Informed by his clear-eyed musings on human interaction, 21-year-old singer/songwriter Gavin Haley weaves personal experiences into timeless narratives that feel universally relatable. A former professional cyclist turned musician, Haleys genre-bending approach to pop pairs a plethora of contemporary influences with introspective lyrics, underpinned by an enduring sense of hope. If raw emotions are the muse of songwriters, faith and optimism would be Haleys calling card. Singles like Picture Me Now (which debuted last year), illustrate his innate talent for curating emotion against vivid, yearning soundscapes. Finding inspiration from a gamut of artists, including Ed Sheeran, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and Bruce Springsteen, Haley admits that he cares little about conforming to a specific sound. Instead, he prefers to concentrate on the storytelling, crafting narratives that feel accessible at all levels. My music will make you feel good, he explains simply.
Born in Michigan, Haley and his family relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, when the singer was just four-years-old. There in a close-knit community of neighbors and siblings, his passion for singing emerged. My parents are very religious. When I was younger I would go to youth group a lot. That kind of led to me getting into more instruments and music, but back then I didnt really have time because athletics sort of took over my life, he admits.
By 16, the family had relocated to Northern California and athletics had more than taken over Haleys life, it was his life. While his parents and siblings remained in California, he relocated to Belgium for half the year where he competed with the national cycling team. While there, Haley suffered an injury that resulted in a collapsed lung, setting back his travel by several months. During his recovery, he explored and found inspiration in Europes underground music scene, becoming enamored with energetic live performances filled with a grit and energy.
Such autonomy at so young an age greatly influenced Haley, who reflects that the discipline of professional athletics caused him to grow up quickly. I definitely didnt have normal teenage years, he muses. Still, the structured life of an athlete taught him valuable life lessons, the themes of which are often reflected in lyrics that feel and sound years older than the artist. In Fades Away, his first single, which landed on Spotifys Viral 50 chart at numbers 1, 8 and 18 respectively in Australia, the UK and America, Haleys heartfelt reflections rise over a sparse backbeat (complete with finger snaps), ultimately detailing what it feels like to love someone who is just out of reach.
In the summer of 2016 with just a handful of songs under his belt, a then 19-year-old Haley left cycling behind and moved permanently to Los Angeles. Inspired by a different city and wildly new experiences, he completed an additional 250 songs by the end of the summer. At first I was making music I thought other people would like, he explained. When I moved to LA, I started creating music that I liked. I think that was really important. Staying true to yourself, no matter what it is - whether its a rap song, or a song from the '40s or the '60s - being able to pull different pieces from all of those and put them into something that feels good to you, I think that resonates to the world.
The meaning of staying true has shifted for Haley in over the years. The juxtaposition between his life as an athlete and a musician offer endless fodder for writing and thought, but so does life on the West Coast. And while making people feel good will always remain at the heart of his sound, his exposure to both pop and praise songs is finding new junctures with electronic and R&B-facing sounds.
Haley recently signed with Red Bull Records and is set to release new music throughout the rest of this year. He is currently working on his debut solo album.