Hayes Warner: Pop Anthems meet NYC Swagger – INTERVIEW

Hayes Warner is a rising pop artist & New York City native – she is bringing a rapid-fire and fast-paced Big Apple energy to today’s music scene.

Warner embodies New York’s free spirit and no-nonsense attitude, drawing inspiration from artists like P!nk, Joan Jett, Ke$ha,  & Avril Lavigne. She wrote her first song at 14 and began recording at 16. While attending Northwestern University, Hayes dedicated her time to breaking into the business, continuing to write and record songs.  When she wasn’t busy recording or writing, Warner was avidly growing her social media platform amassing over 40K organic followers on TikTok and reeling in 1 million views in 2022.

Throughout 2022, Warner has opened up for a string of sold-out shows for hip-hop superstar Fetty Wap and performed at the Jonas Group Entertainment’s showcase in Las Vegas in conjunction with the iHeartRadio Music Festival. She is already confirmed to perform at SxSW and will release an EP Spring 2023.

On November 25th Hayes released her first formal track called “Shut Up followed by a video on December 2.

Let’s find out more about Hayes in her Q&A with TWK!

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Hello Hayes, nice to e-meet you! For those unfamiliar with you, tell us a little about yourself outside of showbiz.

Hey! I grew up in NYC with 3 siblings (2 younger sisters and a younger brother), and graduated college this year. I went to Northwestern in Chicago and studied Musical Theater. I’ve been writing music about everything in my life (or my friends’ lives) since middle school, and I am so happy to finally be sharing my music. Outside of songwriting, I love thrift shopping, sewing, and styling – my best friend from high school and I work together to style every outfit I wear, and I really think the way I dress reflects the music I make. Other than that, I’m a huge fan of Gin & Tonics, citi-biking downtown, and hanging out with my friends.

You recently released the video for your latest track “Shut Up!” What was your favorite part about shooting that?

My favorite part of shooting the SHUT UP video was the general vibe on set. Whenever I hear SHUT UP, I get super pumped up and motivated, and hearing it on the loudspeakers on set and getting to dance to a song I was so proud of was so much fun. Also, I was lucky to work with incredible directors Frankie Fire and Rook (French Montana, Saweetie, and Roddy Ricch), who brought such a fun energy to the set and made everyone super comfortable and clear about what we were shooting

Another favorite part of the SHUT UP video was planning the shoot. Because I put so much of myself into my music, it’s important to me that I am a part of every facet of the creative process surrounding a song I’ve written. I loved getting to research other music videos and work with Rook to create a storyline that I felt reflected the song. I really wanted the video to play into the no-nonsense attitude of the song. I wanted the video to feature two storylines: on one hand, I wanted to show a carefree night clubbing with friends that fits the fun energy of the song; on the other hand, I wanted to reflect the girlboss energy of flirting with the pre-planned heist scene.

What’s the song about and what inspired it?

SHUT UP was inspired by watching my best friend flirt with someone she was really into at a bar. I was obviously eavesdropping on their conversation and overheard my friend lightheartedly making fun of her crush’s shirt. It was clear that their playful teasing was really flirting, and everytime her crush teased her back, she would retort with a lighthearted “shut upppp.” I thought it would be fun to write a song that described this period of flirting – before anyone has fessed up to their feelings or has to go out on a limb – because there are no major stakes, everyone’s excited and a little nervous. It’s a really fun energy. I wanted the production of SHUT UP to reflect the nervous-excited energy of flirting with someone new that you like. It’s a similar feeling I get when I listen to throwback pop-punk bangers from the early 2000s (think Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Ke$ha, Fall Out Boy). I hope people feel like SHUT UP taps into that fun, carefree dancefloor energy that makes those Y2K songs so addictive.

I was also inspired by the childlike energy that comes out when I’m flirting with someone for the first time. The butterflies make it difficult to think clearly – my friend describes it as “losing all her brain cells” – and I wanted to add that childish element to the song. I think we were able to have that part resonate with the song’s post-chorus “na-na” hook, some of the lyrics (“I see you and I’m seasick,” “I think it’s kinda fun making fun of your feelings,” etc) and the distorted guitar sound.

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You definitely have a New York vibe about you—what’s the most magical part of living in NYC?

I’m a NYC native, and to me this is a MASSIVE compliment so thank you! I love NYC. I think one of the biggest ways New York has influenced me is with this go-getter energy I think I have, coupled with the fast-paced no-bullsh*t mentality. Growing up in the city, I have always been surrounded by people who were working insanely hard in a really wide array of industries. The high-speed energy here has definitely helped when it comes to my music career. My music and writing is definitely what I’m most passionate about right now, and it’s that hustle and hardworking NYC grind that has helped me meet people who have helped me get my music to people’s ears. I’m endlessly grateful for my New York roots!

When I was little in the city, growing up here, I used to strut around aimlessly with my headphones in and think of lyrics to my next song or pretend I was in a music video. New York is so ingrained into me and my music and I think the rapid energy of the city translates into my songs.

Even though you are a relatively new artist, you’ve already achieved a lot, including opening for Fetty Wap. To what do you credit your success, so far?

I have always been really intrigued by the business side of the music industry, from understanding how music gets from the recording studio to the distributor and onto streaming platforms, to closely following the careers of artists I look up to and understanding how they grow and find success. In college, I ran a student-led record label and got to have really cool hands-on experience with how artists grow in the industry. I took any internship or work experience I could (from working at the bar at a jazz club, to interning at Sony Music), researched as much as I could about the structure of the industry, and stayed up to date with music news. I think this has really helped me understand what I’ve needed to do to grow as an artist, specifically how to get my music out to as many people as I can. I’m really grateful that I’m able to understand the different logistics of the business, but a ton of specifics are still super confusing to me and I’m learning as I go. 

Biggest challenge you have faced in trying to launch your career?

TikTok has definitely been a blessing and a curse I think. I love teasing my unreleased music and seeing what people react to. There’s something very cool and organic about Tiktok, which can be ironic given how much it has changed and morphed the music industry. It totally impacts my release strategy and sometimes even inspires me to write new lyrics or change parts of the song. But, I have definitely gotten discouraged when a song I’m really proud of doesn’t get the reaction I want it to on Tiktok right away. At the same time, I’m super grateful for the response that SHUT UP and my upcoming single “Airport” have already gotten on the app, and TikTok has helped me connect with the people that listen to my music which is definitely one of my favorite parts of being a new artist.

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What has been your number one, ALL-TIME FAVORITE moment in show biz so far?

I recently had a show in NYC and was singing the chorus of one of my songs that I haven’t released yet. I’ve teased the chorus a few times on TikTok, but I was so shocked when a bunch of people started singing along. To hear anyone singing lyrics and a melody I made up in my head is surreal, but the fact that I hadn’t even released it yet made the experience even more incredible. The energy from the crowd was pretty thrilling and I’ve definitely gotten hooked on live performances.

What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were first starting out?

There are totally going to be moments when you have no idea what to do next, but that doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. Take things one step at a time and celebrate your little victories because they totally add up overtime. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and caught up by long-term goals, but I’ve found it a lot less stressful to take it day-by-day and work hard in the moment, and then judge progress over time. And enjoy it! If you’re pursuing a passion you can’t lose sight of why you started and why you continue, remember to soak in all your moments – even the overwhelming, stressful ones.

If you could have one superpower in real life, what would it be and why?

Be able to fall asleep the second I want to. I have the WORST insomnia at night and my dream is to just be able to be like “BODY GO TO SLEEP” and then wake up at 6am and be ready to go for the day. My body clock is… incorrect.

Because I’m not entirely sure if that’s a superpower, another superpower I’d love to have is flying. It would be iconic to skip the lines at airports and save so much on flights. And flying myself around NYC to avoid subways during rush hour would be a huge plus.

 If we asked your friends what your best quality is, what would they say?

I like to think that I’m super loyal – if you mess with any of my friends you’re also messing with me. So, I guess my best quality is that I’m a fierce defender of people I love!

What’s the cringiest line you’ve ever written as a songwriter (like when you were first starting out).

SO MANY. I try to write down every song idea in my notes app, and sometimes I’ll look through and seriously question what I was thinking. I actually just made a TikTok showing some of the cringiest lines I’ve written – one of them being “I would push you down the stairs, but I don’t even care that much.” Weirdly specific… random, and strangely violent haha.

Sometimes you have to cringe at yourself to grow.

What celebrity do people most say you look like?

I haven’t really been told I have a celebrity look alike but I’m all ears!

Favorite snack?

100% popcorn, Twizzlers, or Peanut Butter M&Ms.

Favorite holiday (and why)?

I love Halloween – honestly I’m obsessed with giving out candy to trick or treaters. I go full-out and try to give the biggest candy bars or best candy selection. When I was little I would always remember which apartments had the best candy, so I’m committed now to being the best candy-giver-outer in my building. Also, I keep whatever is left in my fridge for as long as possible.. Definitely still eat a lot of Halloween candy, even now, that I’ve kept in my fridge to “keep fresh.”

Biggest pet peeve?

When people walk super slowly in front of me. I walk like 10000mph and when I have Kesha blasting in my headphones I am committed to strutting down the street. I know it’s not fair to get annoyed at slow walkers, but there is something about people walking slowly in the middle of the sidewalk that seriously gets to me.

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Worst habit?

Cracking my knuckles. I can basically crack every bone in my body and have become way too comfortable doing it haha. In class, I used to casually crack my back and people are always alarmed at the disturbing volume of the crack.

Tell me something people would be surprised to know about you.

I’m lowkey a horse girl. I don’t ride horses at all, but I think they’re literally cuter than puppies. They’re so majestic, I wish I could have a horse in my small apartment.

Tell me ONE food you REFUSE to eat and why?

Hmmmm – I don’t think I could eat sea urchin. I stepped on one when I was five in the ocean and it was… seriously unpleasant. My friend loves sea urchin sushi and everytime she orders it it takes me back to stepping on one in 2006.

What else are you working on or have coming up next?

I am finishing up my debut EP which I’m so excited to release within the next few months. It’s basically finished, but I am always making touch-ups and of course writing new music. Before my EP drops, I’m gearing up to release my next single “Airport” which I’ve been teasing on TikTok for months now. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I am also doing a lot of live shows. In NYC, I’ll be doing a live acoustic set on January 25th at Rockwood Music Hall, and on February 7th I’m going to be performing at Mercury Lounge. I’ll also be performing at SXSW in March, and I am going to be opening for Lewis Capaldi on tour towards the end of this year. So excited for 2023!

Could we get a quick unpublished selfie of whatever you are doing right now?

In the studio finishing a song and this interview 🙂

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