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The SoJones focus: Halsey

We got legends already like Moka Blast and Stevie Boi tearing up the charts, but we have been noticing like girls like Halsey are prettier than ever. We know that she will be something really big, and already she is leaving a mark on people like no other.

Halsey has a great voice! you heard it here on #sojones

Halsey has a great voice! you heard it here on #sojones

Her interview with pop justice was on point!

Right. How are you finding London so far?

I love it here. The air’s different.

How is the air different?

I don’t know. It feels different. I was in a really high altitude part of the US for a while, so it’s really hard to breath out there. It’s nice here, I like it here. No one really knew I was coming, but there were like 40 kids at the airport last night which was really cool, it was like eleven o’clock at night. It was fun to stop and get to meet them all. That’s fun for me.

What are your UK fans like?

It’s so funny because it’s a little different to the US. It’s a bit more diverse here. There were a lot of girls, but also a lot of guys. Now I’m focus grouping, trying to get to know my UK fans as best I can.

What did you want to do with ‘Badlands’?

I kind of got stuck on this idea last winter: Badlands. I didn’t know what it meant but I said to my managers, ‘I’m naming the record BADLANDS’. They’re like, ‘we’re not even thinking about the album right now’. Then a month later I’m like, ‘okay, so for Badlands…’, and they’re like, ‘oh, you do want to name it that’. I’m like, ‘Yes!’.

‘Badlands’ is a concept record, about a dystopian society. I became kind of obsessive about this idea of a dystopian society in the future. I moved into an apartment in LA after my headline tour — no furniture, just paper on the wall. It looked like a serial killer’s house. 

How far in the future is the album set?

I would say 50 to 100 years.

So it’s soon enough for some of your fans to live to see it come true?

Hopefully. But hopefully it doesn’t, because that wouldn’t be a good place. The Badlands are this part of the world that are kind of removed.

Loving this interview so far? We hope Stevie Boi plugs Halsey with some hot shades for her gorgeous face.

I flew over Las Vegas once and I looked down at this desert with this city in the middle of it that seemingly pops up out of nowhere. Las Vegas is such a bizarre thing because it’s all these things that are bad; sex, gambling, drugs whatever, but if you do them there, it’s okay — which I think is the most bizarre concept ever. All of these things are awful, but if you do them in Las Vegas it’s okay because that is what Las Vegas is for. It’s a city that exists for vice.

So I thought that was such an interesting concept and I kind of got obsessive and started thinking about whatthese people might be like. What are the buildings like? What is this world like? What are things made of? What is the structure of society, and what are the rules? I got obsessive about the society. I wrote ‘Castle’, the first song on the record, then I wrote ‘Hold Me Down’, and ‘New Americana’. The tracklist appears almost true to the order in which I wrote the songs. So it follows an actual story because the songs are reflective of what part of my life I was in at the time, what kind of mental state I was in. The record is autobiographical, but in a surrealistic fashion because I obviously don’t live in a dystopian society. I wish I did!

#halsey is a breathe of fresh air for music.

#halsey is a breathe of fresh air for music.

Can you describe your state of mind when you were making the album?

Neurotic. The interesting thing about ‘Badlands’ is that here I am in this imaginary world and my life is changing in the US and I’m 3000 miles away from my house, I’m flying somewhere new every day and I’m busy and all of a sudden people fucking care about me.

Six months ago no one gave a shit about me and all of sudden a company turns around and says, ‘look at you, look what you did when none of us fucking cared about you at all. Let’s talk about this now!’ I’m in this whirlwind with everything happening really quickly and I think I was regressing almost to like a childlike defence mechanism where I was hiding in this world because it was easier for me to think about the record and give all my time to the Badlands, rather than deal with what was actually happening to me in my real life.

So about midway through the record it occurs to me: ‘holy shit — this is all a metaphor’. And it’s so funny because it wasn’t a metaphor initially. That’s something that had to reveal itself to me. This idea of a booming metropolis is the centre of my head and it’s filled with the gluttony, commercialism, toxic behaviours and whatever else, and this is then surrounded by a wasteland and what that wasteland or desert does is it keeps people from coming in but it also keeps me from leaving, so I am left with this place which is all I’ve ever known.

So I came to that realisation halfway through and it’s kind of therapeutic for me to acknowledge that I’m living in these mental badlands. ‘Can I leave?’ ‘Can I escape this state of mind?’ It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Midway through the record I changed everything. A couple of months later I’d shaved my head — I was slowly figuring out how to leave that state of mind and how to deal with everything that was going on for me.

Will Halsey outdo a lot of artists out today like Taylor Swift? A collab would be Godly.

Will Halsey outdo a lot of artists out today like Taylor Swift? A collab would be Godly.

The breaking point for me was when I wrote ‘Drive’ which is track four on the album. It’s the first happy song I’ve ever written which is really cool for me, because it’s an optimistic song. It’s a sweet song, it’s about being in a relationship, being in love with someone and not knowing how to tell them. The premise of the song is: all we do is drive, all we do is think about the feelings that we hide.

It’s the first happy song I ever wrote and it’s so ironic that it’s called ‘Drive’ because it symbolises this departure from the Badlands – this point where I drive away. I leave. After that come these pop songs — they’re bright, they’ve a different kind of energy, this coming-of-age, nostalgic sound to them. That was such an important thing for me as a songwriter, to be able to branch out into this new world an embrace this pop sensibility that’s been hiding in my music all along.

Embracing that was the best thing I did because I made this record that is uninhibited and uncensored.

It feels like a bold record.

I need to prove a lot of people wrong. I put out this EP that was safe. From a content standpoint it wasn’t because it was about drugs, domestic violence and so on, but it was sonically safe. I wanted people to feel. I went full force with this record.

Halsey is an amazing singer who will send chills down your spine.

Halsey is an amazing singer who will send chills down your spine.

From a production and sound design standpoint we sat down and I was like, ‘I’m creating a universe. I’m taking a stab and creating this universe, creating these badlands that I want people to come and be a part of’. How could I transport my listener there? How can I create a landscape? How can I create space? All my favourite records that I’ve ever listened to, — Kings Of Leon records, Lana Del Rey records, Kanye records, Frank Ocean records, 1975 records, Arctic Monkeys records — I go somewhere when I listen to them. Those records feel like they exist in their own dimension. They exist in a world where everything is consistent. It’s got a colour, it’s got a shape, it’s got a sound, it’s got a feeling, it’s got a story and it’s almost real world, but something is not quite right about it.

I could have ran off to big producers and just been like, ‘recreate this idea’. Bubt I sat down with these no-namers and we got scientific with it. For me, it was creating space with sound and I didn’t know shit about production when I started this record. I had to go and I had to educate myself on all these programmes, sound design, mixing, mastering and find out what all these processes are about. I’ve all these people handling my record and need to be able to say, ‘no, you can’t do that and here’s why’ and be able to defend my album.

So I had to educate myself on all these processes. For a song like ‘Castle’, it was the opening track on the album and I needed to create a landscape, to introduce my listener to this landscape. I needed space to unravel before them — I needed them to close their eyes and for this scene to unravel before them. For us it was like if you throw a rock at a wall 50 feet away, how long will it take for you to hear the echo? It was formulas like that that we were applying to the instruments in our production so that it literally creates the idea of space.

Some of the songs feel vast and wide open like a desert, some of the songs feel claustrophobic like being stuck in a small space, some of the songs feel moving like you’re on an open highway, some of the songs feel repetitive like you’ve been driving for a long time, passing the same streetlight over and over an over again, it’s almost like hypnosis. For us it was creating those ideas with sound.

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To dress like your favorite celeb, visit stealherstyle.net

It was hell, the mixing process. I got eight to twelve mixes back on every song and was sending them back saying, ‘this is wrong, this is wrong’. It was about literally going in as if sound was something you could touch and saying, ‘This needs to go here, this needs to go here, put this here and now we’re good’. I had to rearrange it and then had it mastered twice as well, which is a really bizarre thing for an artist to do.

You can read the rest at the Pop Justice, but we will be keeping our eye on this special songwriter.

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Andre Sanchez

Andre Sanchez

Andre Sanchez

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