I’ve always had a passion for discovering new artists and helping get their music heard. In the music industry today it’s very difficult for new artists to make their mark and get traction. Since founding Sound Check Entertainment we’ve prided ourselves in seeking out and promoting new artists. Just some of the artists we told you about first, and continue to promote, include Meghan Patrick, Abby Stewart, Cory Marquardt and Midnight Shine to name just a few. Today we’d like to introduce to you Morgan Leigh Garner and Courtney Dashe aka Hadley Park.
One of the advantages of my day job is that I get to spend a lot of time on the road, that means I have hours upon hours every week to listen to music. Sometimes I listen to music I already know and other times I tune in to listen to new music that is just making it’s debut on the radio. A few weeks ago I was on one of my drives when I heard the song “Another Bottle of Wine” by Hadley Park on SiriusXM’s The Highway’s On the Horizon segment. Every week On The Horizon features up and coming artists that the staff at The Highway expect will breakthrough in the near future.
I had a chat with Morgan and Courtney earlier this week where we talked about their EP Retrospect, “Another Bottle of Wine”, how 6 weeks of being featured On The Horizon has impacted Hadley Park and more.
Not newcomers to the country music world, individually they have had songs recorded by Jo Dee Messina and Mindy McCready; had a publishing deal with Martina McBride to name just a few of their accomplishments prior to forming Hadley Park.
Introducing Hadley Park
Hendrik – How have things have changed since your early days in the business now that you are the artist and not just the songwriter?
Courtney – It’s completely different in that so far we are doing everything complete ourselves. Previously we’d have a publishing company helping with stuff and that was a great thing and to be honest I don’t think I fully appreciated it at the time, just to have a team of people helping you to co-write and pitch your songs. Morgan and I, we met in a blind co-write with an artist that was being produced by my old publisher Paul Worley at the time and anyway she and I ended up clicking and hitting it off but really we didn’t have support systems around us at that point so good thing about it is we were pregnant and her daughter was due a month before mine but they were born three days apart, hers came late and mine came early, and literally we just started with our new borns we started writing together so we just kind of had this idea to make our first EP together and then try to pitch it to other artists and get songs recorded that way. But it kind of morphed into a lot of different things and we started getting opportunities to perform together so the whole idea evolved and now here we are performing all the time together and now our EP isn’t just being used to pitch to other artists here we have a song on XM and all the stuff is wild because it’s only the two of us behind the whole machine, at this point.
Hendrik – You touched on the family aspect and there’s no question in Hadley Park that family plays a huge part but for you guys it’s kind of that extra level because your name is very closely tied in with your family because it’s actually named after your daughters that you both were expecting when the group was formed. Tell us how that came about.
Courtney – Right, right. Hadley and Parker are our daughters and we were kind of saying when they were born umm like what do we do now? How are we going to continue co-writing with people and doing all this stuff that we’ve been doing with these newborns attached to us and it very quickly became wait a second, I don’t want my daughter to think that my life ended when she was born. I want her to think that she inspired me to go do more and do better things and bigger things I want her to see the way I live my life and I want her to look at me as a role-model so we both were just like well we want them to think it’s important in life to be passionate about what you want to do with your life. We’re both passionate people and we believe in giving back so everything we want them to become we try to model.
Morgan – And also, adding to what Courtney just said, we both feel that had we not had the girls that maybe this journey wouldn’t have happened. They brought us together, in utero. We became friends mostly because we were both pregnant at the same time and we didn’t know anybody else who was pregnant. You know we’re going through this for the first time and you just want to talk to somebody about all different things and it was that and also writing and it all just really happened because of them.
Hendrik – Has it, or will it, change the family dynamic? As you grow in your career and hit the road touring. Right now it’s more localized but as you expand, which you will, how is that going to affect things?
Hadley Park – Well, I would think we’ll take it one day at a time. We’ll bring the girls with us and our husbands, we currently bring them with us when we go out of state. So far we’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to do tour pockets around where we have family members who can help us. If it gets bigger than this then hopefully we’ll be able to afford to bring our husbands or bring our favorite nanny or whatever. But we’ll take it a day at a time.
2015 The year it all began with “Things I’ve Learned”
Hendrik – We’re in 2017 now but you guys have been around for a few years already. Your debut actually came in 2015 with a song and video that really put you on the country music map in the Nashville area with “Things I’ve Learned”. Morgan you and Courtney co-wrote the song with your nephew, I believe, Kaleb. The song talks about his experience with not one, but two battles with cancer all before the age of 9. Firstly how is Kaleb doing today?
Morgan – Kaleb is doing well, currently in remission as of January. So far everything looks fine but of course we are always leary especially because he’s already had a relapse. They didn’t do a “No More Chemo Party” this time, last time it was so crushing when he realized he had had a relapse but now he’s doing really well. He’s back in school and getting back to normal.
Hendrik – Unfortunately far to many of us have a cancer story. I have my own, we lost my father in-law to cancer just over two years ago. But to hear a cancer story through the eyes and experiences of a 9 year old child is just so much more gripping. My youngest son just turned 9 and I couldn’t imagine going through with him, or even him going through, what Kaleb has gone through in his 9 years. I get choked up listening to that song, what’s it like performing it?
Morgan – Well especially when it was all still so raw there were times it would bring me to tears. He’s my nephew, you know, before I had kids my nieces and nephews were my kids. I feel very close to all of them. I’ll never forget the first time we performed the song, well technically it was the second time we performed it. The first time was at a school and the second time it was in front of everyone. My sister in-law couldn’t make it to the school performance and I looked over at her, because it was a total surprise, and she was just sobbing because it was still all so raw and the song literally took the words out of his blog post and turned them into a song as best we could. I think it meant a lot to them, it was a really cool way for us to immortalize his experience in a positive way. When people are going through cancer, or whatever kind of disease they might have, being able to just stay positive is so important. Kaleb is kind of a mantra for them, Kaleb is such a positive kid and the whole thing just blows your mind because, I don’t know, children just don’t have the same full scope and life experience we do when we get older and then they’re just wiser than us in so many ways it just floored me the first time I read his board, that’s why we had to write the song.
2017 “Another Bottle of Wine” and SiriusXM The Highway
Hendrik – Now you followed up a really heavy, emotional song, with a little bit less heavy of a song. I guess you can call it a prelude to a breakup song. The song is called “Another Bottle of Wine” and it has landed you guys on SiriusXM The Highway’s On The Horizon for 6 straight weeks. So you have to tell us the story behind a song like this…you are both happily married so it’s not autobiographical. What is the story or inspiration behind “Another Bottle of Wine”?
Hadley Park – It’s actually the first song we wrote together without a third co-writer. We were both pregnant but didn’t acknowledge it at the time so we like to blame it on our pregnancy hormones, it makes for a fun one.
Hendrik – It’s a fun song.
Hadley Park – Hypothetical laughing
Hendrik – I love the line about “my future ex”, so the song was written before the ex knew he was going to be the ex
Hadley Park – Although being chased down the road with 3 bullets behind him probably gave him a good idea, laughs
Hendrik – But all kidding aside this is a big song for Hadley Park. 6 weeks On The Horizon on one of the biggest country music stations in the world, SiriusXM The Highway. What kind of impact has this had and what kind of doors has it opened for you as a group?
Hadley Park – It’s amazing being on the radio, first of all the maximum exposure, The Highway is the second largest SiriusXM station with 30 million listeners or something. Our social media numbers have gone up and our sales have obviously gone up. Personally I love people writing to us on Facebook and Twitter and stuff.
We do have legitimate fans anyway but a lot of our die-hard fans, right now, are friends of friends , friends of family or grey-haired dude neighbour, there’s a connection usually and we’re loving that we’ve got some new die-hard fans that are telling all their friends and gettin’ on social media and talkin’ about it and it’s really cool for us, we love interacting with all the conversations and hearing what people think of our music and how it’s affecting them it’s just awesome for us. We didn’t expect to develop that kind of a reach so far, so fast.
Hendrik – How did it happen? Did you have to submit the song to SiriusXM for consideration? or did someone from the network hear the music and say “hey we’ve got to get these girls on the air”?
Hadley Park – Well, ya, someone who works at Sirius, heard it, loved it and said I’ve got to work to get you girls on the air. Honestly the guy who heard it wasn’t on the Highway, he’s not a music person. He’s like a sports DJ, he’s a die-hard music fan and a sports DJ or sportscaster, or whatever you call ’em. He loved it and passed it along. Honestly, we were happy with the product when we put it out there, the goal was for people to like it, obviously, and we thought that we did a pretty good job making a well rounded EP and so far everyone has been really positive, it’s been really cool.
Love, hate relationship with streaming sites like Spotify
Hendrik – You’re very well represented on social media, you’re represented on all of the major networks and I can see a lot of people interacting with you. One area that I have noticed an absence, if you want to call it that, is the streaming sites like Spotify. Is this a by design thing? I know in the music world right now there’s kind of a love hate relationship with streaming networks.
Hadley Park – We’ve got a love hate relationship with it for sure, we’re songwriters at heart and so from the songwriter standpoint we’re sitting here going “oh you don’t pay songwriters very well” but then on the flip side as the artist we’re sitting here going “oh but we can reach so many people”. It’s one of those things where we didn’t really expect to be in a position to worry about Spotify or anything else so quickly so when we released this, in November, we only released this on iTunes and that was mainly because we didn’t want to confuse everything, we wanted people to just find it in one place and we thought it would be easier for us to track our sales and our numbers because we’re doing it ourselves and we just didn’t want to complicate anything and literally we just mainly thought that when we were playing shows it would be an easy way for us to say “hey find us on iTunes, or buy a hard copy right here”.
But now here we are and you are correct, Spotify is a huge platform and we are very seriously considering putting our stuff on there. We didn’t have it right yet, it’s still one of those things, it wasn’t our first thought as songwriters but as artists and after seeing the reach that XM has done for us we’re sitting here going “ok, maybe it’s time for Spotify”. That’s kind of the long answer but…
Hendrik – that’s ok, so we’ll watch for the music on Spotify in the near future.
Hadley Park – Hopefully so, ya.
Influences and the state of Women in Country
Hendrik – What kind of music would we find on your personal playlists?
Courtney – There’s so many, that’s why we get stuck. Adele, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffett. I feel like my upbringing you listen to what your parents listen to for a while and then you might expand when you’re in highschool and listen to some other stuff but then after college I really feel like, I got involved in the Nashville music scene and I became such a big songwriter fan that I could rattle off like 50 different songwriters and you probably wouldn’t know who any of them were but I love their music. I love songs, so I’m not as much a fan of any one, or two or three artists I just love different songs, the craft, the lyrics and the cleverness and the melody I just love different songs for different reasons and I might not know who the artist is sometimes, I just know that one song.
Hendrik – As strong prominent women in the Nashville country music scene, of course last year was that controversial year for women, or was it the year before?, where radio consultant Keith Hill made that, off-colour, remark about women being tomatoes and that they have no place on country radio.
Hadley Park – Oh my god, we never heard about that one.
Hendrik – oh really? When the comment was made it blew up and women fought back, as they should. My country music playlist consists of more women than anything else.
Hadley Park – Thank you
Hendrik – What are your thoughts on the state of women in country music? To me I never really paid attention to it until Mr. Hill brought it up. So I kind of sat back and noticed that there is an absence of women, and it’s especially true here in Canada where we have not had a female Canadian artist go on a national headlining tour since Terri Clark and yet we have no shortage of strong prominent women such as Madeline Merlo and Jess Moskaluke to name just a couple. Even look at the situation on your side of the border there’s very few female headlining tours right now either. So what’s your take on that? What do women need to do to get back in the game?
Courtney – I don’t exactly have the solution, I do feel like there is a turning of the tides. I think there are more women getting signed to record deals right now and I think it’s cyclical and I hope it’s cyclical and that we’re about to have a wave of women but why it happens or how it happens or what exactly women need to do to get out of it, I don’t know. I think Morgan and I, we tend to focus more on our careers and just try to put out what we consider air-tight music. Music we completely believe in where we believe that every word on that page is worth saying and every note is worth singing, so if we do that then…I don’t know, it would be hard to be a radio programmer and have a bunch of girls just go “hey play us because we’re girls and we don’t have enough girls” and they’re giving them bad songs. Well if they’re giving them bad songs you can’t play it. But you know what? Some of the guys out there are putting out bad songs and the are being played but this is not the way it’s going, right now, for women so when we are given a shot we need to have an air-tight song.
Morgan – and to add to that, in the 90s, like Courtney was kind of saying, it was predominantly female. I mean it was Faith Hill, Martina McBride I feel it may have just been the listener might’ve just gotten tired of that and they were ready for something different. And now it’s predominantly male and I think that the listener is getting tired of that as well. I think we’ve got some strong females out in the last few years like Cam, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini there are so many great female singers and I think people are ready for that.
Hendrik – I agree, female talent is definitely on the upswing and I think that Miranda Lambert’s recent release The Weight of these Wings may be a turning point for women and we’ll soon see a resurgence in women on country radio and in venues across our countries.
Hadley Park – I hope so
Hadley Park on the road and on NEW music
Hendrik – I looked at your current list of tour dates and there’s a lot of tour dates coming up locally in the Nashville area, which makes sense. Do you have any dates or festivals coming up in other areas of the country where your fans might be able to catch Hadley Park live this summer?
Hadley Park – We’re our own booking agents as well so it takes a little bit longer to put a tour together but we intend on doing a Virginia tour again because we have a huge fan base in Virginia. We’re hoping to put together a Hadley Park Songwriter’s Festival with the bulk of the proceeds going to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer so once we get that going we will build the rest of the tour around it, we’ve got plenty of places we can play there we just need to lock in the one date. That will be, likely, end of summer or fall.
We’d also like to do another northern California run like we did last year. We’ve had a good following out there too, that one we’re still kind of piecing together a little bit, we’re thinking it could happen in July if we get all the pieces together but we can’t promise anything on that one yet. We get lots of calls asking “hey can you play this corporate or private event”, you know down in Texas, and we just say sure if the flight is look after? does it pay enough? and if so then we usually try to book a show, or two around that.
Hendrik – What about new music? I know you’re fresh off the release of your new EP, Retrospect, but from experience the process is often already be underway for the next release or the next single.
Hadley Park – It has to be, it’s not like you can write a whole album, or even an EP worth of amazing songs in a week or a month. I mean, if you think you’ve written that many great songs that quickly it’s probably not going to be a good album, in my humble opinion. So ya we’re already started on another one that doesn’t mean it will be out this year but it might, we just have no idea. We might also just release another single, or something. It’s kind of open at this point. But we’re definitely writing already.
Hendrik – So out of the 7 songs on the EP you have released 2 official singles, could there be another one or are you still kind of feeling it out?
Hadley Park – Personally I would love more than one out, to be released. From the beginning the plans were always to have the majority, if not, every song on the EP be something that could be played on the radio. The good news is that when SiriusXM got our EP every DJ over there had a different opinion on which song the single should be. Stormy wanted one song, Buzz wanted another song and somebody else had a totally different opinion. We absolutely love that because we’re hoping it means they’d be up for playing the other songs as well. We’ll see but that’s the goal anyway, to make it last as long as possible and go as many singles deep as possible.
Hendrik – You know it’s funny, while I was preparing for this interview I came across a review of your EP and although it was a very positive review the only song they didn’t like was “Another Bottle of Wine” and yet here you are getting so much traction from that one single.
Hadley Park – Laughs, yes we remember that. You know it’s not for everybody, it’s very tongue in cheek. We talk about weed, attempted murder…it’s not for everyone. It is funny that that’s the single.
Hendrik – On a scale of musical controversy it doesn’t really rank that high. Perhaps had it been released before “Girl Crush” or “Follow Your Arrow” it might have turned some heads so in retrospect (pun intended) your song is actually kind of tame.
Morgan – Ya it is tame. My favorite story to tell about writing “Bottle of Wine”, we’re writing and Courtney was saying “oh no we can’t say weed in a song, they’ll never play that on the radio.” so I said “fine we’ll come up with an alternative verse so if, by true miracle someone wants to cut this song and it gets put on the radio” then we cut the song, it’s our song and SiriusXM puts it on and they were like “sure we don’t care”.
Hendrik – I’m not sure how familiar you both are with Canada but we’ve got a tonne of country music festivals up here. I think Ontario alone has close to 10 including two of North America’s largest outdoor country music and camping festivals Boots and Hearts and the Havelock Jamboree. SiriusXM actually brings the Music Row Happy Hour to Boots and Hearts every year. Have you heard of any of these festivals and are any on your bucket list?
Hadley Park – Playing at any kind of big festival is always on our bucket list and just going to Canada is on our bucket list. My husband, he’s a songwriter too, and he used to write for Ole, which is a Canadian based company, I learned a little more about the Canada scene while he was writing there but I still feel pretty naive or in the dark on it but ya we’re always up to stuff like that.
Hendrik – Morgan and Courtney, that’s all I have for this time. I want to thank you both for taking the time out of your busy schedules to talk to me today. I look forward to watching Hadley Park’s success grow over the coming years and definitely look forward to catching you in Canada sometime in the near future.
You too can get to know Hadley Park by visiting them online at www.wearehadleypark.com. Of course you can follow and interact with Morgan and Courtney on social media at either their Facebook page, Twitter page or both. If you like their music be sure to support them and purchase Retrospect on iTunes today. Of course you can continue to request “Another Bottle of Wine” on SiriusXM The Highway by commenting on the Highway’s Facebook page or Tweeting your request to @SXMTheHighway
Hadley Park’s latest single is “Another Bottle of Wine” and you can check it out below with their official lyric video!