Haley Dreis, a Winston Salem singer and recent cum laude graduate from the University of South Carolina Honors College in classical violin performance, already knows that her goal of becoming a professional musician will be filled with setbacks and heartache. But she believes the rewards of living out her dream will be worth the struggle.
If the popularity of her newly released music video, "Where My Heart Is," is any indication of her future, Dreis, 21, is on her way to making her dream a reality. The video, which was part of her senior thesis, was filmed at PETS Inc., a Columbia, S.C., no-kill animal shelter that received a $1,000 donation from Dreis after her video surpassed 10,000 views.
This was not her first philanthropic endeavor or her first commitment to giving back to the arts community. When Dreis was 19, she donated 10 percent of the profits from her first album, "Beautiful to Me," (July 2009), to UNC School of the Arts. Dreis graduated from UNCSA in high school.
While her first album centered on coming-of-age lyrics and the "drama of the song," her new album, "Taking Time" (March 2011), contains songs with lyrics that are carefully crafted around a purpose. "In this new album I really paid attention to every single lyric and line," she said. Dreis' emotive vocals and melodic tunes deliver a unique blend of pop and folk sounds that might remind listeners of Sarah McLachlan or Joni Mitchell.
For now, her focus is on settling in Nashville. She plans to continue her professional career, supplementing her income by giving violin — she is a classically-trained, Suzuki violinist — guitar and songwriting lessons.
I caught up with Dreis to talk about her plans, her upcoming performance in Winston Salem and what she likes to do when she's not recording music.
Q: What are you up to now?
A: Most recently, I recorded an album with producer Jay Clifford who was in a band called Jump Little Children. He went to the North Carolina School of the Arts. He along with Josh Kaler recorded my latest record, "Taking Time." That was finished up in March of this year.
Q: What aspect of music excites you the most?
A: I know that the music industry is making a big change right now. Not a lot of artists are being supported by major labels or by the music industry. I think the most exciting thing right now is that artists are becoming do-it-yourself artists. We're able to make our music with the help of our fan base. I just did a project through kickstarter.com. It's a fan-funding sort of website. My project was raising $5,000 to record my album ("Taking Time"). You ask your friends and you ask your fans to make pledges. The deal is you have to reach $5,000 to actually get the funding. If you don't get $5,000, you're kind of out of luck. (Dreis exceeded her goal, raising $5,750). Essentially, artists are facilitating their own record labels. I think that is the most exciting part of the industry right now. So, I'm really excited about pursuing my music on my own and being an independent artist.
Q: Share a fun, odd or best music experience.
A: One of my friends has a 5-year-old sister who recently found my music. And she recorded herself singing one of my songs. She put it on You Tube. And so she sent it to me and said, "Haley, I'm your biggest fan!" That was really cool. And I think, honestly, the best part of playing a show with people who you know and people who listen to your music is, it is always surprising to see people come in and start singing your lyrics right back at you. Honestly, that is the best feeling.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a musician?
A: Choosing my career as a musician. I've already admitted to myself that I'm probably going to be poor the rest of my life. I've already admitted that there will be an immense amount of challenges. I understand that it is a competitive world and that what I'm doing is going to be tough in this economy. But it (music) is something I've grown up with, and I've been passionate about it for so long. It's not something that I'm obsessed about. But it is an important part of my life that I don't want to live without. It's a really fun career. I'm just trying to keep my spirits high. The biggest challenge is just keeping persistent, even in a tough economy. I think the economy is bringing musicians down a little bit because no one is buying recorded music. It's going to challenge me to really be creative. I'm trying to think of creative ways to get people to listen to my music. I'm really into the social media, Twitter and the websites. I'm hoping that thinking along that route will help me.
Q: Away from music, what do you do for fun?
A: Music has always been a fun part for me, so I do it a lot. But I have a hamster (Tickle Monster) in my apartment. I love animals. My mom had 10 cats at one point. I visit my animal shelter a lot and play with the animals…. I'm actually going to miss school because I really do like school and learning new things. And I like arts of all sorts. I used to really be into dance. And I guess that's pretty much it for now.
Rosewood Crawfish Festival, Woodrow Street Stage
If you have yet to hear about this 20-year-old singer songwriter, you undoubtedly will soon. Current USC music performance student, Haley Dreis, has been creating a buzz around Columbia since her first performance. Effortless and pure, her performances evoke a certain emotion that can only
be explained as magical. Currently touring most of the Southeast with for-mer Jump Little Children lead singer, Jay Clifford, the horizons are continuing to get broader for this young and talented musician.
We The Kings
Haley Dreis Opens to crowded ballroom for rock sensation
Fresh off her first final, singer/songwriter Haley Dreis opened to 275 students for We the Kings in the Russell House Ballroom Wednesday night. Dreis’s band booked the gig as a prize for winning USC’s Battle of the Bands last year.
“It was crazy because we had never played full-band before that specific show, and we were just overwhelmed and shocked in a good way to have this opportunity,” said the third-year music student.
Students poured into the ballroom to watch We the Kings.
“I love them — the lead singer, I love him,” said third-year anthropology student Keely Lewis.
Travis Clark, the lead singer for We the Kings, won the crowd with some tiger-bashing, claiming in jest that the band ran over a Clemson tiger on the way to Columbia.
The band’s latest music video, “We’ll Be A Dream” featuring Demi Lovato, premieres today on MTV, and Clark announced that his mom will be getting a check mark tattooed on her behind as part of a bet they made years ago.
“When I started the band, I told my mom if we ever got on MTV she’d have to get a tattoo,” Clark said to the crowd.
Clark told The Daily Gamecock his favorite parts of his stay in Columbia included his love of the people and southern home cooking. He said the band really wants to come back and that Carolina girls are the most attractive.
The band’s tour accountant and merchandise manager Chris Varvaro described how he met the band, and gave some insight into the life of a touring band.
“I met them while I was working for another band,” Varvaro said. “I was working for a band called Metro Station, we shared a bus with We The Kings and that’s how I became friends with them ... I’ve been touring with We The Kings for two years — two glorious years.”
Varvaro has been touring with bands including Taking Back Sunday, Days Away, The Academy Is, Hellogoodbye and Cute is What We Aim For for seven years. Last year alone he estimates they were on the road for 316 days.
“A lot of people don’t realize it’s an every day thing,” Varvaro said. “It’s like people think we go somewhere, and we stay there for a little bit, but we’re mostly in each city for 20 hours.”
Before last night’s show the band was in Raleigh, N.C.
“We got here about 11,” Varvaro said. “The band didn’t get here until like six tonight. Travis and Hunter (Thomsen) had a show somewhere in North Carolina this morning, like a radio show, so they rode with our Radio rep., Brad Davidson, to Columbia.”
Though most students came out to see We the Kings several showed up to show support for Dreis, and Varvaro offered his opinion on Dreis’s music.
“I think she is wonderful — easy listening — I think it takes a lot to get up in front of your peers on stage and do what you do — whether they’re gonna like you or not — and she looks like she’s having fun.”
Fourth-year marketing and management student Jake Etheridge said he’s a fan of We The Kings, but also came out to support Dreis.
“I’m actually good friends with Haley Dreis, and a big fan of We The Kings,” Etheridge said. “I’m in a band, too — CherryCase — and Haley Dreis is going to be playing with us a lot in the upcoming months.”
All of the members of CherryCase came out to listen to Dreis.
“We actually came out to support her more than We The Kings,” Etheridge said.
Other students like Katelyn Brooks, first-year early childhood student, came to hear We the Kings but is glad to have discovered Dreis’s music.
“I think she’s really good,” Brooks said. “I’ll definitely listen to her in the future.”
By any stretch, the music of South Carolina's Haley Dreis is pop music, just the kind that hasn't yet found a popular audience yet. A classical music student at the University of South Carolina who put out an excellent self-released CD of original songs fully arranged and fully realized, Dreis is an entrancing violinist as well as a clever lyricist who's still young and green enough to have some fun. For the studio version of Dreis' sound, check out her website at www.haleydreismusic.com. If you see her live, Dreis is currently working in an acoustic format, sometimes with Patrick Mitchell on lead acoustic guitar.
Though 20-year old University of South Carolina student Haley Dreis has studied classical violin since she was 6 years old, her debut album, released this year, is a slick pop record full of her own original tunes that immediately ranks as one of the best local albums of the year. Beautiful to Me has been turning ears all over and garnered her some summertime gigs in New York City as well as a recent spot in a nationwide Gap event that had 700 performers playing in Gap stores the same day. Dreis’ songs are pure pop, but her classical background serves her well in that she’s obviously a leg up on the typical young, impressionable singer-songwriter types. Yes, there is plenty of Sarah Bareilles, Michelle Branch and other hip female music that one can point to as influences, but on songs such as the bouncy “I Believe In Love” she exudes a confident musical swagger way beyond her years.
- K. Oliver
The world of music is one full of different genres, sounds and styles, unique unto themselves and all too often restricted in description by their differences. The victor of Carolina Productions’ annual Battle of the Bands, Haley Dreis, a third-year music and journalism student, sets herself apart with a breath-taking blend of mainstream accessibility, soulful sound and classical talent.
Dreis, who credits artists like John Mayer, Sara Bareilles and Damien Rice for her style, draws inspiration from many genres to create her signature sound.
“As a musician, it is important to have a wide variety of influences,” said Dreis. “I listen to a lot of Top 40 radio, jazz, classical and blues. I’m kind of all over the place.”
The biggest contrast to the songstress’ pop image, however, comes with her talent on classical violin. With 14 years of classical music training under her belt, including attending the North Carolina School of the Arts for high school, Dreis just last year stepped out into Columbia’s local music scene as a pop artist.
“One of my classmates and I used to jam out on the guitar just for fun,” Dreis said. “We loved pop music and used to do a lot of songs together. It wasn’t until I recorded one of the songs that we wrote that I realized that I really enjoyed writing pop music and that side of things.”
Dreis, who has played her fair share of sets throughout Columbia, was featured at Gap’s nation-wide promotion for a new jean line in August at Columbiana Mall, as well as this fall’s Free Times Music Crawl.
“That was a lot of fun, and it gave me a lot of exposure in the local scene to people who hadn’t heard my music yet,” said Dreis.
All of her success as a performer, however, came after the recording of her first self-released album, “Beautiful to Me,” which was officially released in July.
“I wrote all my songs last summer on this intense writing binge, and I had this epiphany over Christmas break that I just need to record these songs,” said Dreis. “It was one of those things where you almost have to have a recording if you’re going to perform live.”
The album, which was recorded, mixed and mastered at the USC School of Music, took about seven months to perfect with one big deadline that sped up production.
“It was in May when I was about to leave for an internship in New York with Island Records, and I really wanted to have something to take with me,” said Dreis. “I wanted to perform a little bit while I was there, but I also just wanted to get some advice and feedback.”
A taste of life working with a big city label, along with a little bit of background with the world of journalism, are two of the driving forces behind Dreis’ blossoming career.
“One side of journalism that inspired my start in music was just physically writing the articles. Having the experience of writing on a constant basis really shapes the way I write my lyrics, and writing in a concise and meaningful manner,” said Dreis. “Being able to talk to musicians and artists that I’ve admired for years when they toured through Columbia, and knowing that they have come from a similar background and similar experiences and were able to become so successful, is really inspiring.”
For now Dreis, with all of her musical influences coming together to inspire songs such as “Dancing to a Symphony,” which incorporates the beautiful yet unexpected classical violin, is more than happy letting all of her music just fall into place.
“It’s kind of funny how there are these two worlds that people talk about. There is the elitist classical environment and then there’s the accessible pop environment,” said Dreis. “I haven’t really made a conscious decision about what I’m going to do in the future, but I do enjoy having strings in my music. I am considering buying an electric guitar for Christmas, so we’ll see where it all goes. I’m still trying to figure out if I want more of a rock influence or to stick with folk.”
MIND THE GAP: Haley Dreis had on sexy boot jeans. Dreis was modeling a pair of The Gap’s new 1969 line of denim, but she wasn’t walking around the store: She was performing.
Dreis, a folk-pop singer, who counts Sara Bareilles, John Mayer and Sarah McLachlan as influences, won the clothing retailer’s “Born to Play” competition. The live simultaneous acoustic event was held Aug. 20 in Gap stores across the country to celebrate 40 years of the brand’s jeans.
Accompanied on acoustic guitar by Patrick Mitchell, Dreis performed songs from her debut CD, “Beautiful to Me. ” Dreis is a compelling performer, one of the scene’s brightest voices.
She sat down at a keyboard to play “I Believe in Love, ” where her phrasing was more like Michelle Branch than Bareilles, especially when she spelled out love, stringing the letters together with harmonic grace and skill. Besides Hannah Miller, I can’t think of a singer in town who has as much command of their vocal flutters, something Dreis also displayed on “Not Alone. ”
“They should put you in commercials,” someone said during the set.
Dreis would agree. Although she’s new to performing, she understands music licensing is the key to sustaining a music career.
“It’s a great opportunity for independent musicians to get exposure,” she said of The Gap promotion. “It’s sort of a way that we can creep into other people.”
Dreis, who is majoring in violin performance and journalism at USC, turns 20 today. Happy birthday, and we hope to hear more from you soon.
|Issue #22.33 :: 08/18/2009 - 08/24/2009|
Bridging the Gap
BY PATRICK WALL
Haley Dreis was born to play. Or at least that’s what The Gap thinks: The 19-year-old music and journalism major at the University of South Carolina won the regional competition San Francisco-based clothier’s Born to Play competition, which aims to be the largest simultaneous live acoustic music event in history. Over 700 acts will perform at over 700 Gap stores across the country; Dreis performs at the Columbiana Centre store from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Dreis, a New Jersey native, entered the contest on a whim via the elctronic press kit site Sonicbids.com.
Haley Dreis was “Born to Play” — for clothing retailer The Gap.
Dreis will perform as part of “Born to Play,” a live simultaneous acoustic event in The Gap’s stores across the country. The event will celebrate 40 years of Gap jeans.
Dreis will play a set from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at The Gap at Columbiana Centre, 100 Columbiana Circle.
“It’s kind of a funny gig,” said Dreis, a 19-year-old USC music and journalism major. “I never expected to do something like this as a musician.
“It’s a great way for me to get exposure, and them as well.”
Dreis isn’t the only local performing for The Gap.
When Haley Dreis sings about "Dancing to a Symphony" on the second track of her debut album Beautiful to Me, she isn't just throwing out fancy terms. The track, which namechecks Mozart and Beethoven, was written and performed by someone who has studied classical violin since she was six.
The twist is, Beautiful to Me is a pop record. Looking back on her background, Dreis isn't sure how she got to the current point, except that, at its essence, all music is related.
"Crossing over to the pop world is difficult as a classical musician," she said in a recent interview. "I'm not really crossing over because I think that music is just the base and it extends into different genres and whatever your interests are. Just because I do pop music doesn't mean I'm not going to do classical ever again."
She won't deny, though, that her singer-songwriter approach marks a distinct shift of gears for someone who's been in the classical world.
"I've been immersed in the classical music realm, which is a very different feel. I think it's more cutthroat, fierce, competitive," Dreis said. "But at the same time, you get a lot of background in theory and history. I feel like I'm well versed enough to write a song. I'm comfortable with melody. Playing the violin has helped me with melody lines."
The base classical violin has provided Dreis is evident in a record more refined and musically complex than one might expect from a 19-year-old college student who has been writing songs for less than two years. Songs like the title track, "Crying Out for You," "Take Away the Pain" and "I Will Heal You" sound as though they have to have been written by someone much more experienced.
But what Dreis may lack in age and experience, she makes up for in drive. She is a double major in music and journalism at the University of South Carolina and is spending the summer promoting the album and looking for a label. When asked when she sleeps, Dreis could only laugh.
"That's actually a big problem for me. Multi-tasking has always been a real discipline that I've been trying to get down myself," Dreis said. "I tend to over extend myself in general, but I have always been able to focus as a musician. I think that's always been a core focus in my life."
With her journalism major, Dreis is a writer for USC's Daily Gamecock, which has given her the chance to interview artists like Gavin DeGraw and Katy Perry. The experience has not only given her the chance to learn from these artists, but also served as a sort of inspiration.
"It's really interesting because I started songwriting a year ago, and this was all after I started writing for the Daily Gamecock. I guess it must have sparked my interest," Dreis said. "I would always ask, 'How do you write a song?' I craved that kind of information. It's kind of inspirational because most people's stories are 'I started at the bottom, rising to the top.' That kind of gave me a little bit of hope when I decided to pursue it."
And once the songwriting started, Dreis went at it the only way she knows how: all out. She taught herself to play guitar over winter break more than a year ago and also wrote her first song. After recording the song with some friends, she had to have more.
"I was like, 'Wait a minute; this is awesome. This is so much fun,'" she said. I decided maybe I should continue writing songs for fun. Over that summer I wrote a song a day. I really pushed myself to focus on that."
The record shows the fruits of all the work. Dreis has a knack for writing accessible pop without being formulaic or mimicking someone else. One doesn't coming out of listening to this record thinking it sounds like this artist or that artist.
It sounds like a Haley Dreis record. For a debut, that may be the most important quality to possess.
My spin: B+
With Beautiful to Me, Dreis proves herself to be a young artist to be heard. The songs are well written lyrically and musically, showing the artist's background as a writer and musician. She also shows herself to be adept on the violin, guitar and piano as needed.
The album also changes speeds well, moving seamlessly between ballads like "Dancing to a Symphony" and "Crying Out For You" and upbeat numbers like "I Believe In Love" and "Other Side."
The album's high point comes late in the running, with three straight gems in "I Will Heal You," "Beautiful to Me" and "Take Away the Pain." The three show a depth of emotion and a range of style and tempo.
For anyone wanting to hear a new voice in pop music with a maturity and knowledge beyond her years, Beautiful to Me should be checked out.
The album can be purchased here and should be available on iTunes later this month.
Beautiful to Me
The Players: Haley Dreis-vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, piano; Hayden Aaron-vocals, acoustic guitar; Patrick Mitchell-acoustic and electric guitars, bass; Grace Wetzel-piano; Jonathan Palance-drums
One of this year’s most pleasant surprises on the local music scene in Columbia has been the emergence of Haley Dreis, whose debut album is turning ears near and far with its sophisticated pop-rock sound. Despite how it might seem, Dreis didn’t just materialize out of nowhere, however. The 20-year-old University of South Carolina student is a classical violin and journalism student, and her byline has appeared in The Daily Gamecock numerous times by album reviews and live music coverage.
“Writing for The Gamecock sparked my interest in the whole music scene,” Dreis says. “I haven’t had any formal training in composition, but I’ve always loved pop music, all different kinds of music: soul, folk, rock, blues.”
Her own songwriting stimulus was from a classmate, she says.
“I randomly wrote a song with a friend in my dorm and recorded it for fun,” Dreis says. “I enjoyed the process so much I decided to write more and ended up writing a song a day for several weeks.”
The end result of that writing binge, Beautiful to Me, gets an official release with this week’s show at the White Mule, though it has been available at CD Baby, Itunes and Dreis’ shows since mid-July.
Awash in crisp pop production values and songs that mirror the slickly packaged hits of Sarah Bareilles or Colbie Caillat, what stands out most is the layered arrangements, something Dreis says is a direct result of her musical background and training.
“Having classical training has definitely influenced how I have written my songs,” she says. “It set a good foundation for knowing what chords come next; having a theory background helped me develop an ear over time to pay attention to those close details of how something should sound.”
The positive reception to the album has given Dreis some pleasant surprises of her own, from winning a chance to play for a Gap-sponsored music promotion to a slot in this year’s recent Free Times Music Crawl, an event that she was covering as a reporter just one year ago. As Dreis tells it, even her professors at the USC music school have been supportive.
“I was unsure of how they would react, since I predominantly have done classical,” Dreis admits. “[School of Music assistant professor] Craig Butterfield took an early interest: he’s a coach for the jazz string quartet and has a really open mind, musically. I told my violin teacher, too, and he’s appreciative but I think he doesn’t really know how to react.”
Her professors ought to take a listen to “Dancing to a Symphony,” the composition that most obviously puts Dreis’ classical background to use in a song-length metaphor.
“I think the great thing about that song is that I do namecheck classical composers, but in a way that relates to people in everyday life,” Dreis says. “They were real people who shared emotional experiences that people like us do, too. It’s a way to take these composers that I’ve studied for so long and show my new listeners how they are relatable as individuals.”
Dreis herself is a pretty relatable individual, and even she realizes just how unusual her musical situation is.
“Even though this album is something out of my element, I’ve had a grasp on music for a long time,” Dreis says. “I’m just happy for the positive reaction, it’s really nice when you’re performing and interacting with an audience.”
A University of South Carolina student has put together a fine collection of pop songs that explore an array of emotions. Haley Dreis wrote and produced Beautiful to Me and recorded it at USC. These songs could easily fit into the soundtrack of any teen romance, but they also reveal a level of maturity rare in a young artist.
Although Dreis explores familiar themes of heartbreak and depression, she avoids wallowing in helplessness. Questions are to be asked ("Take Away The Pain"). Lessons are to be learned ("Other Side"). Declarations are to be made ("Take It All Away," "I Believe In Love"). "I Will Heal You" examines doubt, longing and sadness. The title track is a successful exercise in self-affirmation.
The saccharin sweetness of the music belies the fact that she is in complete control, guiding the listener on a soul-searching expedition.
Dreis plays guitar, piano and violin. From the perspective of a classically trained musician, "Dancing To A Symphony" explores the challenge of finding meaning and fulfillment in life.
Beautiful to Me is highly melodic, but Dreis knows how to use the piano as a pounding rhythm machine when the mood requires it. Strings also express the mood without being overbearing or sappy. Vocals, though pleasant, sometimes sound as if they have emerged from a musical-theater production. Delivery is clear and precise. It will be interesting to hear how time seasons her voice -- and her outlook on life -- as Dreis continues what will hopefully be a long musical journey.
The CD is sold through www.cdbaby.com; songs can be downloaded from iTunes. A portion of the album's proceeds will go to the Sierra Club and UNC School of the Arts, where Dreis attended high school. More information, including videos, can be found at www.haleydreis.com.
Thursday, July 15:
Haley Dreis —
Ever since Haley Dreis appeared on the scene with her polished pop-rock sound and captivating, radio-ready songs, she has been one of the most talked about up-and-coming acts in the city. Those drawn to the show by that buzz will be witness to a whole host of young homegrown talent. Among said talent are the Columbia-based CherryCase, which recently released its debut EP showcasing an impressive Dashboard Confessional-inspired sound, and Greenville’s Andy Lehman and the Night Moves, which favor a cinematic, acoustic-based approach that moves between pensive verses and soaring choruses. Also on the bill is Sleepset, another impressive and impressively young Columbia band. K. Petersen
New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $5 ($8 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com.
Haley Dreis @ NBT Saturday
Haley Dreis has accomplished a lot for a young singer-songwriter, considering the fact that she just emerged on the local music scene a little over a year ago. If you haven’t heard her on WNOK, WXRY or WUSC yet (or even if you have), you’ll have a chance to see what the buzz is about when she takes the stage at New Brookland Tavern this Saturday night.
Dreis, a fourth-year music student at USC, released her debut album “Beautiful To Me” in 2009, received nothing but positive reviews from the local press, and even got a nod from No Depression. The New Brookland show will be a sounding board for a few new songs, alongside cuts from the album, in what she calls “their fully envisioned, full-band form.”
Cherrycase, Andy Lehman & The Night Moves, and Sleepset open the show. Doors at 7:30, show starts at 8.