Hayley Westernra Talkasia Transcript
Hayley Westenra: HW
Lorraine Hahn: LH
LH: Hello and welcome to Talk Asia. My guest
today is Hayley Westenra, a young singer who at the age of
18 has been topping the classical charts and breaking musical
records around the world.
Born in Christ Church New Zealand, Hayley
first impressed her audience at age six when she sang at a
school's Christmas play. Described by her music teacher as
pitch perfect, Hayley was strongly encouraged to learn an
instrument and to perform.
By the time she hit her teens, Hayley was
buskin with her sister, attracting compliments from passersby
and the attention of local media. TV appearances and record
deals soon followed and her first international album Pure
went straight to number one in the UK classical charts, making
her the fastest selling debut classical artist of all time.
Hayley, welcome to Hong Kong, welcome to the
show. (HW: Thank you, Lorraine) It is very good to see you.
Now last year it seems to me by reading here, trying to catch
up everything you've done, it's been a whirlwind year. You've
performed for Tony Blair, the Queen; I mean the list goes
on. How are you dealing with all this, first of all, the fame
and of' course the busy schedule?
HW: Well I don't know I just, I tend to focus
on the music and focus on my voice, so everything else that
goes on around there I just try and block out and it can be
quite tough, all the traveling. It takes this toll on your
whole body and my voice of' course and so, but I'm loving
every minute of it though. I'm really enjoying myself.
LH: You've also performed with some very important
people like Andrea Bocelli, Jose Carreras, what was that like?
HW: Oh amazing. But I'm performing with both
of us, incredible. I bought Andrea Bocelli's album when I
was about 11 and it was the first time I ever bought. And
so performing with him was just a complete dream come true
and now he's recorded a duet with me for my album Odyssey
which is amazing. It's such an honour. And performing with
Jose Carreras was just what; he's such a legendary singer.
And so it was amazing singing with him.
You've also worked with Charles Martin and
his father, the legendary Beatles producer George Martin.
Now that is impressive.
HW: Yeah, I first I chose, well I chose Giles
Martin to be the producer of my album Pure and he's now produced
my latest album Odyssey as well, but when he was obviously
working on the album at Sir George Martin's, his father's
studio. And so I think George must have like, heard about
the music and he just wanted to get involved and he wrote
a song for the album and he arranged the music and produced
it, and so, it was just amazing. Just working with someone
of, who's just had that much of experience and I don't think
it really sank in initially. It took a while to sink in, and
I was like, wow, Sir George Martin, producer of the Beatles.
LH: The Odyssey, your new album. It seems
like such an odd title, I don't mean that negatively. I mean
that because it really seems though you are at the start of
a long career rather than when you think about when you sing
about odyssey, you've lived a million years before. Why Odyssey?
HW: Well, first, I just feel the last couple
of years since the release of my Pure have been one amazing
odyssey, so I thought that word kind of described my last
couple of years and also the album itself in my mind is a
bit of a musical odyssey. And it kind of takes people on a
journey, through different styles of music, through classical,
folk, pop, and even the ones that are the gospel song of the
album. So I just kind of thought it really described, well
yeah, both things.
LH: Right. You've also written a song of your
own. (HW: Yes) What was that like?
HW: A little nerve-wrecking actually. I was,
'cause I've been writing, I've been meaning to write my own
music for a while, I was actually planning to write a bit
more music for the album, but hopefully for the next one.
I've been scribbling out lyrics and you know, recording melodies
into my laptop, for the last couple of years, so it was just
a bit unnerving, kind of opening yourself up and it's quite
And also I was involved in a lot of the arranging
of the music and that allowed me to sort of put my own individual
stand upon each song and I was just more involved in the whole
process with this album, so it's hopefully you know, I'll
just be able to, keep taking it up a step, every album that
I sort of make.
LH: Hayley, you mentioned earlier with all
this traveling, it's taking a toll on your voice of course.
How do you make sure that you keep your voice in good order?
HW: Well, for a start, the most important
thing is that you look after you whole body because your body's
health is reflecting your voice and so that can be quite scary
sometimes because you know if you get sick, it's going to
be obvious in your voice and so I just try and stay hydrated,
try and get enough sleep, just eat well, avoid dairy products
before I sing because it sort of makes your voice sort of
filmy and it's not a good thing, and yeah I just try and look
after my whole body. (LH: So a very strict routine) Yeah I
guess it's a small sacrifice, avoiding a chocolate bar or
whatever and you know. And also it's, I want to look after
my body anyway. So, (LH: True) I don't mind.
LH: Hayley, we're going to take a very very
short break. When we come back, we'll talk to Hayley about
her album Pure and living it up to the image. Stay with us.
LH: Welcome back. My guest is singer Hayley
Westenra. Hayley, your story really really started when you
were what six years old?
HW: I guess so. I was singing before that,
around the house, but mum and dad didn't really take much
notice, it wasn't until I sang in my school play and got to
sing a solo, then mum and dad were like, oh wow, she can sing,
and the teachers were like you should start learning an instrument,
and so I started learning the violin and yes one thing lead
LH: You and your sister I mentioned earlier,
used to bask in Christ Church. One why did you do it and two,
did you make a lot of money?
HW: Well, it kind of started off, there was
a group of us kids and we were involved in a sort of children's
opera group and we had four months on in the city. We had
this lunch break, and a few of us didn't have money to buy
lunch. So I don't know who it was but someone came up with
the idea of basking, and so, we just, we started singing on
the streets, put a hat in front of us, and before you knew
it, we had enough money to buy everyone lunch and, so that
kind of planted the seed, and I was like this is quite a good
LH: Your siblings. They're all pretty musical.
Have you ever performed with them at all, I mean now that
you've recorded albums, etc?
HW: Yeah actually, a couple of years ago I
did a tour around New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the UK
and they came up on that tour. They came up on stage, my sister
and I did a duet and then Sophie and Isaac and they both dueted
as well, which is, the audience love it. It's just really
nice to bring my family with me when I'm working, of' course
most of the time they have to be at school and all that but
I just love it when I'm on up on stage with them.
LH: When do you think you really decided that
you would devote your life to music, that this would be something
you really wanted to do?
HW: The thing is I've always loved singing,
and I was pretty quite realistic when I was young, and I made
sure that I still kept up with my schoolwork just in case
I couldn't you know be a full-time singer and I had to have
I think as soon as I got a record contract
with Universal Music New Zealand, then I'd released my album
and it had really well and that's kind of when it really dawned
on me that this, it was possible, to be singing internationally
and that was kind of very exciting.
LH: When you're not working, what do you listen
to, what kind of music do you listen to?
HW: A whole range actually. I've got my I-tunes
on my laptop and I've just a got a whole mixture. I listen
to, people like John Legions, the Black Eyed Peas, and I've
been listening to a bit of Aretha Franklin lately, Joni Mitchell,
Kate Bush, Stevie Wonder, and then like there's Kathleen Battle,
yeah right from classical, folk, this is very much the sort
of music that I'm singing, but not, I don't exactly sing like
the Black Eyed Peas but I still appreciate their music.
LH: Your first international album sort of
promoted an image of this young, pure girl. Is that a true
reflection on you?
HW: Well, I like to think it is. When we sort
of looking for a name for the album, someone came up with
it, I'm not sure who it was, it did really fit with my music,
fit with my mindset as well and my upbringing and I still
feel that way. You know, I still feel pure.
Maybe things will change in the future, I
don't see them changing but I'm pretty disciplined and I don't
really drink, I can't really drink, the New Zealand thing,
I don't see the need to. And it also comes back down to my
voice really and I want to protect that, and it's my livelihood
and so, that's the kind of the most important things to me.
LH: So you don't feel you've lost out or anything,
like for example let's say if your friends are going down
to the beach or they're doing something over the weekend,
and you have to fly to Taipei or you have to come here to
Hong Kong and sit with me to do this.
HW: I do get time, when I go back, which is
not very often admittedly, I still relate to them, I still
get a little bit of time to hang out with them and you know
I feel like I'm, I feel pretty balanced actually, I feel like
I'm, they're at university at the moment, they're studying
hard, they're also partying hard but you know it's like a
lot of people, like my friends could only dream about doing
what I'm doing, they would love to be traveling the world
and doing what they love and I feel very fortunate.
LH: So how does school fit into all this now?
HW: Well I've finished school so which is
a bit of a relief actually. It was pretty tough when I was
kind of you know, it's almost impossible studying and doing
what I'm doing, singing full-time and I had a tutor over in
London but even then, he would set me work and I would be
on the plane going oh gosh, I've got maths to do but I really
need my sleep, and so it was quite a struggle. (LH: So no
college, university at least not for now?) Not for now, I
mean I'm not ruling it out but at the moment, this is, it's
kind of taken over.
LH: You know with all this adulation for so
many people at your age, it's very hard to stay grounded and
HW: I'd say it's probably the faith that I
surround myself with really good people, people that I, down-to-earth
people really, my family, I sometimes, a lot of the time,
I have one of my parents traveling with me, not so much as
I'm getting older, but you know that's, I've got my dad with
me at the moment. I've got a great manager and the people
who're with me are really lovely and I stay in touch with
my friends, and I think also just my New Zealand upbringing,
my Kiwi upbringing that kind of has a lot to do with it as
well and just this, kind of the Kiwi mindset.
LH: That's very nice. We're going to take
another very very short break. When we return, we'll talk
to Hayley about charity work and life as a role model. Stay
You're watching TalkAsia. We're spending the
day with singing sensation Hayley Westenra. Hayley, aside
from your musical work, you do a lot of charity work too.
HW: Yeah, I'm a UNICEF goodwill ambassador,
and, well I've been for the last couple of years, so that's
hugely important in my life and it's just a great way to give
back something to the world, the community and I'm just keen
to sort of do whatever I can, I mean I just came back from
a trip to Ghana. I was just there for five days, and it was
pretty heart-wrenching as you can imagine but it was very
LH: How so? What did you see?
HW: It's okay, for example, I saw a lot of
good work that UNICEF has been doing, they've been setting
up schools for young girls and teaching them life skills,
taking them off the streets and giving them training and sewing
and hair braiding, and tie dyeing and all that, skills that
they can take back to their communities because a lot of these
girls come down from the North, and looking to make money,
and they end up on the streets, and involved in prostitution
and it's just horrible. So these girls are encouraged off
the streets, taught skills and they are sent back to their
villages where they can set up small businesses, which was
fantastic to see. Very encouraging, but there was also, you
know, I was taken to villages where their main water source
is this dried up pond, infested with guinea worm and I saw
cases of these small children in such pain, with these huge
open wounds. It was just really horrible; the most difficult
thing was leaving and not being able to do anything immediately.
Now that I would be raising money, but there's
just so much room for improvement. It was pretty tough, but
I'm now working on this project with UNICEF, it's kind of
my own personal project, it's just to raise money to provide
bicycles for girls around Ghana and it kind of seems like
an odd thing to provide them, but it helps them get an education,
helps them get to school, because a lot of girls don't make
it to school because the journey's so long and they're tied
up with chores around the house, and looking after their siblings,
if their parents have died from AIDS or whatever. And also
the girls that do make it school, have to walk for many many
miles, and they're open to all sorts of dangers along the
way and so, these bicycles, they help the families and they
help the girls. (LH: It's a wonderful idea.) Yeah, it's just
a drop in a bucket but it's still worth my time.
LH: So how did this Ghana trip affect or influence
HW: It just reminded me of, just what it's
all about really, it's like, but when I'm singing and working
my way up, building my profile, and in my mind it's so that
I have more power more access to reach people and then make
them aware of UNICEF's work and encourage them to donate money
to UNICEF and for these worthy causes, and it's sort of brought
down to what life is all about.
LH: How did you get started with all this
charity work? Was it just UNICEF right from the beginning?
HW: It was just, yeah, I was doing a lot charity
work in New Zealand, and all around the world actually, and
then UNICEF approached me and asked whether I was interested
in becoming a goodwill ambassador for them, and initially
I was kind of a little bit unsure, it was such a huge responsibility
and in my mind, I was like , wow, what can I really do, and
then I thought, well you know what, I do have some power and
whatever I do is worth my time.
LH: I know, how do you prepare to be a role
model for UNICEF?
HW: I guess I'm just carrying on being myself,
I'm not trying to change the whole world but I'm just doing
my bit really, you know, I've been given this amazing opportunity
and I've living such a privileged life and it's just nice
to be giving something back.
LH: Hayley, you live in London now, why did
you leave New Zealand for London?
HW: I'm not; I mean I'm just temporarily living
in London. Christ Church is still my home, I go back there
every Christmas but I unfortunately, it's quite a distance
from where my work is and I do need an overseas base and London
is where my company's based. You know and I mean it's, (LH:
Do you like it?)I do like London. I'm really enjoying my time
there, it's a great city. But I do appreciate going back home,
and I do wish I could spend more time with my friends and
my family back home.
LH: What are you working on now?
HW: Well, I'm just working on, I'm promoting
my new album Odyssey and whilst promoting, I'm working on
my voice and I'm working on my music, and I am always, I want
to progress with my writing, with my just, I 'm keen to sort
of broaden myself musically in all the areas, arranging music,
I'd love to be producing my own music individually, so I just,
and I'm just keen to keep on progressing, keep on working
my way up, and learning new skills.
LH: Before I let you go, I wanted to ask you,
where do you see yourself heading, as an artist and the direction
you see your career taking, you know the next few years.
HW: Yeah well, I'm very where I am at the
moment stylistically. I love doing, performing a range of
styles in music, and the thing is I don't really see it a
doubt to just covering a range of different styles, I just
choose beautiful music to beautiful songs and songs with strong
lyrics and strong melodies and so I just want to continue
performing fantastic songs ad songs that really sort of capture
people's imagination and just making good music no matter
what style it is but I'd imagine that would be in the kind
of the classical folk pop field.
LH: Well we wish you all the very very best.
Thank you very much for spending your time with us. We really
appreciate it. (HW: Thank you, Lorraine) I've been speaking
with Hayley Westenra. This is Talk Asia and I'm Lorraine Hahn.
Let's talk again next week.
advised by Kimberley
(Senior Member - HWI Forum)
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