Hayley Ross lives by the sea in Brighton, grew up in Walton-on- Thames, has spent time in the Caribbean, and is right now renovating a fishing trawler to live on in Newhaven. Fascinated by water, as a child she dreamed of being a mermaid, and there’s a distinctive watery theme running through her debut album, The Weight Of Hope. -notably on tracks like Barracuda and Lay Me Down.
Recurring themes is just one of the many pleasures of immersing yourself in this evocative, allusive work.
Self-effacing, but also rightly confident of her musical ability, she’s a perfectionist who also loves flaws… and she’s a bloody determined woman.
As a girl, Hayley Ross was surrounded by so much different music and endless mix-tapes that she sometimes wouldn’t know who she was listening to. Her father loved Bob Dylan, and she had three older brothers; one of them into acid house, another into The Smiths and Talking Heads, and one introduced her to the Velvet Underground aged 12. “I heard that song, Venus In Furs, and thought ‘Jesus, what’s that!’ It really sparked something in me.” Music is also in her DNA on her mother’s side, with an opera-singing uncle who’d performed at Glyndebourne, and a great aunt who’d dazzled on the piano.
Exploring further, Hayley fell in love with Nico’s distinctive voice on the Velvets’ All Tomorrow’s Parties, and the band’s lo-fi, feedback- heavy, jangling output. Which in turn pulled her towards Kim Deal and the Breeders, the Pixies and Yo La Tengo. She adores everything by Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman, and more recently the inimitable Frazey Ford. And she’s drawn to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, “voices that get into your bones”.
“When I was really young we had a church organ I used to tinker around on, one of those two-tier organs, which my uncle gave to us. It sat in our house and I used to while away the hours on that. I got my first guitar when I was 13.”
Her approach to music is intuitive; pick it up, make a noise and be led by what feels right. She started making music in earnest in a studio in an old gin distillery in Deptford – then she was off and running…
Four years in the making, Hayley Ross’ debut album, The Weight Of Hope features everything but the kitchen sink, as she’s become a serial hoarder of unusual instruments: stylophone, cigar box guitar, Korg monotron, melodica, plus borrowed harmonium – and musical saw and crystal wine glasses played by Nick Pynn. “He brought the wine glasses to the studio filled with water to different levels, on a box that was plugged in. He only lives down the road, so he carried it dow, but its still quiet impressive”.
Getting the legendary John Leckie to mix the album was another boost – especially as Hayley is a massive Stone Roses fan. Initially Leckie was only supposed to mix a couple of songs, but after hearing it he said he wanted to do the whole record – so he mixed all but one of the tracks. Mastering it at Abby Road studios was yet another pleasant surprise.
“So I haven’t ironed out the kinks” she says. “It’s not even a conscious thing, I remember listening to a tape of my dad, and someone had recorded outside with all the crickets on it, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. It doesn’t bother me if something;s slight off or out – it’s got a life…I prefer it warts and all.”