Interview: Hayley Orrantia Talks Country Songwriting, Working in Nashville and Career Plans
Fans of the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs will recognize Hayley Orrantia as the actress who plays sister Erica Goldberg -- but the 21-year-old is hoping that country fans will begin to recognize her for her music.
The singer-songwriter recently released two songs, "Love Sick" and "Until Then" (as well as the latter's Spanish version, "Hasta Verte," a nod to her one-quarter Mexican heritage) and is hoping to soon put out a five-song EP containing those three tunes plus two other tracks. The former is a midtempo song with a catchy chorus, while the latter is a piano ballad about a lost loved one.
Orrantia has been singing since her childhood in Texas; in fact, her acting career grew out of her love of music, after record label executives suggested that it would be best if she built herself more of a fan base first. She worked on songs for a few Disney projects (Demi Lovato's Camp Rock, Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana) and, in 2013, landed her role on The Goldbergs; series creator Adam Goldberg only made Erica an aspiring singer after casting Orrantia.
But it was Orrantia's stint on The X-Factor, in 2011, that helped her realize that country music was where she belonged. After auditioning as a solo artist, the singer was grouped with three other young women into a country-pop quartet named Lakoda Rayne, which "really opened my eyes to that genre," Orrantia says.
"Every time I tried writing my own songs, they would come out very country," she tells The Boot. "I couldn't fight it, and the more I listened to country music, the more I loved it, and it just became very natural."
Orrantia cites "big voices" such as Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Rascal Flatts as influences, as well as Kacey Musgraves. She's been traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Nashville to write with well-known country tunesmith Corey Crowder and get into a studio with Mark Bright, none other than Underwood's go-to producer.
"I got really lucky," Orrantia says of making those two big-time connections. "Mark and I get each other so much, and he's so good at what he does ...
"He's very open to collaborating with me," adds Orrantia, noting that she was worried about being seen as a newcomer who was overstepping her boundaries, "but everybody in Nashville has been so supportive and so open to my thoughts and my concepts as far as songwriting and producing goes, and that's something that means a lot to me, because then I get to keep the artistry in my work, versus just being a singer."
In addition to her three currently released songs and the other two on her EP, Orrantia says that she has "quite a few songs under my belt" -- but she doesn't have a release date for the EP yet, let alone concrete plans for a full album.
"It's hard when you're constantly in between two different states, and it's also expensive to do a whole album," Orrantia concedes. "It's going to take time, but the goal is to put my EP out, start doing music videos, and take time to record those other songs.
"... It's all kind of been a little bit of a whirlwind," she reflects. "Without a record label, it's really hard."
Orrantia is also talking with LA-area venues about playing some solo shows.
"I'm excited to get back to that because I used to do it all the time when I lived in Dallas," she says, "but it's definitely been a while, and I miss it."
Listen to Hayley Orrantia, "Love Sick":
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