Hayley Williams

Hayley Williams : "The only thing that I care about being next up is, what am I going to do with Paramore?"

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Alice Gee | 27/3/2021

“I love being able to get in on new publications and new magazines especially when they’re young, it just feels cool,” says Hayley after she asks for the official history of Head Above The Clouds, which we are more than happy to share. Speaking to the one and only Hayley Williams is by far the high point of my career so far. I’ve been a fan of Paramore since I was a young teen scream-singing ‘That’s What You Get’ in my room while my parents complained about the volume from downstairs.

I have always loved the fact that Hayley and Paramore are so unapologetically real, unafraid to express themselves, who they are and how they feel through their music. From the pure joy and lightheartedness of ‘Still Into You’ to the raw exposed pain of ‘My Heart’ they have an unmatched talent of lyrical storytelling that keeps fans coming back as the years’ pass. Paramore tell their fans to be bold and demand what they deserve. So as I sit with Hayley over Zoom, I have an enthusiastic appreciation for the opportunity to include her as one of our Issue 3 cover stars. We ease into the conversation, me in my living room, Hayley in her office (two places neither of us have strayed far from in lockdown) as she congratulates me on getting my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Nashville is like, half locked down. Although the inner city is a blue bubble, the state is conservative as f*ck. There are literally places that have never been closed throughout this entire thing.”If you asked her biggest fans what comes to mind when they think of Hayley her mesmerising vocals are probably first, but her notoriously bold and vibrant hair colours a definite close second. It was seeing how she inspired others to follow her lead that lead to the launch of her company ‘Good Dye Young’ which she conceived with her friend, stylist and makeup artist Brian O’Connor. The venture aims to provide a safe space and community all about self-expression and embracing who you are. Being no stranger to bold colour myself, I wanted to ask Hayley the effect of having control over her own hair colour over the years, and how choosing colour has impacted how she feels about identity.

“I think that presentation for people is one of the most basic things we can control. To me, growing up in a town, that as I said was pretty conservative, and being into music that wasn’t necessarily the most popular, I felt different. I think what’s interesting now is the conversation seems so trivial because back then we didn’t have all of the different platforms and social media connectivity that we do today which can help people to find their people and their communities. To me, hair was no more different than wearing my favourite band’s merchandise. When I would wear merch of some band that a lot of people didn’t know and then there would be one kid who would see me out and notice. It felt like, oh, I found my people.”

“I like that the way we present ourselves helps us to dictate the world, who we want to be, the world we want to exist in whilst it also helps us connect with people. That connectivity makes you feel less alone, it makes you feel like your identity is validated. Brian, with who I started the company, both he and I were those kids who wanted to be part of a greater conversation and give more channels for those conversations to happen. That’s what Good Dye Young is all about.”

As we talk about the idea of control and expression through presentation, it reminds me that as a teen my mum always told me ‘if you want to change something, change your hair’, as it’s the one thing that you can always change again. (probably trying to steer me away from getting a tattoo. Sorry Mum.) So having a brand for everyone that provides the footing to express themselves, especially in a time where it feels we have restrictions left, right and centre, is a refreshing respite we probably really need. Having set up a ‘Sanctuary of Self Love’ experience at Bonnaroo festival with ‘Good Dye Young’, Hayley explains how it was there with more than music to share.

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“My experience playing Bonnaroo was just as good as my experience showing up and being there as a spectator and as a fan. I think that’s crucial. The experience you have as a band that’s performing versus the experience you have as someone who’s just rolling up that are dying to see your favourite band can very easily feel like lifetimes apart. So what I loved about Bonnaroo, is that they clearly take such good care of the people that come to the festival. It was very easy for them to work in a safe space. That’s not knocking European festivals and English festivals because we’ve had some of the best times of our life there. I just have this as the only experience where I’ve been on both sides. I felt just as taken care of on either side. I loved working with them. We got to not only do treatments with people but we got to work with them on expressing their feelings in their hair and their appearance.”

“I love it, as I also get to work on my passion for wellness and mental health advocacy, working with other organisations or people that do like yoga and exercise programming that might get people more connected to their bodies. And then, of course, there’s just the music aspect of it, which permeates everything at Bonnaroo. So it’s like this perfect Venn diagram for me where I can sit in the middle of it and have access to all this stuff, but give access to all this so readily, to people that may not experience it in their day to day lives.”At a time where we are all trying to recharge, some of us will be looking for a new product to replenish, pamper and help aid our best selves I ask Hayley what her ‘go to’ products are, that not only make her feel her best self but keep her mental health in its best place. “I’m a huge fan of just taking a bath with bath salts, every night if I can do it. But what I love about it, is it’s like the oldest trick in the book, and it’s also one of the cheapest. I remember doing a Cosmo interview when I was about 20, which first of all, thinking about it, it’s funny, because it’s so not my world. I remember feeling like I had to say all these cool, expensive products that I was into, and these very elaborate sort of schemes to make myself feel good and look good, or whatever. But the easiest and best one in the book is Epsom salts.

I also like products that deal with the actual cellular structure and that can affect your chemistry. And Epsom salts do that. So there’s like a nice mental health boost that you get from it and alongside the initial intention behind it, that it feels good. That’s like the number one trick for me. I also really reach for a lot of different essential oils that I can rub on my pulse points. I think it’s cool that it’s now becoming more accessible, and more mainstream.It’s great, as some are personalised to you whether you want something for anxiety or even period cramps. As far as beauty products go, I’m very into the things that we’re making right now. I love the way it looks aesthetically but more so I love the ingredients that go into it, like our Primer spray, it’s just this beautiful floral citrus scent.”

Maintaining our integrity has always been at the forefront of what we do at HATC, so it’s encouraging to hear Hayley’s similar ethical standpoint when it comes to ‘Good Dye Young.’ To have a groundbreaking company place its community and customers at the forefront of their mind is the wholesome approach we’d love to see more of in the age of irresponsible influencer marketing. “Owning a company and being able to stand behind the product is so crucial to me because for my mental health, I have to know that I’m not a liar. When I was a teenager, the word sellout was the dirtiest thing to me, like, that word was so triggering to me. So I think in a lot of ways that’s fueled my fire to always reach the long term goal. A lot of times I’ve put myself through the wringer because I have punk rock guilt and I have to do things the right way. Not the fastest way. Not the easy way. Not the cheap way. But even if it costs me my sanity, I’m going to go on route.”

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‘FLOWERS for VASES/descansos’ was released mid pandemic, a time many artists struggled with the unprecedented pressure to be creative while struggling to come out of a black hole. “There was a very strange pressure that I had never felt before. I found writing Flowers for Vases a necessity. Saying that I had just finished making Petals for Armor, which was a 15 song project and a lot of planning that didn’t ever come to fruition because we weren’t able to do it safely. So the last two years have been incredibly prolific years for me. I was always afraid that getting older and trying to find balance in my life would lead to a boring musical career because that’s the myths that we’re taught.

You find more balance but you still struggle, especially if you deal with mental health issues. It’s all a spectrum. Life skills are so fucking hard, you know. Success and relationships, it doesn’t matter any of it because you’re still in here.” Hayley points at her head. “This is where you exist. So I don’t think I would have been able to make it through the world of lockdown without making a record. Saying that there was a pressure to come out of it with something to show. I think that’s why I’m glad I’m not planning on touring this record. I kind of just wanted it out there. I don’t care if people play it, I don’t care if people love it or hate it. It was for me to do and that’s been the best part about the experience”
With ‘Good Dye Young’ taking off so quickly, and so much of her time I wondered whether that would be the end of her solo journey for now and she will be prioritising for the next couple of years.

“I’m so happy I got the solo albums out of my system. The only thing I care about other than the company growing is Paramore. It’s interesting to have been off the road since the end of 2018. I immediately started working on Petals for Armor and then almost fell into Flowers for Vases. I think a lot of people who are maybe more casual listeners presume this meant that I was done with my band and this is a new direction but it’s only made me more excited and more passionate about the work that I get to do with my bandmates. Because honestly, I’m f*cking tired of doing every instrument and writing on the last record myself.” She laughs, ”It was a great exercise and I’m so proud of it but I miss my guys. I miss being in that world and being in that mindset and having people who are vastly talented in what they do. The only thing that I care about being next up is, what am I going to do with Paramore? And then what am I doing to do to make Good Dye Young the best company that it can be.”

Hayley beams, both relieved and content in the experiences she had writing both her solo albums. It’s apparent the positive impact both they and Good Dye Young is having on her life. It can’t be easy stepping away and hitting pause on Paramore knowing it would stir fans into a frenzy, but I can tell you for sure, there is currently nothing more she would love than returning to her bandmates and continuing Paramore’s journey.