Blue Haired Badass Halsey Breaks The Internet
Meet Halsey, the blue-haired badass whose voice will steal your heart. Between her intricate tell-all lyrics, crisp vocals, and infectious rhythms crossed between hip-hop and pop music, it’s hard to believe this breakthrough beauty is only 20 years old. She’s opened for Tove Lo and The Cooks, but now she’s looking forward to owning the stage and giving no f***s on her headline tour kicking off in March. Initially known for her ethereal songs about sex and being sad on her EP Room 93, the New Jersey native tells me she’s leaving it all behind for a sound that’s more raw and angry, on her debut album “Badlands.”
Interview by Sade A. Spence
Photos By Eric Mooney
You are very vocal on social media, do you ever feel like you have to censor what you say?
I do and I don’t. It’s a diary. That’s how [the fans] connect with me and get to know me. It’s easier to believe in my art. I deal with alot because I’m biracial, and white passing, I get a lot of flack from both sides, so I’ve defined my voice through social media. I just don’t give a shit anymore. I know who I am and I’m not worried about it.
Has that influenced your music at all?
Sonically it has. I grew up listening to my dad’s music and my mom’s music. My mom loved 90’s grunge and my dad loved 90’s hip-hop. I’m not afraid to ask for an 808 in the studio or reference Alanis Morissette. It’s cool because it puts my music in this in-between place. I’m playing some electro festivals this summer while the biggest hip-hop station in Los Angeles is playing my music too.
Halsey is an anagram of your name, Ashley. Is Halsey and Ashley the same person?
It’s the most exaggerated parts of who I am- the good and the bad. I took the most entertaining parts of me and manifested them into this. Everything is real. It may be exaggerated, but it’s real.
My music is all about me and that’s because of all the male musicians I have admired growing up, like Alex Turner form the Arctic Monkeys. Male rockstars have something so beautiful, so romantic about them being themselves and telling the story of their lives.
What can we expect on your upcoming album “Badlands?” You’ve said in the past Room 93 was just a glimpse of you….
Room 93 was ethereal and spacey, dreamy, and out of body. This album is so much more raw and urban. There’s a lot of trap on it. It’s self-reflective, it’s about me and cutting ties, and growing up, and battling what is inside me in just a really f***ing angry way. It’s got a theory and it matches sonically. Having it sound like this horror influence is important…you can feel me trying to make up my mind and feel what it feels like to be me, confused and in a new place…. The record is super schizo!
You tweeted your album sounds like a horror movie!
[Laughs] The new mantra is the song isn’t done until it sounds like a movie trailer. All the songs are pretty cinematic in the way The Weeknd’s “Kissland” sounded, echoey and scary.
Room 93 had a running theme of hotels, and the Pink Hotel was in almost all of the music videos, will we see this theme in “Badlands?”
I see it as Room 93 was in a hotel, that’s in Badlands. I look at Badlands as a city, as a Las Vegas– full of emotion: love, sin, and anger. There’s a couple of hotel references throughout the record because I can’t escape that ever.
Where do you draw musical inspiration?
Lyrically, Alanis Morissette. She blows my mind. A lot of my influences come from R&B and hip-hop. I love Childish Gambino. I think Donald Glover is really smart. If I could do my career the way anyone did, it would be Rihanna. [She] can do whatever the f*** she wants and no one can say anything about it. She is incredible in her lack of care. I love The Weeknd! I am 98% positive that I will be opening for him on a tour in April, which is going to be f***ing amazing because he is incredible.
You are headlining a tour with the Young Rising Sons, how are you feeling about that?
I am playing to rooms of 600, 700 people, who are there just for me, is the scariest thing and the coolest thing in the entire world! We hoped the tour would sell out. And when I put these links up and girls told me the links not working.
You broke the internet?
Pretty much. [laughs] My managers were like no dude you sold that room out. We sold out shows in Nashville. I didn’t think anyone gave a f*** about me in Nashville, but I’m super stoked they do. The show is going to be a sick show.
Where are you most excited to travel on tour, besides Nashville?
[laughs] I am excited about New York because that’s the hood. Everyone is going to be like why is the subway stop playing at Rough Trade. I’m also playing a lot of cool festivals this summer too. For a kid who has been pretty much a vagrant for my entire life and traveling and taking buses… Festivals for me are like really part of the game for me so knowing that I am part of it that’s what makes it real for me. When I’m on the same flyer as Paul McCartney that’s my “you doing aight.” [laughs]
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened, between you and fans?
I’ve kissed like 100 kids on the mouth because girls just asked me to be their first kiss, so I said ok. It’s all harmless and it’s all love, so I don’t mind it, but it is so boy bandie.
You’ve got a super unique and cute sense of style… where do you draw your fashion sense from?
On any given day I look like an editorial shoot for TLC. [laughs] I love denim, Adidas, Nike and I love things that are athletic and super 90’s influenced.
Are there any staple pieces that have to take with you on tour?
Tour is so different for me. I get really claustrophobic on stage so I need to be in as little clothing as possible, really flowy. My wardrobe is a lot of white and pale colors. It looks dis-saturated in comparison to the blue that is my hair and my imagery and my lights.
So your hair will be back to blue on tour?
Yes! I like blue. It is a really safe color for me. It makes me feel safe and creative.
What are three necessities you have to have on tour with you?
I have to say food items, I’m such a freak, I love food. I need NesQuik chocolate milk. I shouldn’t say this because I’m underage, but f*** it! [laughs] I need a bottle of red wine.
Cabernet and Pinot Noirs [laughs]. This is so f***ed! I’m a smoker so I definitely need to have a pack of lighters and Haribo. I love gummy snacks and sour snacks because I’m half an alcoholic and the other half of a six year-old child.
Who are your top 3 celeb, Man Crush Mondays?
Oohhh, ok. Shit, f***! F*** I’m getting mean looks right now. I gotta say my amazing boyfriend Lido. He is a very talented musician and producer.
Is he the one giving you the side eye?
[laughs] He gave me the side eye right now. So he has to be my number one. I love Evan Peters and this is getting tough. I wanna say Drake but imma’ throw Raury up there. He’s a little young for me, but I think he is going to be a really massive asset to music in the next few years.