Hayley Isabel Flying High

Story by Wyatt Tremblay


Photos by Kristy Reimer

Spring 2024

At press time, Hayley was nominated for the Country Music Alberta Awards Horizon Youth Award. The awards are presented March 10 in Edmonton.

There is something magical in a conversation with Airdrie singer/songwriter Hayley Isabel. This country artist’s love and passion for music and her unbridled confidence in where this journey could take her are inspiring.

That she only turned 12 in November seems inconsequential; Isabel is already a fixture in the Airdrie music community. She wrote her first song at the age of nine.

“I have been singing for as long as I can remember. Since I could talk, I’ve never really stopped,” Isabel says, adding she’s a huge fan of Taylor Swift and Lainey Wilson.

The song she wrote, Fly High, is already stirring up the airwaves and YouTube. Written for a young family friend, Quinn, who struggles daily for what most take for granted — breath and a beating heart — the song was Isabel’s way of bringing hope to the situation.

“Quinn’s a living miracle, and I wanted people to see that,” she says.

Produced by Airdrie’s 2023 Canadian Country Music Award-winning musician, Kyle McKearney, Isabel says the first time she saw him perform, she knew she wanted to work with him.

“Whenever I saw him at shows and events, I kept giving him my business card,” Isabel says.

Eventually, he messaged her, and, after they chatted back and forth, he asked if she would like to open for the release party for his latest album, A Traveler’s Lament.

“He had never seen me perform,” Isabel explains. “But he trusted that I’d be a good fit for his record release. I was really happy that he believed in me and my music.”

This led to Isabel working with McKearney on her set list of original and cover songs before the release party and his offer to produce Fly High.

“Being in the studio with Kyle McKearney was really amazing,” she says. “He made me feel so comfortable and pushed me outside of my comfort zone.”

Isabel also credits him with helping her write a better version of the song.

As a single and a music video, Fly High is a beautiful and touching song that draws the listener into its thoughtful lyrics and sweet, memorable melody. McKearney performed the instrumentals for the single, including guitar, banjo and mandolin. Isabel’s vocals have the youthful resonance of someone her age, but the strength of her voice and her comfortable stage presence show how she is a dedicated performer.

“Music is joyful for me,” says Isabel. “It’s work, and I need to work at it, but I also just love it.”

Besides practising daily, she’s focused on writing music that connects to people, such as Camouflage, a song she wrote when she was ten about the pressures of trying to be someone you are not.

“I like to write songs that people can relate to,” Isabel says. “When someone says, ‘Oh, I can relate to that song,’ it makes me feel like I’m not alone and they’re not alone.”’

Isabel sees the arc of her musical career in stages, starting with piano lessons at age six, guitar at eight and vocal lessons at nine: “The spark really happened for me when I did my first guitar lesson.”

She also performed her first open mic when she was 10, where she met Airdrie’s Steve Jevne, who is currently her guitar teacher.

“He’s opened multiple doors for me,” says Isabel. “I’m really grateful for that one open mic.”

She credits Jevne, who often plays with her during gigs; McKearney; vocal coach Brian Farrell; and her mother, whom she calls Momager, as mentors on her journey.

Isabel is excited about where music might take her, but acknowledges that it’s not something she has complete control over.

“As long as I’m doing music, I’m really happy,” she says.

Listen to Hayley on her own YouTube channel.