It was not until she went to an ayahuasca ceremony five years ago that Haley Harkin felt brave enough to share her songs in public. Before that, the fear replaced the folk singer-songwriter’s passion for music.
“All my life, I was really scared to play my music in front of others,” Harkin says. “I never considered myself a writer. As a kid, I used to say to myself that if I wanted to be a singer, I just had to do cover songs. Even playing guitar in front of people was physically disabling. I wanted to sweat and shake. “
Harkin, who lives in Fort Collins, says the trajectory of her life changed after attending a psychedelic retreat in Brazil in 2016, where she attended a plant medicine ceremony. She drank ayahuasca, a traditional Amazonian psychotropic brew that is said to be quickly effective and therapeutic against depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and more. Harkin was asked to perform during the ceremony, and she says the fear she carried with her for years began to lift from her shoulders. From that point on, the former hair stylist began to pursue music again.
“The experience had a domino effect,” she says. “It opened up all the songwriting and music for me.”
The 26-year-old musician, who plays guitar, Native American flute, African harp, keyboard and banjo, began writing more and more songs. She also began paying to attend ayahuasca ceremonies, cocoa ceremonies and yoga classes in her hometown of Austin, Texas, eager to further develop her knowledge of herbal medicine and continue on her journey of self-discovery. Harkin says it was in these ceremonial settings that she felt safe and inspired to share her music – specifically songs about healing.
“When I performed, emotions would pop up and I had to move through them in real time in front of everyone, which was hard,” says Harkin, attributing some of his fear of having a difficult childhood and being bullied at school. “But having this community of like-minded people allowed me to reveal my authentic self, nurture my craft, and truly let myself receive attention – something I had never felt confident I was worthy of before.”
On her latest work, To heal her, Harkin depicts his inner journey. The 7-track deep-feeling EP, which can now be streamed, celebrates her self-discovery and empowerment from the last three to four years. The people-meets-tribal songs are full of basic lyrics and shed light on the vocalist’s ups and downs by being recognized with her true nature while examining herself with honest eyes.
“We have to go inward and look inward before we can really be there for others outward,” Harkin says. “I’ve also learned that when fear shows up, do it, you’re scared anyway.”
With themes such as nature, love and humanity, To heal her is structurally layered with soothing acoustic guitar, banjo, saxophone, flute and orchestral strings, with each composition floating embedded in the next.
“When I wrote this EP, the songs came in full form. I would have a tendency to grab my diary and let the songs flow out, which came with full lyrics, “Harkin recalls.” I tried not to get involved in the process, and if there were any minor adjustments, I made them later and continued. it minimally. “
Harkin best describes his style as folk medicine music, while others have referred to it as “bare feet on grass.”
“I took the time to do this project. I really listened and went through the songs carefully,” says Harkin. “It can take twenty times to listen to a recording before an idea comes up, like adding a harmony layer, a shaker or another instrument. I tried to fine-tune these little touches to texture my songs and add noticeable flavors that made them alive and full of life. ”
In the opening clip, “All Things Grow”, Harkin added an ‘Oooh’ and added some delays and reverberations to the song to create a bigger mood. “With ‘I Saw Myself’, I enhanced it with some xylophone, banjo and tambourines,” she says, “and on ‘My Love for You’ I played a calabash – a squash drum made from a hollowed out pumpkin.”
The songwriter released his full-length debut album, rootedin 2019, which she followed The gift of innocencea four-track EP released in 2020.
Harkin says one of the main reasons she and her partner moved to Colorado last May was to be closer to nature and the mountains. “Living in this state is a good hub for what I do because it’s more progressive than Austin,” she adds.
She says her desire is to continue growing live music in Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and beyond. “Before COVID, I played some coffee shops and breweries back in Austin, but now I’m particularly interested in playing that kind of venue and prefer to concentrate specifically on ceremonial performances, which are still a live music scene,” says Harkin. “It’s just another approach to a traditional concert; it reformulates what that music experience looks like and brings out more connection. “
To heal her is available now at all streaming platforms. For more information on Haley Harkin, visit haleyharkin.com/music.