Grace Hayes, 20, closes her eyes when she talks. She claps her hands to emphasize her points, and she switches between impersonations in her stories. Talking can turn into singing at any time.
She’s a performing artist with talents in acting, modeling, poetry and comedy. She also has a promising career as a singer/songwriter, producing music across genres.
“It boils down to human connection,” she said. “As long as you’re just, like, blessing someone somehow, it doesn’t matter the medium. That’s the goal for me, just getting my Grace Hayes-ness out there.”
Her Plan A is becoming a full-time musician. She’s destroying plan B.
“Plan B was whatever not music-ing may entail,” said Hayes. “Having an uncreative job, flying autopilot, merely surviving, drowning in self-doubt. Dating.”
Plan B was playing it safe and avoiding vulnerability. Forget that.
In 2013, she finished her first album, Unconventional, as her senior project at Excel Christian School in Sparks. She was 16 years old with an eyebrow-raising voice, rejigging Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu. School project or not, the whole album is well produced. It’s all playful pop music and a poetic parade of old clichés like love lost and hating boys. That was four years ago, and Hayes has evolved. But, she’s still honing the creative silliness in her songwriting.
Most recently she released the self-proclaimed “Reno Anthem” that pokes fun at our hometown stereotypes. It’s like a folksy, downtempo “We Didn’t Start The Fire” for Northern Nevada, filmed on Hayes’ iPhone. She wants to be more strategic with her online content.
“I just want to take all of my experiences and all of my values—whatever I find to be relevant—and create based on that, get it out there, let it ripple,” she said.
Right now she’s working on another solo album, possibly to be released later this year. She’s testing out some of the tracks live around Reno this summer, including a show at Stamp Social Club in June.
Hayes effectively uses satire. In one catchy, self-deprecating ballad called “Reckless Abandon,” she sings about the kind of days where you put both feet in the same pant leg and accidentally call your friend by the wrong name.
Hayes is also starting a project called Sky Cats, an electronic duo with fellow Reno musician Bazooka Zac. Zac is a multi-instrumentalist “chillwave” producer and performer. His glitchy snyths and hip-hop drums are an alternate universe from Hayes’ Unconventional album. Their combined sound is like Corrine Bailey Rae meets Flying Lotus.
“Grace has challenged me to be a better producer and songwriter in a few short months,” Zac said. “She’s really developing complex melodies and vocal layering that’s really fun to design and produce.”
The duo has put over a hundred hours into recording and preparing for their debut show July 14 at the Saint with Bay Area electro R&B band The Seshen.
For Hayes, Plan A appears to be in clear sight. Technically, she’s already succeeding as a full-time musician. Between recording, writing and performing, she also teaches voice lessons. But the sense she exudes when she’s talks about her career or plays onstage is more lighthearted than belabored. You can’t really tell how hard she’s grinding behind all of the fun she’s having.