Hayley Young Interview from Stackedd Magazine
Bonnie Stinson interviewed Hayley Young this November for a piece that appears in Stackedd Magazine called Sure Shot: 10 Questions with Director Hayley Young. Check out a bit of the transcript below. You can check out the interview in its entirety on Stackedd.com!
photo (c) Genevieve Pierson for Project Girl Crush
Seattle-based photographer Hayley Young is a talented artist with clientele ranging from Atlantic Records to Entertainment Weekly to personal portraits. She believes “the work coming out of this place may very well influence and inspire larger markets to move past the sexist limits they have historically placed on their female content creators.”
Here, Young talks about making the transition to directing music videos (AWOLNATION, Hey Marseilles), why art should speak for itself, and why networks of other women artists are her “biggest muse.”
Why did you make the leap from photography to directing music videos? What are you working on right now? What excites you about it, and what makes you nervous?
What is crazy about my current role as a music video director is that this is what I always dreamed about doing, from as early as age 7. Having grown up in the 80s and 90s in a small rural town in Oregon, it never occurred to me that it would be possible. Same goes for photography, really. Growing into a young adult with a chance at becoming a professional photographer was never on my radar. It just organically developed from my process of exploring the creative arts, storytelling and the power of composition in my early college years. I’m thankful for that organic process because it serves as a comforting support system. It gives me grounding when I approach projects and ideas that might otherwise seem daunting. Being able to look back at various stages of my (albeit young) career also gives me a sense of accomplishment that fuels me moving forward. The confidence I gain from seeing a challenge to an end and the resulting effect my reaction to that challenge has on those around me (collaborators, artists, clients, viewers, etc.) is what excites me. Of course, the potential to not see something through or making a bad impression on those witnessing my work is also what makes me nervous. It’s amazing how much faster we can run if something is chasing us. The balance of what motivates me is naturally evolving, be it reward or fear. It all feels right, especially when I can look back and say I did something with it.
As a director, walk us through your process of letting the artist’s music influence the visual quality of their music video. How much is collaboration? How much is you, with your interpretation of their sound and your photography experience?
The process is often the same, or at least it begins in the same way. I take the song and my big, cozy studio headphones and sit in a public place and listen to it repetitively. While the motion of the outside world moves around me, I allow minimal amounts of stimulation from reality to occupy parts of my attention while another subconscious place in my brain introduces itself to the song. That place, that part of my mind, conducts the first “interview”. Rather than “what is this song about”, I ask myself “what does this song remind me of” and “what am I feeling now because of it”. I imagine it’s a mental process similar to catching a wave if one is surfing. I do my best to relinquish control, as to allow the song to steer. From there I ride it out, let it take me somewhere. It is important that I keep my feet up and my eyes open (figuratively) during this mental process. Once we land on something together, it becomes a matter of how to turn the dialog the song and my brain have created into a reality that can be conveyed to the artist and, ultimately, the viewers.
I’ve been fortunate to have a great relationship with all the artists I’ve worked with. They have historically held a great faith in my ideas and given me a lot of freedom to run with them. The most successful collaborative experiences happen when I write a treatment that the artist is excited by and is enthusiastic to get behind. In the end, we both have similar goals. They write the song to convey a feeling and I write a treatment to illustrate that feeling.