What I love most about the country music industry is how eager everyone is to know your story. It was no different meeting Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels of the duo Haley & Michaels, as we sat at a table in a downtown Chicago restaurant, sipping coffee – or in my accidental case, cream with a splash of coffee – and swapping our personal stories.
If you aren’t familiar with the Haley & Michaels story, they basically grew up three miles apart, in California, but didn’t actually meet until they had begun pursuing separate music careers in Nashville. “The first thing we ever did together as a ‘duo’ was perform a song,” Haley explained. “We felt a very strong connection together, with our vocal blend.”
The two expressed that upon meeting, they immediately knew that they had chemistry. “The first time we wrote a song, the thing we talked about was wanting to sing together and have a conversation in a song,” Michaels said. “We then wrote a song called ‘The Price I Pay,’ which won song of the year at The Nashville Independent Music Awards 2013.” This is an impeccable song that embodies the conversational concept while melding the vocal capabilities of Haley & Michaels. Besides their charisma and unmistakable chemistry, what makes Haley & Michaels unique is that, they are a pure duo, meaning there is no lead singer as some other duos have.
The chemistry that the duo felt from the beginning reached beyond a musical level. It evolved into a romantic chemistry, and the two tied the knot this past May. In preparation for their wedding, they wrote a song that ended up impacting more lives than they initially imagined. “We sat down to write our wedding vows and accidentally wrote the song ‘Giving It All To You’,” Haley shared. “Being that we just got married, it’s fun being on stage singing a song we wrote together, that we never expected to go any further than our wedding day! It’s pretty surreal singing it, and I would say that it’s my favorite song to perform, currently.”
“We’ve had couples come up to us after shows that have told us that they got married to this song,” Michaels added. “Recently, ‘Giving It All To You’ was featured on The Today Show! It has really taken on a life of its own. It has been further reinforcement that sharing our personal experience and journey with people is something that they will connect with.” Their authenticity as a couple will surely yield songs that will continue to inspire and relate with fans young and old.
Country music as a whole takes on different meanings for everyone, and though it may be a controversial topic at times, it’s intriguing to hear different viewpoints. I asked Haley and Michaels to explain their favorite thing about country music. Michaels’ wise perspective conveyed, “though country music sounds so different these days as it’s gotten more progressive, the through-line is the lyrics simply being about life. The great thing about any style of music is that it can uplift people. I think country music does that more than any other genre. Even sad songs can uplift somebody because if they’re going through something and they hear a song that relates, that alone can be uplifting.” Haley’s answer warmed my heart: “The way that songs are about real life, the honesty. Lyrics still matter in country music. Also, I would say that the more artists I’ve met, I’ve realized that everyone is so nice. Real people singing about real life, and I think that’s a great thing.” Integrity is rare these days, but country music certainly holds to a moral standard that other genres can’t quite compare.
Haley mentioned that she was very inspired by Little Big Town and their story. She said one year, something they spoke about at Country Radio Seminar has particularly been a force of motivation for her. They communicated the idea that if you just show up, and make music that you believe in, success will follow. Michaels is personally influenced by Garth Brooks, and voiced that, “We bonded over the fact that when we were growing up, Garth Brooks was our favorite artist. For me, having outside rock & roll influences, but listening to Garth, he literally showed the world that Country music can rock and I connected to that concept.” Haley added, “We met Garth recently and he has a reputation about being one of the most genuine, nice people; who really cares about his fans. He just cares about people! Being genuine, remembering people’s names. That’s really important to us, and Garth does that. That inspires me.”
I attest that much like Garth, Haley & Michaels are two of the most humble, genuine people I have ever met. Ryan Michaels’ message to Haley & Michaels fans is, “We love hearing your stories about how you’ve heard our music, and connecting with fans is never bothersome. By all means, reach out to us!” Shannon added, “One of our favorite things is when fans reach out to us, whether at shows, via social media, etc.” They wholeheartedly mean this! So, check out a Haley & Michaels concert when you can, but until then, listen to some of their music and let them know your thoughts!
And let me know what you think @TieraBolt