Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Q&A With Hayley Siano

By Christopher Treacy & Hayley Siano

Photo Courtesy of Hayley Siano

New York based singer-songwriter Hayley Siano’s got our Song of The Week slot occupied with her new single, “Get to Know Her,” a passionately belted tune that examines that ultra-vulnerable space when a relationship has reached maximum toxicity and needs to end… and the aftermath. It’s that second part of the equation that really caught us by surprise. Breakup songs are plentiful, and different ones resonate with us at different times; there is no one-size-fits-all. But that initial rebuild period can be so trying, so ugly, so arduous—entire albums have been written about it. And yet, it’s not something you often hear articulated so honestly in a pop song. That moment, if and when we’re lucky enough to get there, when we recommit to ourselves, that spirit of reconnection with self, especially in the wake of something toxic and all-consuming? That’s the spike of bravery and resilience poking up through the smoking pile of rubble. And it’s really important to acknowledge. “Get to Know Her” isn’t country, but Siano has a background in the genre, having fronted a country band for a few years, and the song is also unmistakably queer sounding. Somehow, her sexuality bubbles to the top of the track… and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

“Get to Know Her” seems to be about something seldom covered in pop songs: committing to getting to know yourself better having lost yourself in a toxic relationship that’s now ending. That’s a tough time, right there. Can you talk a little about the inspiration for the song?

So I started writing this song after I witnessed a friend going through a rough breakup. I put a lot of energy into helping them stay strong in the aftermath and not go back to her, and this song was a part of that effort. Something we did a lot in the beginning of their breakup was ‘name the bad things,’ just so the nostalgia didn’t completely rewrite their memory. A lot of the lyrics in the bridge are direct quotes from that friend talking about how their ex made them feel during the relationship. 

I’ve also been in several relationships where the toxicity was so obvious but the trauma bond and fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle being by myself kept me coming back. Taking that leap and trusting that I could eventually be someone I loved was the kindest thing I could have ever done for myself. 


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

The aftermath feeling of returning to your own life, solo, after all the ‘shiny things’ about life in the now defunct relationship are no longer there, can be devastating. For some of us, it takes a really long time to rebuild, to remember who we were and to get back to some semblance of contentedness and confidence. Are there things you’ve learned about this process that you care to share? 

I think the most important part of rebuilding your confidence and relationship with yourself is letting anger exist. Anger is powerful. This song is tinged with sadness but it also holds a lot of fury. The anger doesn’t have to stay forever, but I think there needs to be space where you let it in and realize who the fuck you are and how dare someone treat you as less than that. In addition to anger, I recommend extreme gentleness with yourself. Taking yourself on dates. Remembering what made you happy when you were seven. Talking to that child and giving them love. Writing down small things you find beauty in, like sitting on the fire escape in the afternoon. Get little treats for yourself. Try to draw something. Decorate a corner of your room with trinkets. Take a lot of pictures of yourself. Slowly but surely you’ll come into your power again.

The track really soars with the passionate vocal performance you gave to it. Who are your vocal influences/idols? Was there a sound you were going for? I hear a little Sara Bareilles in there...

I take that as a huge compliment! I love Sara Bareilles and definitely resonate with her music and vocals. I have a lot of vocal influences for sure – Brandi Carlile, Yebba, Regina Spektor, Jojo, Kehlani, The Chicks, Beyonce, LP, Kelly Clarkson, Indigo Girls, H.E.R., to name a few. I think my sound is still developing but I always want powerful vocals to be at the forefront. That’s what speaks to me and makes me feel the most. I also have a music theater background and, while I don’t necessarily aim to have musical theater influences in my music, I think it’s clear in the storytelling. While songwriting is a huge passion and focus of mine, honing my craft as a vocalist has always been my priority. 

You’ve released a handful of singles over the past few years, and I know the streaming algorithms work better for artists that release one track at a time. But I imagine there’s a more substantial collection of songs that you’re compiling – can you share what you’re working on? 

Releasing music is hard, and I think any independent artist can relate when I say that I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel an innate need to share my music. I find it challenging to be vulnerable while also trying to promote myself and my work, and releasing singles so far has been something that has worked for me. It is a dream of mine next year to release an EP of much more stripped down/acoustic original songs, exactly how I write them sitting at my piano. I have a ton of songs that I’ve written and not released over the past 5-10 years, but a lot of them I can’t relate to anymore or I feel like they don’t reflect who I am as a musician. And that’s totally fine, they helped me get to where I am today, and I still love a lot of them. But I think a majority will stay in the vaults. 

“Get to Know Her” isn’t a country song, really, but I know you’ve fronted a country band and definitely have footing in the genre. Is that something you intend to continue incorporating into your music, or are you attempting to break away from it? There are no wrong answers.

Totally fair assessment“Get To Know Her” definitely isn’t a country song, and I don’t know that I identify as a country singer although I do have roots in country music. I think my honest answer is that I have a lot of folk/Americana/country influences and they have shaped my journey as a songwriter for sure. I want my music to have the best elements of country music, which in my opinion are the storytelling and strong vocals. In my next project I do hope to incorporate a more stripped down vibe and less heavy production, perhaps relying more on my country/folk influences. 

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.

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