Americanagrams: HalleyAnna Finlay
HalleyAnna Finlay’s path has been clear from the beginning. Named after Halley’s Comet and songwriter Susanna Clark, HalleyAnna has been streaking toward a music career since she was a little girl, growing up surrounded by performers in San Marcos, Texas. Kent Finlay, her father, owns the renowned Cheatham Street Warehouse, where the talent of stars like George Straight and Stevie Ray Vaughan first began to shine. HalleyAnna picked up the guitar at age 9, began taking part in Cheatham Street’s songwriter nights at 13 and has never stopped. In May she released her second album, the self-titled HalleyAnna, a witty, fun-spirited romp rich in Texas tradition.
We caught up with the Austin-based singer and songwriter after her all-night drive from Austin to Nashville. Fresh out of a songwriting session at Carnival Music, she posed for this Instagram photo outside the War Memorial Auditorium.
You grew up surrounded by musicians and songwriters, are there any lessons from those early experiences that stick with you today?
I was so lucky to get to be a part of all that when I was a kid, to get to see the shows and the songwriting sessions that I saw. My dad was a stay-at-home dad-slash-songwriter and my mom worked at the Daily Record. So there were times I’d be running around, playing at the park and checking in with dad while he wrote a song with Slaid Cleaves. In my second grade class, Terri Hendrix came and performed for our classroom. So I’ve learned a lot of things. A lot of silly things, actually. I feel like I could write a bathroom book about it. Things like “Always play hungry, because then you’ll play really good.” Or “Don’t have kids until you get a Grammy.”
You live in Austin now and there are some obvious similarities with Nashville in terms of the music scenes. But how do you think the two cities are different?
There’s a lot of live music out there in Austin, but there’s not a lot of industry stuff going. There’s not somebody behind the mirror writing the songs. To know that I could have an opportunity to do that is great. My dad has always been a songwriter but he hasn’t really been that man behind the mirror pitching songs to other people like Taylor Swift. That’s not the first thing I want to do, but I sure would like to know more about it…and the Nashville music scene definitely makes you wanna drink more.
I saw a Todd Snider quote where he said you “are like Hayes Carll but pretty.” I assume you take that as a compliment?
Yeah, Hayes Carll is one of my favorites, and so is Todd. I think that was kind of a tongue-in-cheek comment, but I hope what he meant is that I’m like a dirty, drifting songwriter getting out and about, sharing my soul with people who enjoy folk and Americana music.
What is the Picker’s Circle in Luckenbach, and what was it like hosting it?
“My dad used to hang out in Luckenbach all the time before I was born, it’s one of our legendary music venues in Texas. It’s a town with a population of three. (Laughs) You go out there and meet people who are all about music and love. It’s so cool out there. I led the Picker’s Circle every Tuesday during the summer and met people from all over the world. It was the first time I’ve been the host of something geared toward songwriters, so it was awesome to get to do that.
You have said your new album is “completely me;” what did you mean by that?
All but two of the songs on that album were written in the last year. I just feel like I’m growing as a songwriter and this album is a new picture of who I am.
Tell me about the inspiration behind “Tattoo” and the album cover design. Is there a real guy out there with your name tattooed on his chest?
See, this is where I have to create mystery. I have no way of knowing how many guys have my name on their chest. So many I can’t count, you know. (Laughs) Obviously, the art on the cover isn’t real. You know, love is something you could write a million songs about and that’s just another love song. Probably my most adored one, but it’s really just meant to be funny.
What are you working on right now?
Well, I got a phone call that I’m going to be recording with Lloyd Maines next. And Gurf Morlix gets back from Alaska in October and I really want to work on songs with him. Gurf has that touch that helps make a woman sound like a real songwriter. Likewise with Lloyd, I’m honored to work with both of them because they’re just amazing. Aside from that, I’m just here at Americana this week getting to know people and I’m looking forward to more traveling around to keep playing music.
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