell me about your childhood and cultivating a love for music?  Did you always feel drawn to a career in music?


I definitely did. There wasn’t really any specific defining moment where I ‘decided’ to start a career in music because I was singing since a baby. It was something I loved to do, similar to other things children like to do like playing with toys. That led me to singing in school, sports games, talent shows, and then to working in studios with other creatives at such a young age. It was such a natural progression because music was just in me right from the beginning.


What can you tell me about growing up in Toronto and the Toronto music scene?  


Toronto is a great city. It’s culturally diverse, which definitely creates a musically diverse scene. However, I will say that it’s not easy trying to cultivate a music career in Toronto due to the fact that our music scene is not very established in comparison to other cities like New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta. Especially if you’re an ‘urban’ or black artist, there is a major lack of support. Currently, we only have one major ‘urban’ radio station and no major platforms to support new Rnb/HipHop/Rap artists. This creates an environment where these kinds of artists have to gain attention from outside of Toronto/Canada in order to get support in developing a career, and we’ve seen this over and over again with some of our biggest artists like Drake, Tory Lanez, and Justin Bieber. So for me, I found a similar experience in growing up in the Toronto music scene. There are amazing creatives in my city. I’ve met them and collaborated with many of them over the years, but because of the musical infrastructure that we have here, I found it necessary and more beneficial to create connections across borders. I’ve also received significantly more support across the border, which I hope will change for future generations. I would love to see Toronto create more platforms for artists like myself on the come up, and I would also love to see the people in the existing platforms, like the Canadian record labels, step up and use their voices to uplift the new artists that are trying to come up out of the city.


In what ways did being vocally trained in classical music for over 4 years, as well as studying Speech Level Singing with Falconer Abraham, help you to develop your vocal style as an artist?


When I was a kid I really only wanted vocal teachers who would train me in the vocal styles I was interested in, which was at the time limited to RnB and Pop. So I was really against having a classical vocal teacher, but after a bunch of trials with different teachers I started to realize that I wasn’t really learning how to use my voice correctly and so when I met my first classical vocal teacher I decided to be open to it and give it a chance. That turned out to be a great decision because it really helped me to develop the higher aspect of my voice which we call the ‘head’ voice, and that has become an integral part of my vocal sound. It also gave me an appreciation for the classical genre, which I didn’t have before. When I moved on and started training with Falconer, he spent time teaching me how to work through the breaks in my voice and develop what we call the ’mix’ voice. This is the part of your range that is the bridge between the lower part of your range (chest voice) and the higher part of your range (head voice). Without these techniques, I wouldn’t sound the way I sound today because there’s a big difference between having a ‘good voice’ and knowing how to use it.


Having worked with so many different writers and producers over the years, what can you tell me about meeting and working consistently with Megaman over the years and how he has helped to shaped your creative process and vision as an artist? 


I can tell you that I am grateful for all of the experiences I had with producers before meeting Mega because it helped me see so crystal clearly how different he was from any producer I’d worked with before. I’d worked with many established producers over the years who had produced for major artists, even some of my favourite artists, but the problem (among others) I’d always run into was that they (as well as the industry execs) all wanted to fit me into their vision of what they thought I should be as an artist. Many young artists struggle with identity and go through a lot of experimental phases before figuring out what they want to sound like and how they want to present themselves to the world, and so you can’t blame producers and executives for trying to speed up that process, but I often feel like it’s done in the wrong way and in a rushed way. Mega took a completely different approach in that he spent time trying to fully understand me, my musical tastes, my musical strengths, my natural aura and helped me to realize who I wanted to be as an artist by encouraging me to try things that related to or brought out those things in innovative ways. This was a process, but he approached it with patience and it really allowed me to flourish into a confidence that I didn’t have before as an artist. I think it’s so important for the industry to get back into a developmental approach and stop trying to take young, unseasoned artists and throw them in front of an audience before they’re ready. It’s not beneficial to look at any artist as “the next _____” because that’s not how you create greatness. Nobody can be anybody better than they can be themselves. Spend time figuring out who that artist is, and nurture that!


You became an overnight sensation in 2014 when your cover of “Pretty Hurts” was shared by Beyonce to her Facebook page.  You have talked about how as a cover, it didn’t really introduce people to you as an artist and your original music.  What can you tell me about your journey to get people to follow and like you as an original artist and become fans of you and your original music?


Yes, exactly. After the recognition I got from doing the covers on YouTube, I started releasing original music which was a whole different animal than releasing covers. The whole strategy to doing covers at the time on YouTube was in covering popular songs to increase your visibility on the platform. When you release your own original music, there isn’t as much visibility because in order to find your music, people need to know who you are. So over time through trying different strategies and releasing a ton of music, I grew an organic fanbase. It took consistency, self-investment, strategizing through trial and error, and persistence.


Your 2015 debut This Is Me was a culmination of you coming into your own and shaping your identity as an artist.  What can you tell me about those early days of your career and how with each new project you have elevated your sound?  What have you learned about yourself in the process and the kind of artist you want to be?


‘This Is Me’ was my first body of work, so it’s special in that sense, but since then through consistently working in the studio and trying new things my sound changed and improved and I think that my sound palette got broader as well with each project. Diversity is incredibly important to me, and so is relatability, so I try very hard to keep those things in mind while in the midst of my creative process. I’ve definitely learned that I am the happiest when I am the most authentic version of myself, and that was a hard lesson I had to learn after the many years I spent as a child and teenager living in inauthenticity and trying to be something outside of my true essence.


You recently released your latest single “Do Better”, inspired by the fact that everyone can do better at times, whether it’s a feeling we have towards ourselves or the people we keep in our lives. What inspired this song for you and were there particular time throughout your career where you had to push yourself and those around you to do better?  


I just felt that the concept was extremely relatable. I’ve definitely felt that way about people, and I’m sure they’ve felt that way about me at times. I think we should all hold each other accountable when we can do better. You really do have to teach people how to treat you, and it’s not their obligation to treat you the way you want them to because everyone has free will, but when we hold each other accountable we set a standard for the reality we want to live in, which is the reality we create for ourselves. You can’t complain that people treat you poorly if you allow them to. You are in essence giving them consent to treat you that way with your energy and actions by not respecting your own sovereignty. I still push myself and the people in my lives to do better, and I want them to return the favour and hold me accountable when I need to do better. This way, we all get closer to being the best versions of ourselves possible.


You also released a music video for the new single!  What inspired the concept behind the video, which was shot in the style of a short film?  What can you tell me about the process of directing the film with Megaman?


Well, we definitely went through a few different concept ideas before landing on this one but we ended up with this idea of creating a story that had a movie or Netflix series type feel and called it ‘The Shitty Boyfriend’. We wanted to highlight the kind of playful and light feel of the song and we also felt that giving it a bit of humour would make it more memorable. We developed a treatment for the video based on the concept and wrote out the scripts for the skits. It was fun to see it come to life on shoot day. Everyone fulfilled their roles really well so I was really happy with the way it turned out and with the way it’s been received so far.





“Do Better” is a single from your upcoming 5th project to be released later this year, which centers around love; love of self, of others, and of success and the money it brings.  What can fans expect from the new project and what can you tell me about the style, which is rooted in R&B/Hip Hop with a bit of country and rock influences coming through?  In what ways does the project showcase where you are now as an artist?


I wouldn’t say that there are any defined country and rock influences on this project, however you can definitely find those subtle influences in my arsenal of already released music. From this project, you can definitely expect diverse sounds and just an overall growth since the last album I put out which was over 2 years ago.


You have talked about the team you have now and the importance of having the right team in place to release your next project.  What can you tell me about your team and how they are helping you to go where you want to go in your next artistic phase?  What does this next phase look like for you?


I’m super excited about the team I have now. Since I first started releasing original music, it’s really just been me as an independent artist with the support of just my producer. We made strides on our own that I’m proud of, and it was empowering also because I learned a lot about the business by being so hands-on with all aspects of my career. Eventually though, you hit a ceiling in trying to do so much independently because there’s only so much you can do on your own. The team I have now is full of great minds and more importantly – like minds, which I am grateful for. These are people who have already achieved the kinds of success that I am striving for, and so having them in my circle is humbling and inspiring. The next phase of my career is just an overall elevation. More visibility, more traction, and that’s because my team can now provide new resources as well as new perspectives that help to move things forward and expand my brand overall.


Aside from writing and recording music, you have also done work as a recording engineer.  What inspired that interest for you and is that something you are currently focusing on alongside your music career?


I learned to engineer with really the only intention of recording, mixing and mastering my own music, however since then there have been many scenarios where I have been asked by other creatives to do the same for them. I understand how hard it can be to find good engineers, and having someone engineer your music who is also an artist just adds another layer of understanding that can really help the artist to execute the vision they have for the music, so I have agreed on some occasions to help out when I can with other artists and their projects. However, my focus is on my own music and expanding my own brand, so it really is just a tool that I have that I use primarily for myself and at times for others when I feel I can lend a helping hand. Later on in my career, I would like to be involved in helping other artists on the come up as much as I can in the ways that I can – whether it be a hands on approach creatively or just through mentoring.


What’s next for you?


I’m really just focused on expanding my brand and reaching new fans. I would love to tour eventually also. I’m going to release a couple more singles before releasing my new project this year, and my hope is that with each release I can reach a new level of growth overall.

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