Releasing a debut single can take years of hard work, but for Bristol-born pop singer HAIZ the effort is more than paying off.
When it comes to appreciating a wide range of musical genres, UK singer-songwriter HAIZ (real name Hannah MacLeod) can go to the front of the queue – and for that she can thank (or blame) her parents. “As a kid, when I was in my dad’s car I would listen to Queen and AC/DC, and when I was in my mum’s car it would be the Spice Girls and Britney Spears,” she laughs. “So who knows – maybe there’ll be a rock album down the line!”
There is little trace of MacLeod’s penchant for hard rock in her debut single ‘Betrayed’, released in September this year. A smooth, assured electronica track with a gorgeous downtempo acoustic chorus, it is an impressive debut which more than hints MacLeod has what it takes to make a major impression on the music scene. Not that music was ever her first choice. “I wanted to be a vet when I was younger, I never really grew up wanting to be a pop star,” she recalls. Her father wanted her to learn guitar, which she duly did, but it wasn’t until she starting taking vocal lessons and singing that the pop star urge kicked in.
“I was starting to sing at school in front of other people and parents would come up to me and say, ‘You’re actually really good’,” she remembers. “Then a few years later I realised I wanted to be a songwriter as well.” Her mother encouraged her to take part in musical theatre and she started writing music in her mid-teens. “I went to a college in Bristol – which is where I’m from – and that’s where I was encouraged to write songs. So I started writing songs there and that was it!” she laughs.
Although she released some tracks online in the early 2010s, it was not until MacLeod moved to London four years ago that she began to take music seriously. And while her debut single has been a long four years in the making, it was a sacrifice she was prepared to make. “It got to the point where people I knew would ask if I was still doing music anymore. And it broke my heart,” she says. “I wanted it to be a full package rather than just me releasing a song because I got impatient. I had a plan. I wanted to know where I wanted to be.”
Creating the HAIZ concept shifted her career up a gear, both mentally and creatively. “I feel like I need to come up with a cool story for the name because there really isn’t one,” she laughs. “My previous manager said I had to get a new name because ‘Hannah’ was too boring. It was going to be ‘Ryzer’ at one point. It then became HAIZE and we then dropped the E to get HAIZ.” With a new name and new focus, MacLeod starting writing and recording ‘Betrayed’ in mid-2016. “It took quite a long time to write,” she reveals. “We came up with so many different versions of the chorus because it was never punchy enough for me.”
The song details the breakdown of a relationship between two friends – ‘I keep my enemies closer/I knew I couldn’t trust you’ – and MacLeod admits the song is autobiographical. “There was a bad situation with this girl who did something horrible,” she opens up. “I wanted her to know how much she hurt me. It was becoming a poison in my mind and my biggest closure was to just sing it out.” Writing the song with her producer Alex Bakker was, she says, “like therapy”. “As soon as it was written, I was like, ‘Okay, that’s dealt with!’ I’m cool now, I’m back to being normal.”
With the official launch of her career complete, MacLeod is now preparing to release more music, along with her first music video. “I’m going to be releasing a new single in early 2018. It’s going to be a little bit more poppy, a little bit more fun,” she says. “I’ve also got two more singles in the pipeline. They might be released together as a mini-EP or individually as singles. I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet.”
Whatever she chooses to do, it’s clear MacLeod already possesses an ability to create smart, memorable pop music. Determined not to box herself in, she declares that she wants to remain as open as possible to the many forms pop music can take – an approach that can only serve her well. “I tend to listen to alternative pop. I like things which have got a lot of depth. But then I also quite like fun songs,” she says, citing Banks, Lorde and Dua Lipa as some of her current pop favourites. “But I like to experiment. It’s always good to keep your horizons broad. As a new artist, it’s the best thing you can do, because nobody can say, ‘That’s so not like her.’
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next other than keep experimenting. All I know is I just want to keep releasing music because I love it.”