British Columbia·Q&A

How living on a blueberry farm on Vancouver Island inspired American Canadian singer-songwriter Hayley Sales

American Canadian singer-songwriter Hayley Sales says living on an organic blueberry farm in Coombs, part of the Nanaimo regional district on Vancouver Island, helped her become the artist she is today.

Her new album, Till the End was primarily written on the farm during the pandemic

A woman wearing a black outfit with a tan-colored cardigan is photographed leaning back against a brown-leader U-shaped chair.
American Canadian singer-songwriter Hayley Sales learned to use the recording studio after moving to an organic blueberry farm near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, B.C. (Submitted by George Holz and Hayley Sales)

American Canadian singer-songwriter Hayley Sales says living on an organic blueberry farm in Coombs, part of the Nanaimo regional district on Vancouver Island, helped her become the artist she is today.

Born in Washington, D.C., Sales was surrounded by music all her life: her father was a musician and sound engineer who operated a recording studio out of their home in the U.S.

After moving to Vancouver Island at age 15, Sales learned to use the recording studio while pursuing an acting career.

She moved to Los Angeles two years later, at age 17, then returned to Vancouver Island after losing her voice from acid reflux.

A woman is sitting by the piano wearing a black top and blue jeans, singing into a microphone.
Heyley Sales performed during the official launch of the CBC News Nanaimo bureau on Friday. On The Island, BC Today and All Points West broadcasted their radio shows from Serious Coffee on Hammond Bay Road. ( Ervin Wong)

"I came back to the island and really, really dug into the music and in a way, once it was taken away, I realized it was everything," she said.

"It is my heart and music keeps me alive."

Sales spoke to CBC's Michelle Elliot about the farm and her new album, Till the End.

We are in Nanaimo to mark the launch of a new CBC local bureau. We'll meet our new videographer based right here in town. We'll be joined by some of the people and businesses who make this a great place to be. And Singer-songwriter Hayley Sales will join us! Plus, on the open line, we're asking you, who are the local vendors you love?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me what impact Vancouver Island had on you and your music?

It had an incredible impact on my music.

We moved to this gorgeous blueberry farm and my dad set up his recording studio that he had moved around with him throughout his life.

I was so alone that I dug into the studio and I learned how to run it myself, how to create the sounds I heard and I was so inspired by the support of the community at the same time that it changed my entire life. I made the record that led me to getting signed — Sunseed.

Did your surroundings have any influence in your music?

Absolutely. I fell in love with surfing when I came here and became very aware of how important nature is to our serenity.

I think art is created only from a space of that stillness. It lets all the craziness come through. I know that sounds funny but in so many ways being able to wake up and go for a walk in the woods and then go into the studio is an incredibly important part of how I create and how I write and record. 

Tell me about the time you moved to Los Angeles?

I've loved music and acting and I had become a little disillusioned with music at the time for a variety of reasons. I moved to L.A. and at that point I was a little too young and I developed an eating disorder because I didn't feel beautiful enough. It was in my head and it happens to us all but I lost my voice entirely from acid reflux.

I think it was a bit of divine intervention because I came back to the island and really, really dug into my music because I think once it was taken away, I realized it was everything.

I've moved back to L.A., on and off since and I do love the juxtaposition of the Island and L.A., but I'm really glad to be here now. It's amazing the timing actually of it because I just finished my next album.

How did your collaboration with Sharon Stone happen?

I was introduced to her around the time my whole life fell apart with losing the album in 2016 and what not. I was in L.A., and a mutual friend said that Sharon Stone was a writer and was looking to branch out. She had done some co-writes and wanted to do more with a female.


I went to her house totally nervous and I remember she came into the room and she's like let's just talk for awhile. We sat and talked and I remember she asked me a question that kind of redirected my trajectory of what I was doing with my music.

She was like if you had one song or one moment, who are you? What is it you need to sing? And I was thinking and I realized it's romance. I view the world as a story or like this romantic ups and downs and she's like well then you need to do that.

We wrote Never Before together in one sitting and it made me really take some time and think, if I had one chance, one album left, what do I need to do?

How has the pandemic affected you?

It was pretty hard. I'm sure it has been for everyone. I finished what I thought was the album when the pandemic happened and this is maybe another mini blessing. I was so, so saddened by the fact that it was put on pause and I got really depressed. I wallowed in it for a long time and decided, well, I'm on a blueberry farm with a recording studio so I guess I'll just keep playing around.

I actually wrote most of the songs that wound up being on the record. I think the solitude and kind of being really forced to take the time and the art that came out of me was really important.

With files from BC Today


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