True Story: I’m A Working Musician














This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of one of my favorite local musicians, Haley Bonar.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m 31 years old and live in St. Paul, MN. I’ve been in MN for 12 years but grew up in the Black Hills, SD. I like to hike, bake cookies, and watch movies for fun.

At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?
I’m not sure I ever made a “decision” so much as just followed this path because one thing led to the other. When I called my dad at age 19 to ask if I should drop out of school to go on tour, his reaction was positive, and he encouraged that decision. My family and friends have always been very supportive.
For those people who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe it? Who are your influences?
It ranges from delicate and folky to raucous and rocky, but I never like to stay in one musical dimension for to long.
These days you work full time as a musician. Did you ever take side jobs to support your music?
Making music for a living is so much more than just being a rock star and going on tour.. everyone has to figure out creative ways to make it work. I’ve worked in coffee shops, nannied for families, and have taught music classes or seminars and write music for ad companies. Whatever it takes to remain creative and keep paying the bills.
Tell us about your song-writing process. Is it a collaborative process? How long do you work on any given song before you feel it’s ‘done’?
I don’t collaborate while writing songs. It’s a super personal process that requires nobody being within earshot! 🙂
I can work on a song anywhere from an hour to weeks or months. It all depends on the song and how much of it falls into place at first. When I’m satisfied with the lyrics, I’m done.
The music industry has changed so much – even since you started performing. How do you feel about these changes? Have you used any non-traditional models to get your music into your fans’ hands?
I don’t see the point in ruminating over the changes in the music industry anymore… It is what it is. We forge on, even if it’s more difficult or you have to work harder. The only thing that can never change is good artists making good work- they will exist no matter what because they don’t have a choice.

I used Kickstarter in 2010 to help release my album “Golder“, and I thought all in all it was a super powerful and inspiring way to raise money for music that people believed in.

What’s one thing that has surprised you about making music?
That it can often feel like an abusive relationship. I go from “oh I LOVE doing this for a living” to “I can’t take this anymore, I quit, blah blah blah” very frequently. It’s hard to keep up confidence all the time in such an emotionally driven business. But at the end of the day, I always go back. 🙂
Has this career choice affected other areas of your life?
I think, if anything, it has only been a positive in any relationships with people whom I love and who love me back.
How do you feel when you’re repeatedly performing songs that you wrote about a difficult or really personal experience?
I think at a certain point you emotionally disconnect from a song in a way. The original pain or whatever goes into creating a song or an album is put into the actual writing and or recording process. After that, I don’t think it’s ‘ours’ anymore. We release it into the world and then it’s open to interpretation. Of course there is emotion involved when performing, but it is never quite the same as the original moments of the song’s birth.
What’s one thing that music has taught you that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
You can’t fake honesty.

P.S. Two more interviews about music-related jobs: I’m a roadie and I’m on Broadway.

photo credits: the line of best fit // big hassle

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1 Comment

  1. Ashley Leath

    I just recently discovered Haley and really enjoy her music! It was interesting to learn more about her. Wish I lived closer to see her live.

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