“I think as an artist I sometimes question if this is worth doing, but that was such a special moment.”
This wasn’t Grace Hayes’ first time auditioning for a talent search show. In fact, she’d already auditioned for The Voice and American Idol. But when her mentor connected her with a casting director for the reboot of Idol, she auditioned again and was invited to sing for the celebrity judges. While the singer/songwriter exudes confidence, she remembers herself as an “awkward little kid.”
Hayes’ father is a Sammy Davis Jr. impression artist. It was his love for music and performing that led her to learn to play the keys. However, when it came to singing, she didn’t receive the highest praise. “When I was 14 a friend of mine was playing “Hallelujah” on the guitar and said I should sing along. That was the first time someone had something positive to say about my singing.”
At 17 years old she sang publicly for the first time, and from there her musical career grew. She continues to write and perform her own songs, finding inspiration from artists like Bo Burnham and Ingrid Michaelson. So when she needed to pick three American Idol audition songs, she knew they needed to be original.
“The first song I auditioned for American Idol with was one I wrote three days before called ‘My Hair.’ The first thing I hated about myself was my hair, and the song is about embracing those things that make you unique,” said Hayes. “The second song I sang was another original, ‘Friday the 13th,’ and it’s about breaking up with someone on Valentine’s Day.”
While she has accomplished a lot in her young career, Hayes feels there is room to grow, and meeting artists like Katy Perry and Lionel Richie have inspired her to keep perfecting her craft. “It has been a process, a metamorphosis, as I’m still stepping out. I still feel I’m that awkward kid on the inside, and I’m still learning quite a bit,” said Hayes. “It was such an honor meeting Lionel Richie. It was encouraging to be recognized by a song writer like him, and his words were an affirmation to keep going. I’m super grateful to everyone who has supported me.”
And her advice for other young artists looking to start their career? “My advise is shameless self promotion. You can be humble and believe in yourself at the same time. Don’t be ashamed to put yourself out there. I find myself dreaming for other people a lot, but then I remember I need to give myself the same attention. Social media is a great way to get yourself out there. Be smart with it; cultivate content and make it reach a larger audience. I’m more mindful of what I put out there. I sit on it and then finesse it before putting it out for people to hear.”