While multi-hyphenate Hayley Sales views her musical career and acting career as part of the same overall creative journey, both ways of artistic expression have delivered their share of unique highlights. With a new album currently in the works and recent roles in “Deadpool 2” and “Supernatural,” the future is looking bright for the Washington, D.C. native who has even more highlights to celebrate heading into 2019.
We recently sat down with Sales to discuss her artistic road so far, embracing the fashion of the 1980s, and justifying our Jensen Ackles bro crush.
TrunkSpace: You’ve had a successful music career and in many ways you get to control your own destiny by way of your music. You write what you want. You record what you want. You perform what you want. Did it take some getting used to, transitioning into the world of acting where so much is dependent on the decisions and actions of others?
Sales: Most definitely! In many ways, music is you realizing and actualizing your own dream whereas acting in a film or TV show is bringing someone else’s dream to life. It doesn’t mean it is any less rewarding or fun to do, just different. With acting, it’s more as though you are fitting into a puzzle, or doing a brush stroke on a huge canvas. I do find acting in an ensemble inspiring though. Probably because it’s so different from music. You get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You get to tell a story that isn’t necessarily your own, although you put your heart and soul into it. I find it very expansive to be put into a box, as strange as that may sound. I do find that sometimes having limitations to art can be the most inspiring. Sometimes when you have a billion different ways you can produce a song, it can be daunting. With acting, it’s beautifully simple in some ways. You get to tell someone’s story, do them justice by bringing their joys and their fears out into the open in the hopes that you make someone else feel a little less alone. But I love them both so much. They’re so similar and so different.
It is definitely a challenge to handle the business side of acting and music, where you are rejected constantly. In both careers. Over and over again and not necessarily because of anything you are or did, but because you just aren’t what that particular label, manager or producer is looking for. It’s odd because, as an artist, you need such a thick skin, but if you don’t stay vulnerable, you lose the essence of art. At first, I’d wind up being in tears over this part or that part or this label or that label, and overtime, I think you realize, the right moment will come for you and to trust in that.
TrunkSpace: Do you view your musical career and your acting career as separate entities or do they fall under one larger creative umbrella?
Sales: To me they’re one and of the same. I can’t wait to be in more musical films. They’re both ways of expression. Whether you are expressing yourself or expressing your character, which in many ways, is expressing parts of yourself as well. I’ve heard so many reasons you can’t do both and for a while, I wasn’t allowed to act while I was signed as a teen. But in this day and age, I think art is art and I’m just grateful to be swimming in that pond of creativity!
I can’t wait to release my next record though. I actually spent four years on a record that was never allowed to be released. Universal had a huge staff switch over a month before the record’s release. Due to a corporate policy that had just been put in place, they refused to give me back the rights to my own music, even though I was willing to buy it from them. It broke my heart. I turned to acting entirely during the two years of legal battles. Only recently have I, finally, begun to sweep the pieces of my courage off the floor, into a dust pan, and back onto the table and am in the studio at my parent’s Blueberry farm as we speak! You can hear some of them on my Spotify. (@hayleysales)
Something happens when you experience that heavy a loss, that type of helplessness and betrayal. I thought I’d never have it in me to make more music. But now I feel more driven than ever to release the songs I love… not that a label would love or the radio would love, but the songs that make me feel most moved to sing. Can’t wait for you to hear. As we record, I’ve been diving into each song as though I am an actor telling a story… the story just happens to be my own. It’s been a very fun exercise in connecting two of my passions!
TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line that you’ve ever written and why?
Sales: Don’t you love when a line from a book, song or movie just resonates so loudly you can almost feel it? I love when that happens. The words seem to weave their own tapestry that wraps around you! I honestly couldn’t even begin to say which was my favorite of my own writing, but maybe it would be this poem. I remember so vividly, writing this on the sand in Cocoa Beach after the loss of a dear friend…
Death will be a welcome visitor
When he chance to come
I’ll open up the door, I will
Invite him into my home
I’ll spread a feast of dreams and things
Collected here and there
Seat him at the table’s head
With wine and bread to share
We’ll chat of all the memories
I’ve lived and he has watched
Together we will drink to sleep
The tired and winded clock
I’ll ponder how I’ve loved and lost
And sometimes how I’d won
And as the night crawls further in
My mind will loose her tongue
A point will come when the silence
Has engulfed me in its womb
Old death will wink, and I will smile
I know my time is soon
I’ll look around my perfect house
And love the life I’ve lived
I’ve lived enough to know that life
Is better with an end
Goodnight to light, to breath, to song
I know we’ll meet again
For death is not the finish-line
But the means by which we mend
TrunkSpace: In terms of the feeling you get as a musician, creating this living, breathing thing from scratch and then turning it over to the universe… can you achieve that same feeling while acting? Are there parallels to creating a song and creating a character?
Sales: Very good question actually. I’d say they’re both incredibly similar and completely different. With music, you are creating, like you said, a universe. It’s your universe. It’s the exposure of your inner most thoughts and desires. Basically, you have to take a big red sharpie and circle all the chinks in your armor then go, “Hey world! This is me!” Music is powerful in that way. It’s a very personal communication between the listener and the musician. Having said that, acting is equally powerful and requires the same amount of vulnerability and exposure. The difference is, you have to bring all of your own world into this entirely new character’s life and begin to breathe in their shoes. You have to bring all of yourself into the universe of the story. But you aren’t really you…you’re you in someone else. Not sure if that makes any sense, but they are incredibly similar! But also balance each other out. They’re both exposing your truth, just through different mediums. Art is such an amazing communication. Cuts through all the rules and boundaries when it’s done right.
TrunkSpace: We are suckers here for “Supernatural,” particularly with the quirky, monster-of-the-week episodes. One of our new favorites is “Mint Condition,” which aired earlier this year. In it you play Janet Strong, and your wardrobe is totally tubular and wicked awesome. What does it feel like to be a part of such a memorable episode of this long-running series?
Sales: I am beyond grateful and yes… yes, my outfits were totally tubular and then some! I feel so lucky to have gotten to be a part of this particular episode and of the series in general. The energy was wildly hilarious on set. Whenever I’m in between takes, I love to stand near the director and watch the monitors. You can learn so much. A great deal of the time, however, as we were filming this movie, it’d take everything in me to not buckle over in laughter. And I wasn’t the only one. It truly feels like magic when everyone is in the right headspace and enjoying the process.
Slightly related and funny story about my callback for the role of Janet… before the audition, I went on a mad rampage through the attic for my mom’s ‘80s clothes. After finding truly amazing gems, I went on to borrow my 10-year-old niece’s scrunchy and my sister-in-law’s safety pin watch from 1983. I was so excited to get to play dress up. The callback was very fun. The director, producer – everyone was lovely, but here’s the best part – I wound up being slightly late out of the audition and had to run down the street with my side pony, cut off shorts and blue eye shadow, and let me tell you, I got some very, very interesting looks – like I’d just stepped out of “Hot Tub Time Machine.”
TrunkSpace: The series is continuing to excite its fandom in Season 14, which is hard to even fathom given how short-lived even successful series are these days. We hear it is one of the most welcoming sets to step onto in the business, but is it difficult to go into something that is such a well-oiled machine and not feel like the new kid at school? Were there nerves?
Sales: You know, I think most actors would be lying if they didn’t say they had some nerves. For me, they always happen as I’m driving up to set on the first day. Especially if I’m really excited. But, then magically, once I step out of the car, something happens and the butterflies take off. Everyone on the set of “Supernatural” was so welcoming it was hard to be nervous. We were all excited to be filming the hilarious footage we were filming, it felt like summer camp or something! I loved it. I wish every set could be that inspiring and warm.
Having said that, I do remember my first day on a big show though. It was a very emotional scene. I was so nervous and then crying so hard for the scene, they had to stop. You could hear my heartbeat on the mic! I was so embarrassed… but I remember the director came up to me and just talked to me about the story. Once I stopped thinking about myself, started thinking about the person in front of me, the nerves went away.
TrunkSpace: Have you had the opportunity to feel the reach of the passionate fandom – the SPN Family – since your episode premiered? Has any of it come as a surprise or did you have a sense of how big the fan base was before being cast?
Sales: I mean, when a show is on as long as “Supernatural” has been, they’ve got to be doing something right! And what an amazing cast and crew. It truly is the most welcoming set to walk onto. Having said that, I’m definitely seeing that it has one of the most loyal fan bases out there, and had no idea just how supportive Supernatural’s fans are! They’re lucky to have you cheering them on. Truly.
TrunkSpace: As children of the ‘80s, we have to go back to your wardrobe for a minute. Corey Hart may wear his “sunglasses at night,” but he’d have to wear them all day long if he were on set with you and all of that bright neon. Is the fun side of your job boosted even higher when you’re working on a project where the wardrobe itself becomes such a big part of the character and world you’re inhabiting?
Sales: Most definitely! I have to admit, one of the highlights of my day was watching my hair’s ascension towards the ceiling as they backcombed, sprayed more hairspray, and then backcombed again! Add that to the peacock glitter eye shadow, hot pink knit gloves and leopard print mini skirt, and it’s pretty hard not to feel like pulling out a boom box and slipping back into a different era. I simply love doing period pieces. You really are influenced by wardrobe and in many ways, it makes the job quite a bit easier as an actress. I find myself sinking into the story and the world without even trying. In a strange way, the more outlandish the outfit, the more you remember to just have fun. That acting shouldn’t be about doing it right or whether you’re doing well. It takes you out of your head and into your body, which makes the whole thing more fun! My amazing acting coach, Joe Anthony, once said, “You have to put the spotlight on the person in front of you.” If you think about it, when you’re having a conversation with anyone, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Either that or you’re worrying about what they’re thinking about what you’re saying. Somehow wearing a fun wardrobe or speaking with an accent gets you more present, loosens you up a bit, makes the whole thing more relaxed and experimental, especially when it’s hilarious ‘80’s outfit after outfit.
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far – with music or acting – and why?
Sales: I knew as a baby I had to be in the arts. I loved music, acting… I just knew there was no Plan B. And while that choice hasn’t always been easy, and has ruled my life, I’m so grateful that I’m able to support myself doing what I love. It’s hard to say what the main highlight as been! There are so many, and an equal amount of being down in the trenches of misery! But I think, the first moment of absolute bliss for me was when, at the age of 13, I was flown to the Pentagon to sing Judy Garland songs at the WWII Ace Pilots Convention. Obviously, that was a while ago, but it let me know I could do it, that I just had to keep moving forward. And the tears in the eyes of the pilots as they danced with their wives, brought tears to my own eyes. I realized just how powerful a song can be.
Another highlight was slightly after signing my first record deal with Universal. I was in Nova Scotia on tour. We were in the car and I was busting about to pee. All of a sudden, I heard my first single “What You Want” on the radio… I could barely speak. I just swelled up inside and tears burst out with ecstasy. I even forgot I still had to wait another 20 minutes for a rest area. (Laughter) A similar experience happened when I signed with Verve in the US a few years back. I remember turning on a Judy Garland record, grabbing a glass of wine, and dancing around the house with such a feeling of joy and excitement, I could barely breath. I look forward to the next.
I suppose those are all the moments when I felt the highest. As far as credentials go, getting to perform with the likes of Ben Harper at Fuji Rock Festival, touring with Jason Mraz and INXS… so grateful for all those experiences. Then of course, finding out I’d been casting “Deadpool 2!”
TrunkSpace: Finally, Hayley, our wives give us a difficult time because they say our Jensen Ackles man crush is not normal. Having now worked on “Supernatural” yourself, come to our rescue here… he’s worth every ounce of our unbridled bromancing attention, right?
Sales: This might be the best question so far. I’ll keep my answer simple and sweet. Bromance away my dear friends, bromance away.