It was a long and winding road that brought 2018 Toyota Star Maker Grand Finalist Hayley Wilson to the release of her debut record. The genesis of her sublime songbook, Further Than Forever, can be traced back to guitar lessons from her brother at age 11. The Mt Isa native would dedicate the ensuing years to mastering her voice, guitar and piano, marching ever forward towards the creation of a debut release.
There was an EP planned for 2013, but forces beyond Wilson’s control prevented the release. The burgeoning songwriter soon bunkered down with late, great Australian country luminary Karl Broadie, whose guidance can be heard on a many number of classic recordings.
“I was only 19 when I recorded the EP in 2013 and it was an amazing opportunity but unfortunately at the time of it’s completion I was going through a tough time, grew up a little bit and realised that the sound no longer represented me and what I wanted to say,” Wilson explains. “It took a little bit of time to figure out what my new direction was going to be but I know I made the right decision and that this album represents exactly who I am at this point in my life.”
They say everything happens for a reason and Wilson’s decision to deliver Further Than Forever as her opening musical statement has proved the right one. These 10 songs, which feature Aleyce Simmonds and Luke O’Shea amongst their collaborators, are laced with gorgeous arrangements and instrumentation.
“I feel very relieved to be finally releasing my debut album, it has been about two years in the making and there have been many obstacles along the way so I am proud to have it completed,” the sweet-voiced songwriter says. “However I also feel quite nervous now because so much has gone into this album, so many great people have been a part of creating it and I just want it to do well.”
The album is a document of lessons learned about life and love, and announces the arrival of an artist with a timeless approach to country music. Broadie mentored Wilson right up until his untimely passing in April 2016. Accomplished producer Glen Hannah saw the album through to completion.
“Karl has been one of my greatest mentors and influences,” Wilson says. “He taught me so much more than just songwriting, he always inspired me to do and be more. Karl has taught me to trust in myself, trust in my own unique songwriting process and that quality is better than quantity when it comes to writing songs that open up your heart and make people feel something.”
Further Than Forever is a sublime collection of songs, some effortlessly melodic and upbeat while others, like the lilting ballad ‘Stay Where You Are’ and closer, ‘Somnus’, are impossibly beautiful. Wilson’s resilience to the slings and arrows of womanhood is front and centre, wrapped in a pure voice that’s honey to the ears.
“I would have to say that ‘Further Than Forever’ and ‘Somnus’ are my two favourite songs on the album,” Wilson reveals. “‘Further Than Forever’ was my first co-write with Karl and now it has an eerie double meaning. Once we wrote that song, I knew exactly the kind of music I wanted to make and we started to build the album around it. ‘Somnus’ was the first song I had written since Karl passed away and it was another song of healing for me. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to write again without him there to guide me. I am very proud of both of those songs.”
One gets the sense that Broadie would be proud too. And, while the road may always wind, it’s apparent that Wilson has found a way into the future and, perhaps, to make up for lost time. As the young songwriter coos in ‘On & On’: “It’s better to be rolling on than staring at the sky, letting the days get away and life pass you by…”