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Interview with Nancy Hayes
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I was drawn to music from an early age. My mom says during pre-school at age 4, I would go over and stand right next to the music teacher as he played the piano. I was drawn to it like a magnet. I wanted to sing from the time I could speak.
If I had not pursued music, I would have been a broadcaster, or some other type of person that presents news or information as well as a producer of other performers, which I currently do as a complementary profession to being an artist myself.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love to travel and meet different kinds of people in the arts. I enjoy film, visual art, all types of music, theater, and dance. I am an arts addict. All artists I admire have influenced my creativity in some way. They inspire me.
How long have you been making music?
I sang with the high school band as vocalist and sang in choir at school. I began making music professionally as a teenager. I performed in professional musical theater productions, worked with a pianist, and joined a professional band in college. I also worked at amusement parks starting in my teens with musicians and other performers.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
I grew up in central Illinois in Champaign County, home of the richest farm soil in the United States. My best friend was one of nine farm kids and my mom's relatives were also farmers. I worked at Opryland USA in Nashville and fell in love with country music because of my upbringing and the locations where I lived as a young person.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
Most memorable show was opening for Ronnie Milsap and working in his recording studio in Nashville with his road band. That is where I met my producer, Randy Gardner, who has helped me make all of my recordings for over two decades. Working with Randy resulted in the song "Come Dance with Me" which changed the entire course of my career.
Singing at the Dance Explosion for 2,000 dancers in Las Vegas was very memorable because I was able to perform live with Jo Thompson Szymanski, who choreographed the line dance to "Come Dance with Me". Jo is responsible for introducing my song and her dance to dancers all over the world.
Other highlights performing would be during my 5 tours of the UK with my original music, headlining in Las Vegas at Circus Maximus, opening for Conway Twitty as well as Glen Campbell and other legends, and headlining my own show in Las Vegas during National Finals Rodeo.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The venues I mentioned above are some of my previous favorites. In the UK, working three times at Towerfest and Ft. San Antone were both awesome experiences. Yes, I would love to play at the Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow, the London Palladium and the Country 2 Country festival, and anywhere in Scotland, Ireland, France or Italy. Those are all places I really want to play! In the US playing Red Rocks in Denver and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville would be dreams come true.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I would be on the bill with Dolly Parton. Suzy Bogguss, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Emmylou Harris, Sara Evans, Judy Collins, Crystal Gayle and Linda Ronstadt. Those are my favorite country singers living today.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Learn to play an instrument really well. It will make you a better singer and a better songwriter and collaborator. I wish I had followed that advice. I did not start taking guitar lessons until I was an adult. I was self-taught before that and that was not enough. I lost valuable years as a songwriter not being a better musician first.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Personally; "Dad", "Back in Illinois", "For Mother", and a song I will release in 2023 titled "Friends for A Day and Age". Those are all love songs I have written for my parents, my childhood home, and my forever friends. They come straight from the heart. Professionally, "Come Dance with Me" because it made my entire career sustainable and introduced me to the wonderful world of line dancers! The late Margie Reeves (co-writer with Jim Synder of "Come Dance with Me" was a collaborator and a great songwriter. Marjorie also changed my life forever for the better. She has continued to bless me with my latest release "1, 2, 3, Too Many Times".
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
"Come Dance with Me". There is nothing else even close to any other. It is the song that is considered a classic by dancers worldwide. I also love to perform songs I have recorded with my family at the holidays as part of our family group, Nancy Hays & the Heffernans. I am also really looking forward to performing for dancers the new compositions I have created with Liz Carroll.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I write lyrics first and then hear a hook melody and write around it. When I do write, it comes as an immediate inspiration and is usually initiated by a person or feeling. I can brainstorm forever and not come up with anything and then at other times, wake up in the morning or middle of the night and write most of a song in 20 minutes. I really need to be inspired. It does not come easy, but when it does, it usually comes quick.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Yes. Personal songs are about people I love and want to honor.
But other than personal songs that come from family or life experiences, most of my songs center on dancing and enjoying dancing with others. I want my music to be collaborative and an impetus for dancers to enjoy themselves while listening to it. The music is not about me as much as it is about their own experiences and moving their feet along to the rhythm in a way that brings them joy.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I plan to release new music in 2023 for line dancers and Irish music lovers (since I have composed some songs with Irish American fiddler, Liz Carroll) in England, Ireland and Scotland. I hope to tour there in late 2023 or 2024. This will be my first vinyl album of 12 songs and it will likely be my last, other than a holiday album with my family.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
DanceWithNancy.com, NancyHays.com, Nancy Hays Official Music Page on Facebook, HeffernanTalent.com, @LinedancewithNancy on Instagram