Analogue Music | The Harmaleighs

The Harmaleighs

By Matt Conner

The Harmaleighs aren't exactly sure where the road goes from here.

When the two principal parts of a duo decide to maintain the musical partnership while ending their dating relationship, well, there's not exactly a well-worn path to follow. For Haley Grant and Kaylee Jasperson, it means leaning into the music and hoping their chemistry and commitment takes care of anything awkward.

If you've heard the fruits of their latest album, She Won't Make Sense, you'll understand why they'd attempt to wade through the tension. The duo's vocal work and melodic intimacy draw in the listener just as they drew the attention of Nettwerk—the girls' label home.

On the eve of their release shows, we caught up with the Nashville-based duo to hear more about a relationship gone wrong and a musical journey gone right. There's no clear path forward, but for now they're content with releasing music they (rightfully) believe in.

We've got a feeling they'll find their way.

Analogue: You both initially moved to Nashville to pursue music. How have your expectations matched your experience?

Haley Grant: It definitely has not matched at all. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Taylor Swift and shit. I thought I'd move to Nashville and roll up just like Taylor. I thought I'd write my own songs and some bigwig was going to pick me up and I would fantasize over that, these things that do not happen at all. When I moved there, I was very obsessed with that, but I quickly reverted to, 'Oh, I need to start a band and make unique music. I cannot just write these horrible country/pop songs.' I needed to figure that out. It's been a slow journey for sure. [Laughs]

Kaylee Jasperson: I moved to Nashville with the idea that I'd be working in studios as a bass player or that I'd be touring with many bands as a bass player. I'd never wanted to be in the front. That's not in my nature. Then when I met Haley, we just worked really well together and she basically told me, 'If you want to be in this band, you have to sing.'

I'd never sang, so I was like, 'No, I'm not doing that.' She said, 'Yes you are.' So I agreed. This is not what I thought I would be doing, but I'm really pleased with it. If I was doing what I thought I'd be doing, I would not be able to play what I play. That has been really freeing.

Analogue: What was the moment you decide to abandon the other pursuits for the sake of making music together as The Harmaleighs?

Kaylee: I don't really know when that moment happened because it just flowed. We were in a much bigger band with our friends—six of us—and half of us wanted to do it professionally and the other half were just in it for fun. That's when Haley and I and another guy broke off.

Haley: Got the scissors out! [Laughs]

Kaylee: We went on one tour with that guy and it was terrible.

Haley: It was only a week long too, but it was just not a good hang.

Kaylee: I think the fact that Haley and I were dating... I don't know if I would have stayed if we weren't. I don't know if I would have agreed to do it, but I was just infatuated with her, so I was like, 'Yeah, I'll do it.'

Haley: In 2015, after that guy dropped out, we went on this year-long journey and lived in our van and played a fuck ton of shows. I mean, we played horrible shows at barbecue restaurants for tips or free food. That was when we realized we were doing it at that level.

Analogue: I'm sure those moments were not fun in the moment, but do you look back on the grind as essential?

Kaylee: Oh, we were horrible! We sucked. [Laughs] We really needed to play 300 shows just to get better.

Analogue: The new album is largely focused on your story, Haley, is that right?

Haley: Yes.

She Won't Make Sense cover
She Won't Make Sense cover

Analogue: Is that easy for you to identify with, Kaylee?

Kaylee: Well, Haley writes everything and we also dated for six years and I was a part of that story. While everything was happening to her, I was there. So it doesn't feel like I'm an outsider to what she wrote about. I was there 24/7 with it. I knew how important it was for her to get it out, almost as a way of therapy. So I felt like it was my role to be there as a support.

Analogue: Does that mean the songs veer too personal or do they feel close to that ridge?

Haley: Yes, but I've spent so many years listening to so many records I thought were so much better than mine. I'd ask why is it so much better and I wondered what was missing. I realized all the songs I loved and the songs that people seemed to enjoy of ours were the ones that were very personal and had personal details in them.

It's my main goal to say what I want to say and not just hide things or tiptoe around me being scared to share anything with anyone. Still they are very personal and there are some songs we don't play live yet because I'm like, 'Oh, fuck,' because I'm not even sure how to talk about the song before we play it.

Analogue: Have you learned that the hard way—like you start to play a song and realize then you're walking some emotional plank?

Haley: The actual playing of a song feels cathartic, but if I start talking about something before we play it, then I'm like, 'Oh, fuck.' I try to explain to the audience what the song is about, but I get really nervous and Kaylee has to dive in with a joke or something.

Analogue: Your dating relationship is in the rearview mirror, so how does that complicate or even help things at this point moving forward?

Kaylee: The record is a concept and halfway through, Haley writes the breakup on "Dim The Light." That song took us a while to sing; we couldn't really do it at first. It just happened and I think the record is a perfect representation of what happened. She described it perfectly. Now it's about navigating this new relationship that Haley and I have as friends and business partners. I'm really interested to see what's going to come out of the music in the future, because this is new territory.

Haley: 100 percent, it complicates things. If we get into a fight, all of a sudden, it's a fight about something that happened four years ago. It definitely complicates things. If we try to bring a new significant other to a show, you have to tiptoe around it. But we're working on it.

Kaylee: We're working on it!

VISIT: The Harmaleighs