Halle Kearns - Finally
Undoubtedly one of the future stars to emerge from the pandemic period has been Halle Kearns. Her singles have displayed a versatility in styles and along with her equally entertaining videos she has done well to bring a little cheer to the the world in trouble times.
Those singles and two additional tracks go to make up her debut EP "Finally", which really acts a testament to those talents. As she looks out from the cover of the EP, reclining on a sun kissed rock with the title above her in matching pink neon, the "Finally" title presumably is Halle saying to the world finally you will get to hear me and what I can do, for Halle famously scrapped a previous version which she felt did not properly capture her.
With over 300 shows to her name and support slots with a host of names familiar to a UK audience this apparent overnight success has been a while in the making. Anyone who saw her Nashville Meets London Livestream will know that Halle can reproduce any of these songs solo in a live environment.
So for those that missed out on the singles - "Pick Me Up" introduced the world to Halle, it was poppy, feel good music but established some themes that run through her recordings so far. The first being that she is a fan of great songwriters, and has expressed her appreciation of one of our favourites Sean McConnell, and that is noticeable in little touches in her lyrics. Forinstance "Pick Me Up" plays with both definitions of the phrase;
"I need a little pick me up so come and pick me up"
The other trait that runs through her recordings are those little references to home and working life that allow us to place her in some sort of reality that we are familiar with. Bruce Springsteen has probably never worked a day in his life but is seen as the voice of the working man and when Halle sings "It's been a long week 9 -5 plus overtime" or that "Monday's going to come around again but that's alright, as long as I get you for the weekend!" she is bonding with a large part of her audience. Sonically Halle started reasonably simply, this song is really based around a couple of guitars but they provide the joie de vivre that the track requires. Along with a great little video this well and truly announce Halle to the world.
The follow up single "I Drink Whiskey", kept the core acoustic sound that was at the heart of "Pick Me Up" and pushed it on a little further with the addition of a pulsing synth which ran through the track. Still very much the "9 to 5" worker of the previous song, the song was a breakdown of her drinking habits with beer something to enjoy when the "sun goes down around here", while wine was for sipping "in a church pew with my Momma sitting to my right", with Tequila being saved for a "Mexican beach". Whiskey becomes the drink she is driven to by her partner
"You know I love you but you drive me crazy - you light up a fire in every part of me"
There is a nice little touch where Halle acknowledges that she probably drives her partner to the same sort of alcoholic distraction "I know that you have days when you probably want to say the same"
With a fun Carpool Karaoke video to complete the package - Halle was fast becoming a figure to watch.
Anyone with preconceptions about Halle would have had them blown out of the water with her third release "Shoes To Fill". This was a complete change of pace and showed there were many facets to Halle as a performer. For a start it was a piano ballad, so immediately the focus was going to be on those vocals, which showed a greater depth to her singing than she had needed to show so far on her more poppier singles.
Halle's songs so far have always had a tiny fragments of her life interspersed within them and this was no different as she plucked out little childhood vignettes of falling off a bike, crashing a car at 16 and her fathers reaction to them, which it must be said is remarkably chilled. What follows forms the basis of her expectations in a man, as she puts it, her Dad has been "Setting the bar for the man that gets to have my heart".
The childhood reminiscences were balanced out by details of a failed 2 year relationship with someone who failed to make the grade despite his protestations of having "never felt more in love", a liaison that Halle later admits
"Deep down I knew how it would end". Fulfilling its role as both a tribute to her Dad and a guide for any prospective suitor who wants to get Halle to the point where she is ready "to give up my last name" - "Shoes To Fill" is a success on both levels.
It too came with a more restrained video given the subject matter, with Halle sat barefoot at a piano living every line as she sings it.
Of the new songs "Whatever You Do" is a song of infatuation, love at first sight over a mandolin background. Of all her songs this seems the most light hearted and playful it begins "at a dive on the coast".
"With me and the girls not a care in the world" when in walks the object of her attention.
The chemistry is instantaneous
"Keep on dancing all around me, keep on trying to make me forget that we just met"
With an almost John Mayer like guitar line running through it "Whatever You Do" has an effortless easy groove that has the warm feeling of a summer song about it.
The final new song "Before He Could" is one of the first songs that captivated us, even when we had only heard it in its raw acoustic format. It is now beefed up, taking the piano ballad sound of "Shoes To Fill" and then layering on more synths. It's a break up song but comes at the subject from a rarely used angle, with Halle finding something wrong in someone who in many ways seems to be Mr Right apart from the fact that he's not!
The initial lines of "Friday nights with a glass of Rose staying inside" and "Sunday morning walks in the park" all seem idyllic but pretty soon doubts start to appear with Halle thinking about
"How it all seemed to good to be true and if I leave now i'll have less to loose"
The feeling are only compounded in later lines
"I saw forever in his need you eyes he didn't deserve to hear goodbye".
The images of a "highway" and "long road" are deliberately used, once representing the quick "easy route" out of the relationship, and the second to show the future passing of time
I know I let a good thing go
But when I started looking down that long road
I could see everything falling apart
So I went ahead and got a head start"
It's a proper adult song from one so young with two well defined characters for listeners to associate with, as at some point most people will either have dumped someone or been dumped.
As a debut EP it represents a fine package and showcases Halle's ability to cover a number of emotions and styles. At the heart of it though are solid songwriting techniques and ideas that should serve her well for future releases.
"Finally" is released on Dec 11th - It's a date Halle won't forget - It's her birthday!!!