*Exclusive Interview* Haley & Michaels Gets Personal

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Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels, musically known as Haley & Michaels, have a lot to be excited about lately. They just released their fourth single to Sirius XM The Highway (“Just Another Love Song,” “500 Miles,” “One More Night,” and now “Giving It All (To You)”), they headlined a Fourth of July show, and, perhaps the most life-changing of all, they just tied the knot.

Of course, being on cloud nine and wanting to talk about anything and everything, Ryan opened the door for a fun interview when he exclaimed, “awesome! Well, we’ll tell you anything you want to know!” Which is exactly what NashvilleGab likes to hear! Unfortunately, he allegedly got slapped by his duo partner and wife, Shannon, a couple of seconds later for his offer, but the two were perfectly candid with us, regardless!

Shannon and Ryan have quite the fated meeting, having grown up miles apart in Northern California, both dipping their toes into the musical waters in a geographical area that wasn’t flourishing with aspiring country artists at that time. While pursuing their solo careers, each of the halves that make this duo whole was working with the same guitar player, but never met. Ultimately, Ryan made the move to Nashville to take one step closer to his dream, while Shannon was traveling back and forth. Eventually their shared guitar player made the connection, and the two compared notes, recognizing the similarities in their backgrounds.

However, this wasn’t the first time the two had crossed paths; it just took a Facebook message from Shannon to jog Ryan’s memory.

I recognized her name and realized that we had had this same kind of conversation seven years prior. That our moms had actually tried to introduce us through a mutual friend. So, when we got together (Shannon joins in “on MySpace”), on MySpace, by the way, yeah. So, we kind of knew of each other and knew that we were both singing country music and were from the Bay Area, something we bonded over right away.

When Shannon joined Ryan and his band during a show at Roxy Theatre and sang with them, the two immediately bonded musically, as well. Soon thereafter they came together for a writing session, the result of which was “The Price I Pay,” the winner of Song of the Year at the Nashville Independent Music Awards that year. And, as they say, Haley & Michaels was born.

Needless to say, the family members who tried to introduce them years before were filled with “I told you so’s,” and rightfully so!

As Haley & Michaels pressed forward and their musical and personal relationships with one another grew, they began to realize that the bond they were sharing as Shannon and Ryan could affect their Haley & Michaels product. They immediately put the kibash on a catalog full of love songs to make sure they stayed well-rounded musically.

Shannon:

One of the things, when we got engaged, that we promised each other was that we wouldn’t turn into that couple that only sings love songs, just because that make us probably lose excitement for the music. I think one of my favorite things is writing about all different kinds of relationships and aspects of things people can feel towards each other, and right now it’s interesting because we happen to be pushing our wedding song, but I would say that I still have fun with singing about all different kinds of things.

Ryan:

We want to be able to, not only for us artistically, we want to be able to connect with everybody, so I think it’s important, like she said, that we’re always being universal, and remembering that even though we’re happy and we’re out there promoting our wedding song, that there’s all aspects of relationships for everybody.

Speaking of that wedding song, an interesting piece of information is that Shannon actually walked down the aisle to “Giving It All (To You),” making things a bit non-traditional on the couple’s big day. However, that wasn’t always the plan, and we have Shannon’s father to thank for taking what could have been a potentially painfully awkward several minutes and turning them into something beautiful.

Shannon:

Originally, when we wrote that song we actually sat down to write our wedding vows and ended up writing that song instead, and so we wanted to incorporate some of those lyrics into our vows, and we ended up using some of the lyrics, but everything we tried felt so corny. At one point, we actually, we were gonna play the song as our vows and like sit there and like look at each other while the song was playing. We realized that would be the most awkward, uncomfortable thing. I’m so happy we figured it out before we actually tried it. Like standing still and staring at each other for three minutes and forty something seconds.

Ryan:

We were actually having breakfast with Shannon’s dad and we were telling him “We wrote this to be our vows and we really want to play it at our wedding, but it would be really uncomfortable staring at each other,” and he goes “I thought you were going to play it while she was walking down the aisle!” And we were like “oh…” That’s kind of how it happened!

For a brief moment following that portion of the discussion, I was admittedly uncomfortable because I couldn’t shake the image of the two staring at each other and rocking back and forth on their heels out of awkwardness. Thank goodness for good ol’ dad coming up with the plan to save the day!

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Once their wedding ended and they headed off on their honeymoon, the two were in a state of euphoria, but couldn’t resist doing a little bit of work while on vacation. While on their honeymoon, the pair wrote a song that they believe may be the followup single to “Giving It All (To You).” Ryan explained that, as songwriters, they are pulling from personal experiences, so it seems only natural that fans should expect some more romantically-themed projects at the moment.

Since the two became personal involved, they have, of course, seen an evolution in their own music, but one of the things that Shannon highlights the most isn’t necessarily in the subject matter of the songs, but, instead, is in what happens behind the scenes of their creations.

I think another way our relationship has changed our music is just, learning to trust each other is a big part of it. Whether or not it’s in the writing room or on stage, I just think that growing in that trust has helped and come out in our music as well. . . . We have really learned to work together and divide and conquer, and we’ve learned to trust each others’ strengths. We’re both Type A, we’re both very strong personalities, so at first it was like we both wanted to be in charge of every single thing, and we realized that we would never get anything done if that was the case, so I think we really learned how to . . . I know when to let Ryan take charge of something, I feel like he does the same with me. So, that’s been a little bit different in a good way.

Two Type A personalities, one duo, one shared career, one household … This combination begs the question of whether Shannon and Ryan ever get a break from being Haley & Michaels. What is refreshing and great to hear is that the two decided upon getting married that they would take time out to enjoy each other, separate and apart from the music industry.

It’s about compartmentalizing. So, for example, at 5pm tomorrow night, we’re going on a date, and that was something we talked about this morning because we haven’t taken a day off for about a month. Sometimes it’s all about making time and being aware that in this career you can just go and go and go and you have to call a timeout and make time for each other too. It’ll give us something more to write about!

Since Ryan opened the door to a question about future music with that statement, fans, be prepared for a full-length album to be released no later than the beginning of 2016. Included on that project will be perfected versions of some of the tracks on the duo’s EP, “The Price I Pay,” “Giving It All (To You),” and new tracks they are working on in the studio at this time.

Shannon promised that the new tracks will be more personal in nature, “even if that means we’re fighting and writing about that.” She also shared that the Haley & Michaels style of sharing the lead in the songs would remain in tact.

We really are trying to continue our approach of not having a lead singer. We kind of like to have conversations in all our songs.

Ryan added that, aside from remaining a pure duo and always holding on to that, the pair wants to always stay true to who they are as artists.

I think what people will hear is something that we even feel is more defined as far as who we are. Like, if you come to a show, what can you expect? I think that’s going to be coming on this next batch of recordings, as well.

To recap, Haley & Michaels have released four singles in about a year, released an EP, have performed at some impressive and memorable shows, have gotten engaged and married, and are in the studio working on a full-length album. That is quite the wonderful 2014-2015, and, from the sounds of the mutual respect, admiration, and adoration each of these two has for his/her musical and life partner, their future holds no limits.

Make sure to follow Haley & Michaels on Twitter, Facebook, and their website, and check out their new single “Giving It All (To You)” below.

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