In September alone, Hailey Whitters opened for Maren Morris on her GIRL: The World Tour, made her Grand Ole Opry debut, and released her new EP The Days. The Iowa native is experiencing a whirlwind of a year but hasn’t forgotten the long road through Nashville that she has walked to get to where she is right now.
Her poignant and incredibly vulnerable 2019 single “Ten Year Town” described Whitters’ journey through chasing a music career year after year in Nashville, and coincidentally also gave her the push in the industry she’d been long awaiting. Written with Hillary Lindsey and Ben West, the track is equal parts strikingly beautiful and heartbreakingly honest.
Country star Maren Morris expressed her love of “Ten Year Town,” even sharing it with her Instagram followers. “I’m very grateful for Maren, she changed so much for me,” Whitter’s told heirwaves over the phone from the road, where she is opening for Morris on her fall tour dates.
Whitters took an unusual approach to recording her debut EP, The Days, compared to what typically happens when writing and recording in Nashville. After spending ten years in Nashville chasing a dream that she still hadn’t caught, Whitters recalls coming to a place in life where she felt “a little broken and a little jaded by the industry.” On the verge of hanging it up, she describes how her publisher coaxed her into giving it another try.
Whitters and her boyfriend, went into the studio and began the recording process, co-producing the EP together. While she is quick to admit that they both had no prior experience producing, the true beauty of The Days is the intention alone: to make art that she was proud of.
“It just felt like a really therapeutic year of rediscovery and growing and learning,” Whitters reflects, “We threw ourselves into it. For me, it felt like I was getting my voice back and rediscovering who I was as an artist. We threw out all of the typical Nashville protocol for recording a project and didn’t pay attention to Music Row. It came from a really organic and naive place and it we just tried to make it fun and have a good time making it.”
The six-song EP is full of meaning for Whitters, but one song that resonates deeply with her is “Heartland.” Written with Kansas native Nicolle Galyon, Iowa-born Whitters explains the track was inspired by their midwestern roots. “The song pays homage to where I come from and the Midwest. It’s me settling into my roots again and returning to who I felt I was when I first moved to town, so that one has a special spot in my heart,” Whitters shares.
While she did not grow up in a musical household, she has always felt the pull of writing to express her emotions. “I’ve always been better with words. I remember getting in fights with my mom, and rather than go talk to her about it, I would write her a note. I think early on, I didn’t realize how much it was part of me, and now obviously, the older I’ve gotten, I love lyrics. I am always listening to lyrics first, and it’s grown into definitely being a big part of my artistry now,” she shares.
An early song that had a major impact on Whitters is Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World.” “I remember hearing it for the first time in high school and I remember seeing Patty sing it at the Ryman and I was just bawling in my pew watching the performance. It’s such a beautiful lyric and remember being so moved by those words,” she says.
These days, Whitters describes a life that was once only a dream just out of reach. After twelve years in a ‘ten year town’, she shares the advice she would’ve given to younger Hailey the first day she moved to Nashville, “stay humble and believe in the magic.”
‘The Days’ – EP is available for streaming and download on all platforms now.
*Header Image by Harper Smith