Haylee Hessell never imagined she would practice one song as many times as she has rehearsed her song “Let Him Go” for Spring Sing.
She’s practiced the song at least 50 times already.
The third-year English student is a soloist performing for the first time in the annual musical event in Pauley Pavilion. She said she has her father to thank for teaching her guitar and influencing her interest in music, a hobby she has connected with since childhood.
“Sometimes it can be hard for us to express exactly what we are thinking and exactly what we’re feeling,” Hessell said. “Music can access those feelings so well. For me at least, music has always been there for me.”
[Read More: Daily Bruin coverage of Spring Sing 2017]
Hessell’s father Paul Hessell said their household was pretty musical – he plays guitar, mandolin and piano, and Haylee Hessell’s mother is a singer. They took Haylee Hessell to a Rolling Stones show when she was about 12 years old.
Haylee Hessell and her father bonded over music when they spent their days at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, where they perused the various models of the instruments. However, she said she didn’t fully appreciate the brands and designs until her father taught her to play the guitar at the age of 15.
“I didn’t have to show her how to play a song or anything,” Paul Hessell said. “She just kind of picked up the chords that I showed her, learned on her own, and she’s been playing ever since.”
Haylee Hessell said she realized she wanted to dedicate more of her time to her singing around the same time that she learned to play guitar. That’s when she got serious about writing her melodies.
Her father remains one of her biggest personal musical influences.
“The fact that my dad had the patience to sit with me and teach me a few chords – I owe a lot to him just for how seriously I’ve been able to take music, and how big a part of my life music has become,” she said.
Though she doesn’t participate in on-campus musical organizations, Haylee Hessell said she loves to write and sing in her free time.
Haylee Hessell draws from a combination of personal and familial experiences in order to write her music, which she considers a blend of country, folk and indie genres.
She said her ideas for songs come her personal experiences – often from the smallest, most banal encounters in everyday life.
She once felt self-conscious about eating lunch alone in a dining hall a couple years ago at UCLA, when an acquaintance spotted her and left his group of friends to sit with her, Haylee Hessell said. She turned the experience into a song.
The song she’s performing for Spring Sing, “Let Him Go,” is similarly personal and discusses a romantic relationship. Written a year ago, the song describes someone who meant a lot to her, but has since left her life. After growing apart from her partner, she realized she cared about him but it was too late; she’d let him slip through the cracks.
“The whole idea is like, I let him go, I let this person go that I shouldn’t have,” Haylee Hessell said.
Paul Hessell said he is excited to see his daughter perform during Spring Sing, and that many of her fans will be in the audience, including family and friends.
“It’s one of her dreams to pursue singing and songwriting, and she seems to be getting better and better as time goes on,” Paul Hessell said.
Haylee Hessell said she has been practicing at rehearsals in Ackerman Union in front of 50 to 100 people, preparing for the large crowds of Spring Sing.
“The feeling after you sing a song, and someone comes up to you and says that they really felt something or they really enjoyed something, is such a fulfilling feeling,” Haylee Hessell said.