Alumni Achievements : Hayley Roscoe
Hayley Roscoe has seen her career go from strength to strength over the past couple of years. An alumna of Berklee in Boston, she came to the UK and completed our music production diploma last year. Now, Hayley finds herself juggling a busy day job working in neighbouring rights at Lime Blue Music alongside a range of freelance projects. She’s been able to really thrive despite the uncertain climate created by the coronavirus.
We caught up with Hayley in early June via the wonders of zoom, to revisit her earlier experiences in music and to find out what she’s been working on most recently.
Hi Hayley, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us and give a peek inside your world today. I’d like to start really by going back to the beginning. how did you get into music, music production and engineering?
Music has always been a key part of my life, from singing constantly as a kid to my mum putting me in piano lessons. I was always creating. I wrote my first song when I was nine and I never really stopped. After high school, I went to study jazz piano for three years at Mohawk, which is a local university college close to my hometown.
After that, I went on to Berklee in Boston and I did a year there on a scholarship. It was my dream school and the people I met and learned from were incredible, but I realized I wanted to go do rather than sitting in a classroom talking about it.
So I packed my bags and I moved to England with basically nothing but my keyboard, guitar and suitcase. I moved in with two strangers in Lewisham and started gigging and making music. I wrote this song but couldn’t find anyone who understood my vision to help me produce it. So I decided to try my hand at production. I watched tons of YouTube videos and stumbled my way through Logic. Eventually, I came up with something I was happy enough with.. I ended up at Abbey Road Institute because my partner is incredibly supportive and full of good ideas.
I wanted to be able to realize my visions in a more fully rounded, professional way. I wanted to be able to better communicate what was in my head, so when I worked with people who had that technical knowledge, they could help me translate my vision into something real.
So you approach producing music from the perspective of a singer-songwriter. Is that right?
Yeah, definitely. And primarily, I consider myself a songwriter above probably all else. It’s what I love. It’s where my passion lies. But I found it difficult to communicate what I wanted to the people who tried to produce the songs I wrote. It never quite hit the mark. In fact, a lot of times it was pretty far from what I had in my mind’s eye. In order to be able to really capture the essence of what my brain was creating, I figured I had to do it myself and be able to communicate better.
What was your experience like working with students who come onto the course with more of a focus on production or engineering?
The dynamic was actually pretty great for me. I ended up doing a lot of collaborating while I was at the Institute. I now have some steady collaborators that I’m still working with who I met on the course. Marta (Di Nozzi) and I actually began a project while we were studying together that I’m finally getting ready to release. It was a really interesting balance, because not only was I working with people from different backgrounds who had really interesting ideas, I was also absorbing the knowledge. It helped me learn how to flesh out my own ideas by creating a demo that I could take to people who are better than me. It allowed me to have a concrete idea in place and say, ‘this is the direction I want to go, let’s make it something’.
Eventually, I’d love to be able to do all my own production, but at the same time, you know…Jack of all trades, master of none. I have to focus. For me, meeting the Martas and the Liams (fellow students, Marta DiNozzi and Liam Narrie), they’re just so good at what they do. Being able to collaborate with them and expand on that relationship is just fantastic.
At the end of the course were your intentions for what you wanted to do next the same as they were going in?
Yeah, pretty much. I’ve always had a pretty clear idea of my direction. I came into the course loving songwriting and knowing that I wanted to write songs. I just came out of the course with the ability to better support that.
Can you tell me a bit about what you do today? What’s your current job, what does that entails?
So currently I am working in neighbouring rights and I’m also self-employed as a musician. The company I work for is called Lime Blue Music. We’re actually an industry leader, going directly to almost a hundred societies worldwide to help our artists claim their neighbouring rights. The work changes every single day so it’s really hard to give you a day to day example, but it’s teaching me a lot about the inner workings of the music industry. It’s a small, dynamic, really knowledgeable team. It’s a young office and quite visionary so it’s a wonderful place to be. I’m so lucky.
That’s amazing. So how did you get that job?
I had seen a listing for them before but it had since expired. So I just figured, why not just get in touch and see if there are any other opportunities? I called the office one day and I was like, hey, this is who I am, this is what I want and this is what I know about neighbouring rights (which was not a lot). They brought me in for an interview and then I started the job in January.
And how do you manage it all? you’re clearly doing a lot of stuff, from the day job to your freelance work, personal projects and ongoing learning.
I’ve always been better at life when I have way too much going on. It forces me to really manage my time. So for me, the job is 9-6 and outside of that, I have to find a way to fit everything else in. I also teach on Sundays, which helps me bring in a bit more revenue to funnel back into my music. I try to make really good use of time that would otherwise be just spent sitting somewhere. Right now I’m really lucky because I don’t have the commute that I usually do. It literally gives me an extra three hours of productivity a day.
Whenever I’m driving now, I have a song that I’m learning that I can sing along to, that I’ve learned the lyrics or I’ve got a warm-up that I’ll do. So instead of just driving, I’m driving and singing, which is not the ideal way to practice but when you have very limited time, you’ve got to find ways to incorporate things. Train journeys turn into admin time. I do a lot of research and reading to try and keep up on what’s going on in the industry, and figure out who I want to reach out to for collaborations. It’s a lot of organizing and making sure that I have access to the right resources when I’m not necessarily connected to the Internet.
It reminds me of an often heard quote ‘if you want something doing, give it to somebody who’s busy’. Meaning that the more you take on, the more you push yourself to take on and achieve.
I find that’s actually been a key thing for me. There’s a famous quote that motivation is like bathing, you have to do it daily. And I found that one of the most motivating things for me, especially, as of late, has actually been doing admin work. It sounds ridiculous, but I just opened a separate business bank account, so that I can see what I’m earning specifically from music and keeping those books. It helps me see what I’m doing to build this business and my own career as an artist, and as a songwriter on a daily basis.
That to me is invaluable. It’s been very motivating, and actually I’ve adopted some very business-like practices like we use at Lime Blue. We use project management software, and there’s a free version of that which I put to use in my own business. I did expenses for a company that I worked for previously and took a look at my own finances as a sole trader. That is also very motivating, and allowing myself to say, I’ve got work and here my deadlines. And then if I’ve met all my deadlines, it’s easy for me to sit down and just write something or create something.
We’re doing this interview during the lockdown caused by covid- 19 (June 2020). Have you found your job impacted by the pandemic or lockdown?
Honestly, not tons, because I’m used to being quite self-directed. Frankly, I love working from home because my daily commute, when things are normal, is about three hours. I find that right now, not having to pay for the commute and not having to pay for the doggie daycare has left me with more resources to be able to pour into my career outside of my day job.
Coming back to your music. Where do you go to for creative inspiration?
All over the place. I have definitely been known to take my songwriting book literally everywhere. I buy handbags to fit the books. You will never see me without a writing book.
I’m a bit of a consummate eavesdropper. That sounds like a bad thing. I think people are so interesting and when they’re not censoring themselves, they’ll say things. Or if it’s just an off the cuff moment, I find that there is so much you can call from. I’ll just note down a little phrase and then they might use a colloquialism that I haven’t heard in ages which twists and morphs in my brain. Yeah, it comes from everywhere. I’m also trying to not censor myself as much because I tend to be the editor in the creative process, which just really stalls it. I find that there’s probably a lot of stuff that my brain has just been germinating without me knowing, that once I take my own internal editor out of the process just comes out. It comes from everywhere. I take notes all over.
Do you prefer to write on your own or with other people?
I love, love, love collaborating! I think it is one of the best ways to get the most interesting work. I love hearing other people’s perspectives and I love helping other people to share their stories. I like writing on my own as well, but I tend to be better at writing meaningful or sad songs than happy songs. It sounds so stupid, but it is harder I think, to write when you’re in a really happy, really positive place.
For me, I’m in a happy, committed relationship; I’m happy with where I live; I’m happy in myself, and just happy generally. Aside from Pharrell, there are few people that can make big money writing a song about how happy you are. Every story has a conflict. In books, in movies, in tv shows…Songwriting, I don’t think, is any different. I love it when I’m able to work with someone who has something that they want to talk about, that they feel is important to address, and that they want to get out of their system––something they’re experiencing. I love helping to translate what they want to say and help shape it into a song that their audience connects with. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed with emotions, that can be a really hard thing to communicate in the way that you want. Having someone who’s a little bit removed can be really helpful in that scenario.
Recently, artist Am.i released her EP, Product of Procrastination. Marta and I co-wrote it with her and Marta did all the production. Am.i regularly quotes me saying ‘don’t let the truth get in the way of a good song’. Because you know what? One of my profs at Berkeley said that to me. I just think that sometimes, it doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be exactly true. Your experience, capturing the emotion can be true but It doesn’t have to have the exact color or the exact thing that happened if you can convey the emotion well. A good pop song, with the ability to make you dance and to make you just enjoy it and vibe with it, can capture that emotion without having to give a sob story.
Hayley during songwriting masterclass with Bernard Butler and Carlos Lellis.
If we look ahead to the future, are there specific ambitions that you have now, things that you know that you want to achieve?
Well, one thing that I know is always going to be there in some capacity or another is the actual business element of it. Both my parents are entrepreneurs. Obviously, I want to be running my own career as well as working for another company. Songwriting is still kind of the be-all and end-all dream for me. If I could spend all my days just doing that I would be the happiest person in the world. That’s the dream.
In terms of moving forwards, I want to see growth, that’s my biggest thing. Whether that is a combination of continuing to work in neighbouring rights and doing my own songwriting and doing both of those together, whether songwriting takes over, there are just so many ways that it can go in the future.
But I am releasing singles. One of them coming up is called Hands Off and that’s a project that I started working on ages ago with Marta. I’m really excited about that. We finally feel like we’ve nailed it. And so now it comes to the final vocal recording and the mix and the master, then we can release.
I’m also interested in your experience studying in a male-dominated subject. Do you see positive changes? Could you talk a bit about your experience of that?
When I was on the programme, as one of the few female students, I didn’t honestly notice that there was a huge dichotomy between the male and female students because as a unit, especially my intake, we were and continue to be so supportive of each other’s work. I am very aware of the fact that it is a male-dominated industry and I think that there have definitely been some sessions I’ve been in where my knowledge and my ability is undervalued. I feel like there are times when I potentially do that to myself as well which is something that I’m working on. But what I have loved to see is how the women in this industry are lifting each other up. I think that the more we see female-driven initiatives, the more we’re going to see female voices and influences reflected in the industry at large. Although I’m really hopeful for an increasingly diverse industry, I know these things are not short processes because there’s still the ingrained idea that women have to be fairly sexy, especially if you’re a pop star or if you’re in the pop side of things. It’s easing, but it’s a slow process.
Hayley at 2019 graduation in Abbey Road Studio Two.
What next for you?
The next big thing is definitely my next single ‘Hands Off’, which Marta and I started working on back at Abbey Road. I mentioned that I was part of the team that wrote with Am.i on her debut EP, Product of Procrastination. I’m currently working with her on her next releases. I also collaborated on a song called ‘Savour’ recently with DUETT who has this fantastic synth-wave vibe. I sang and wrote that track, which was quite exciting.
I’m going wherever I can find really fantastic opportunities, I’m trying to grab them and run with it. We kind of have to see what the future holds. But in terms of looking forward to the immediate future, that’s what’s in the pipeline.