"Pssst...Jazz is your calling, Haley. Follow your destiny."
As you may or may not know, I've been obsessively following your musical odyssey ever since being captivated by your Season 10 American Idol audition of Oh Darlin' over 18 months ago. Since then, I've watched every performance and interview you've given, saw you perform live in South Florida (where you famously signed my flask), follow your twitter, subscribe to your website, and have bought every stitch of music you've ever made available for purchase.
Along the way, one of the things I've admired about you is your tremendous artistic versatility. There is virtually no genre I'm aware of that you can't perform beautifully. Hell, now we even know you can rap! That said, this blessing could also become a curse from a career perspective if you're not careful, because while it's obviously a blessing to be multi-talented, it can also create a "jack-of-all-trades" curse if it prevents you from dedicating yourself to a specific music path.
Your album, Listen Up!, which is an absolutely fantastic compilation, follows this pattern of performing a variety of different sounds rather than settling on a specific theme or genre. A little Motown here, a little disco there, a little reggae here, a little rock there, a little pop ballad here, a little soul there, and all beautifully done, but it might have helped your label/management team promote your album if you had narrowed the genres. Ambiguity is extremely difficult to market, and we see that in how your promo has been all over the place, targeting demographics ranging from tweenage girls to middle aged men. Too much of everything to everybody spreads your resources thin, and can confuse both the customer and the retailer. When consumers are confused they tend not to buy.
So, if the goal is to make great music that sells well, and still stays true to who you are as a person and an artist, what direction would be best for you to go?
Well, we know that being the daughter of parents with their own 60's/70's cover band, your heart will always lie in classic rock. While I absolutely love your rock sound (Spiderweb, You Oughta Know, What Is And What Should Never Be, House Of the Rising Sun, etc.), I don't believe it allows you to maximize your incredible tone, phrasing, instincts and vocal abilities in general. It's somewhat limiting. Also, there aren't many doors open for rock music in today's radio market. So, for these reasons, I think it would be the wrong path to choose in establishing yourself as an artist.
You could also take a run at being a diva pop princess, with big, sappy ballads and some synth-driven dance tracks that appeal to the teens. However, while this format certainly sells well, you've always chafed at the idea of being identified this way as an artist. You have an old soul, and have made no secret that's not who you are or the kind of music you want to make. Hell, you appear to need a barf bag when discussing your own pop ballad, Undone, during interviews, and often seem to struggle connecting emotionally with it when performing live. Just not a natural fit. As far as mixing dance club tracks, just NO on so many levels I won't even get into it. So, obviously, you should NOT go the a pop-tart route, either.
Which leads us to your one, true calling: Jazz. Look, just like Pavarotti was naturally gifted to be an opera singer, you're similarly gifted as a jazz singer. You've said yourself that from the first time you opened your mouth to sing some jazz phrasing in high school the whole class stopped dead in their tracks, jaws agape.
Building on that, you went on to perform the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland after winning a national jazz competition. You studied and performed jazz in college, and then took your jazz talents to the Idol stage and received standing ovations performing jazz duets with Casey Abrams and Tony Bennett. After Idol, you subsequently recorded two more jazzy duets with Casey, releasing the gorgeous holiday single Baby It's Cold Outside, followed by a jazzed up cover of Hit The Road Jack on Casey's new album.
Of course, the piece-De-resistance came when you hit New Orleans and spontaneously performed God Bless The Child with the great Irvin Mayfield Jr. at his club in the French Quarter. It was caught on video by Casey, and was such a brilliant performance it garnered well over 100k views on YouTube. You blew away Irvin so powerfully that night he was compelled to invite you to perform with his band at his star-studded, Carnegie Hall show in October.
You must know deep down inside how gifted you are in this genre. It can't be tought, it can't be learned, it's just a blessing from above, and you would achieve greatness by giving it your full attention. I am absolutely convinced you could become known as one of the true legends of jazz, while at the same time staying true to the music your dad wisely forced you to sing as a tween when you wanted nothing to do with it.
Follow your head, follow your gut, follow your instincts, and follow destiny, for you were created to become a jazz singer who would help revive the genre to popularity levels unseen for generations. You are the sexy torch singer who must carry the jazz torch, and carry it to the loftiest levels, providing music pleasure and inspiration to millions.
Go for it, Haley!
Haley's brilliant performance of God Bless The Child in New Orleans with Grammy winning Irvin Mayfield Jr. on trumpet.