GREENFIELD — Singer-songwriter Haley Jonay’s most recent blog post describes rediscovering the first video she ever uploaded to YouTube: a cover of herself singing Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound.”
That was three years ago. Since then, the Greenfield teen has recorded an album, sung a duet backstage with Ed Sheeran and performed at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville. Reflecting on how far she has come in that time, she ends the post: “Three years down, infinity to go.”
Like many girls, she grew up singing and dreamed of being a rock star. It’s a dream 17-year-old Jonay expects to embrace — not outgrow. Her songs span a variety of genres; she cites Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and John Lennon as her musical influences.
‘Just kind of happened’
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Jonay remembers her decision around the age of 12 to pursue a career in music performance and credits the supportive and encouraging atmosphere created by her parents for making it an easy transition from singing as a hobby to a career.“It just kind of happened naturally,” Jonay said. “The TV was always on ‘High School Musical’ or ‘Hannah Montana,’ and there I was, always singing along. You only live one life. Why not live it to the fullest now?”
She said she’s blessed to have supportive parents, Jim and Kim Foreman, who allow her to pursue what makes her happy. On the weekends, they serve as her roadies; Jim is her manager, and Kim works the merchandise table during the performances. They are also charged with scheduling between 60 and 80 performances a year and making sure their daughter gets to every one on time.
What’s in a name?
The name, Haley Jonay, honors her first name and her middle name — Haley Foreman is her legal name. Initially, her mother was apprehensive about using her daughter’s real name in public and on the Internet, so to her audiences, she became Haley Jonay.Jonay knows her chosen path is a difficult one.
“The music industry is definitely intimidating, but this is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12,” Jonay said. “It’s all I want to do. It is my passion, my love.”
Jonay’s first solo performance was at a café in Fishers, the Coffee Spoon, which has since closed. A teacher in charge of her school’s annual talent show at Mt. Vernon Middle School, Dean Falkenberg, had seen Jonay perform. Impressed by her talent and her work ethic, he helped her land the gig in Fishers.“Haley had won the talent show performing a Lady Gaga song, first on keyboard and finishing up on guitar,” Falkenberg said. “It was the most over-the-top act I’d seen in 20 years of the talent show.”Falkenberg encouraged Jonay to audition for a performance spot, so Jonay sent the café manager a link to a couple of her YouTube videos. She got the job.
Jonay laughed remembering how she set up herself up in the corner of the restaurant and accompanied herself on keyboard and guitar for the three patrons and two wait staff members who were there to hear her sing. Family and friends showed up later to provide some support.
In 2012, a family trip to Nashville, Tennessee, was an inspirational spark for her.Jonay came home with a CD of an original song recorded at Ryman Auditorium and a renewed desire to make her dream come true.“I thought, ‘This has to happen. I want to make an album. I want to perform. This is a tangible thing, and I can do this,’” Jonay said.
Since then, Jonay has continued to perform at cafés and coffee shops, festivals, and at the Indiana Grand Racing Casino in front of 5,000 people, her biggest audience yet.
It was at a festival in Brown County where Jonay crossed paths with Darrick Day, a musician and a music producer. He met Jonay backstage after her set and said her music gave him chills, and he was going to help her record her first CD.
“I know a good voice when I hear one,” Day said. “Haley broadcasts more than a good voice; she broadcasts her soul, her all. She will be a star, and I knew it that very first time I saw her.”
Jonay’s self-titled CD of original songs was released in November. The first pressing was 500 CDs, and she has sold all but 10 of them. Her music is available for download on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.
She said she has gotten a lot of positive feedback about her songs, but there has also been the occasional critic.
“Music is so personal,” Jonay said. “You put yourself out there, and sometimes, it’s heartbreaking.”
Jonay has already met many of her goals. She has a CD of her music, and she also has played at Klipsch Music Center. Two years ago, she was lucky enough to get hold of a backstage pass to meet Ed Sheeran. While everyone else was asking for autographs and photos, Jonay only wanted to sing a chorus of Sheeran’s hit, “Lego House” with him. She did.
Two years later, when Sheeran returned to Klipsch for another concert, Jonay, at Sheeran’s recommendation, got to play on a side stage at the venue before his concert started.
Aside from being on stage, Jonay’s favorite thing to do is pose for photos and sign autographs for her “frans” — “They are like friends AND fans,” Jonay said.
Jonay’s mother remembers watching her daughter sign autographs after one of the casino performances.
“I know she was tired,” Foreman said, “but she had a line of people; some waited 2½ hours to meet her, and she spent time with every one of them. I was just as proud of her for that as for her singing.”
To accommodate her hectic schedule, the Greenfield senior has attended Connections Academy online school for the past two years, which allows her the flexibility to focus on her career and still pursue an education.
Although Jonay is focused on her career, she hasn’t ruled out going to college. She is considering Ball State University or perhaps a school that will get her closer to Nashville.
She is also thinking about a second CD and how her sound might evolve. She is a self-proclaimed “melting pot of genres” with a little bit of everything.
Whatever decisions Jonay makes regarding her future in the music business, she knows that, so far, it has been a long and interesting journey.
But she still has “infinity to go.”
This is the second in an occasional series about creative people with Hancock County connections.