year-old Hayley Westenra broke into the record books with
Pure - the fastest-selling debut album ever to enter the
classical music charts. Discovered whilst busking, she quickly
rose to fame in her native New Zealand and is now a worldwide
success with her pitch-perfect hybrid of pop and classical
VN: Hi Hayley, welcome to
Listening to Pure, your voice sounds far more mature than
that of a 16 year-old. Is this the result of classical training
or does it come naturally?
"It's probably something I've always had really. I've
had a few lessons but mainly just in the last couple of
years to help support my voice, and for my breathing. But
yes, it's probably natural really."
So for other young people who want to reach the standard
you have, do you think training is necessary or is this
something that can be self-taught?
"I think you can pretty much learn it yourself. I think
it helps to have a few lessons, just to make sure you're
not straining or damaging your voice in any way, and to
get the basics in place like the breathing. It's certainly
helped me feel a lot more confident about what I'm doing,
but I guess you have to rely on your own instinct and whatever
feels comfortable, you shouldn't really try to mould your
voice into someone else's style. You just have to trust
Was the recording process boring at all, all those re-edits
and second takes?
"No I really enjoyed it actually, it was quite nice
because it was so relaxed and I guess near the end we had
a bit of strain on us, a bit of pressure, but I just really
enjoyed it. The people I was working with were great and
it was a good time, just laughing and making jokes."
What input did you have from Sir George Martin (legendary
"He wrote one of the tracks for the album - Beat Of
Your Heart - which was pretty amazing, and he also arranged
Amazing Grace, and conducted as well. On top of that we
were actually recording at his own studios, so he would
quite frequently pop in to see how things were going and
to give advice. It was just amazing working with him and
having him involved, it was a great honour."
There's a cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights on your
album - was that a personal choice?
"I just really like the song. My mum played it to me
a couple of years ago and apparently I wasn't too keen on
it, I thought it was a bit weird! But we were going through
records recently and she brought out the song again, and
I fell in love with it and thought it's got to be on the
album. It's so uplifting and lively."
Are there any other songs you'd like to cover?
"Well I've just discovered all of Kate Bush's songs,
I think she's amazing, I'd like to do a few more of hers."
Did you get a chance to play your violin or piano on the
"Unfortunately I don't play on the album, but hopefully
in my future albums I will be able to, especially piano.
Eventually I'd like to start writing my own music, and incorporate
my instruments as well."
You've performed in the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie
Hall. That must have been very daunting - how does a 16
year-old deal with pre-performance nerves?
"I guess it helps the more experience you have. You
just have to take a couple of deep breaths and get ready
to enjoy it rather than get worked up about it. I think
that's the key really, but I still get a little bit nervous."
What was it like busking as a young child, did it prepare
you for life in the limelight, or for dealing with criticism?
"I think it did actually, I guess it's confidence boosting,
it helped me a lot and I got a lot of encouragement and
support from people."
A lot of young singers who start out with a squeaky clean
image go on to hit the headlines for raunching things up
a bit - are you going to stay on the straight and narrow?
"Ha ha, I think I'm going to stay on the straight and
narrow! I don't feel I need to go out partying all the time,
I'm allowed to have a bit of fun but I don't see myself
doing anything too bad!"
Do you ever feel like singing something a bit more raucous,
maybe have a bit of a hoedown or join a punk band?
"I wouldn't mind, I'm always open to new styles, but
I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing at the moment! Songs
like Wuthering Heights - where you can let loose a bit more
and get into the style - I wouldn't mind doing a few more
of those, they're kind of fun."
Obviously your album is classical in nature, but it's also
straying into pop music. Any plans to go in either direction?
"Well I'm pretty happy where I am, having both styles,
it's nice to be dabbling a bit. I appreciate classical music
as well as pop. I may decide to go in one route in the future,
but at the moment I'm pretty happy where I am."
What are you more concerned about - critical acclaim or
"As long as people are enjoying my record I'm happy.
There are quite a few different styles on the album and
I think there's something for everyone. It's nice to get
kids who wouldn't usually listen to classical music buying
the album, and it's a good way to introduce classical music
to kids who gravitate towards pop music, it's quite a nice
introduction. It's not too heavy, it's really light stuff."
VN: If you could sing for any film soundtrack, what
would it be?
"Gosh, erm...let me think! Well, I like the Lord Of
Finally Hayley, what input have you had on your own website?
"Quite a bit actually, I try to update it as often
as possible, and I do want to personalise it more in the
future, get some more photos on it - personal photos of
my family and stuff."
Thanks for talking to us Hayley!
"Thank you, bye!"