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Alt singer Jackie Hayes is inspired by MCR tour diaries, ’90s nostalgia, & playing live

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Alternative artist Jackie Hayes “experienced a lifetime” between writing her debut album Over & Over and its release on Pack Records in late 2022.

“[The songs on Over & Over had] been with me for so long; it’s exciting to know they are out in the world,” she says over the phone from her apartment in Los Angeles. The album, written over a half and a half, was a crash course for Hayes in terms of creating a record. However, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter was already well-versed in performing live, due to an extensive tour with over 50 shows in 2022 alone.

Read more: Every Demi Lovato album ranked

Hayes grew up in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, Illinois, playing music in her local church and events around town. It was viewing tour diary videos on YouTube in middle school, though, that really got her hooked on performing and turned music into her passion. She says, “I remember they released the My Chemical Romance documentary. I remember watching and just being like, ‘I want to tour.’”

[Photo by Paige Strickland]

At 19, Hayes relocated to the Windy City where she met her current bandmates, as well as Billy Lemos (Omar Apollo, Dua Saleh), who would become her producer and long-time collaborator. Despite recently settling in LA, she considers Chicago an integral part of her musical career, saying, “The people I work with all still live in Chicago. We’re in it for the long run.” 

2021 saw her transition from a bedroom-pop sound to a more angsty, rock-inspired vibe with the release of her EP There’s Always Going To Be Something. “Writing songs and production was all new to me. I was just trying out a bunch of different things to see what works because I was so young,” she says about her early singles. As you can hear on Over & Over, alt-rock is clearly the genre she feels most at home in.

Her love for playing live, and translating music from the studio to the stage, is also clearly visible. Tracks like “Bite Me” and “Best of It” offer upbeat tempos that are sure to get any mosh pit started, even as they explore Hayes’ isolation felt during the record’s conception. 

In fact, Hayes heads to the stage early on to trial-run new tracks and make revisions along the way. She says, “I think to myself when I write, ‘How’s this going to be live?’” 

Even prior to the release of Over & Over, Hayes played unreleased songs on tour, then tweaked things here and there to solidify the official recordings. “Being able to play them again and process them that way made me realize certain things that I wanted to change,” she says.

Along with the alternative influence on the album also came the alternative look. Specifically, Hayes drew from ’90s pop culture. The singles’ artwork feature her sitting or standing in front of a bright-colored wall with fonts in complementing colors, reminiscent of PJ Harvey’s Dry and Fiona Apple’s Tidal. “What inspired me was definitely being on Tumblr again,” she says. “I started looking at a bunch of stuff, a lot of things from the ’90s. But sometimes, it’s not even from a musician — it’s just a flyer that I saw that was made in the ’90s or a photo shoot from a magazine that was around.”

Hayes may have recently released an album with a fully formed vision surrounding it, but she’s already looking ahead at new material. She says, “It’s nice; I can move on to the next thing because these songs have been with me … It feels so much easier to make music now that I did that.” 

She’s going to hold onto her alt inspiration going forward, too. She played a couple of shows supporting KennyHoopla late last year — her sound fitting perfectly on the bill — and her new slate of songs are said to draw from Radiohead influence. 

She says, “The new music kind of serves me more, you know? It shows people more of what I’m trying to do.” Maybe if fans are lucky, they’ll get to hear the piercing energy of her Over & Over songs, and potentially even new tracks, when she inevitably heads back out on the road and takes the music live. 

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