Exclusive: Elah Hale On Her Career and New Single “Foolish”

Image by Jingyu Lin

Last year, Elah Hale released her debut EP ‘Room 206.’ Now, Hale is back with a single”Foolish”centered around the emotions of a relationship gone wrong.

Back in 2015,  Elah Hale was merely a fresh-faced model, writer, and New York City creative. It wasn’t until her free-association song “Porsche, Hat, Cloud” gained traction on Tumblr, was her rise to stardom ignited. She later became a sensation on the platform Bandcamp which led to her signing with Interscope Records at 19.  Hale is a multi-dimensional artist who’s lyricism and talent transcends her age. Her debut EP, “Room 206” garnered mass success and now her new single “Foolish” is here to begin a brand new and exciting era for the Pop/R&B songstress. With the single, Hale tackles heartbreak in a honest manner by accepting both truth and regret. It’s a balance entangled in a groovy rhythm and soft vocals.

We had the chance to speak with Hale about her new single and passion for music and songwriting. 

The Knockturnal: When did you know you wanted to be a songwriter and who were your biggest inspirations?

Elah Hale: I knew that it was something I really enjoyed doing when I was really young. When I was nine I was just getting into guitar and for me Hannah Montana was like the greatest person I’d ever heard of.  She was my first concert, actually. I would do covers of Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana songs. Then I got a little older, and Norah Jones was huge for me and so was Robyn. I think that I really came of age in a time seemingly post Britney Spears and sort of what pop iconography looked like. I think that I had the opportunity to be inspired  by people like Robin and Brittany, but then also newer people. I think it’s really changed over the years, but has also not changed that much.

The Knockturnal: Who would you say is one of your biggest inspirations right now as an up and coming musician?

Elah Hale: Now, it’s a handful of people. I think Bree Runway is amazing and she’s a massive inspiration to me because she’s fantastic and carving out her own lane. Lauryn Hill is an icon and then Robyn  is one of those people where I heard her music first when I was young and it’s been super impactful since then.

The Knockturnal: You signed your first record deal at 19. How would you say your sound’s changed since and what have you learned so far in your career?

Elah Hale: I think I’ve been having this internal battle between wanting to make music for other people and wanting to make music that I love. I think I came across this understanding that l couldn’t make the most popular song in the world. Then, there’s an 80% chance that it’s going to end up on the same playlist because of algorithmic racism, and because of the way the industry is currently placed. I’ve had to sort of accept that until that really changes or until I somehow get my foot in all those other doors. I should do whatever I want, and make music that I think sounds fantastic. The likelihood that it’s going to end up in the same place shouldn’t stop me from just doing it, and the right people will find it hopefully.

The Knockturnal: Along with being a songwriter, you’re also a playwright as well. Does that influence your songwriting process?

Elah Hale: I think it did when I was in college still, and taking playwriting classes because I felt more connected to it. I had an outlet to do it. I think that now it’s sort of a hobby, but it’s a different outlet that I love. 

The Knockturnal: Would you say that storytelling is a big part of your music?

Elah Hale: Yeah, I’ve tried really hard to make storytelling a big part of my music, I think the best stories for me are worlds that you’re going into. I feel that when you’re listening to something like Frank Ocean or whoever, it will make you miss an event that never happened or make you miss a partner that never existed. I think that I’ve really tried to work on creating those world, and it’s really challenging. I’m always trying to get better.

The Knockturnal: How does it feel as a young person to be creating music for a young audience?

Elah Hale: It’s really challenging because I understand people in my immediate age range, so 17 to 24. There are 17-year-olds who are significantly cooler than I will ever be and 24-year-olds that I relate to. I think that I have a hard time with people who are significantly younger because I’m always hoping that they find my music and love it, maybe on TikTok. I think we live in this age of content creation ruling the world. It’s fantastic and I’m jealous of the people who are fantastic on every single platform like Lil Nas X who’s mastered the internet. There’s pressure because I want people to listen to my music, and I want to reach new people who would never have thought of it before, but simultaneously, I don’t want to do it in a disingenuous way, just in the hopes of streams.

The Knockturnal: Having looked back on your “Room 206” EP almost a year later, what have you learned from that process that you’re taking into your new music?

Elah Hale: I was trying to stay completely within my comfort zone. I think that because I was out of my comfort zone in the sense that I was in new studios and working with new people. It was the first time I signed a record deal and a publishing deal. I had never been to LA by myself, I really wanted to stay comfortable and I didn’t want to push myself. I didn’t want to ever have a session where I wrote a song that I thought was bad. I needed constant approval and just a constant sense of success. I think that I really had to learn that pushing myself was necessary. Taking four days to write a song or even two months is completely okay. I did push myself in some ways for the last EP, but I  didn’t push myself all the way. I definitely feel “Room 206” was myself with training wheels and I’m so proud of everything I’ve done. 

The Knockturnal: How do you find satisfaction in yourself when you’re writing a song?

Elah Hale: I think it’s really difficult. I think that what’s really hard for me is I don’t feel really comfortable producing. I have to find someone who will be able to understand what I’m thinking and what I’m trying to express and then translate into the song. I’m trying to get better at producing, but I think for me listening to a song when it’s finished either in the studio on speakers or in the car with my partner, is what feels amazing. Then, I just hope that feeling translates over until the song gets put out. 

The Knockturnal: Your new single “Foolish” taps on more mature elements and a sophisticated sound. What was the reason behind that?

Elah Hale: After the EP was written, we started working on “Foolish,” and I was really trying to push myself to write something just different to what I’ve done before. I kept going, and then eventually we got “Foolish.” I think that it sounds different because it came out of a different time. I think that it’s a good forward movement towards what’s to come because it’s not completely different, but it’s not the same.

The Knockturnal: What’s the main message behind that song?

Elah Hale: It’s completely okay to be in a relationship with someone, and you leave that relationship and feel that it was a mistake. That’s completely okay. Relationships are allowed to be these experiences where you wouldn’t do it again. It’s okay to not do something again and it’s okay to have made mistakes and feel like you’ve wasted time. I think that you gain something from that at the end of the day regardless. 

The Knockturnal: Do you have any dream collaborations in mind for the future?

Elah Hale: So many? Bree Runaway is one of them. She’s amazing. There’s many artists in the UK that I think are really fantastic. Robyn would be fantastic. The Weeknd, I love him so much. I would love to do something with Norah Jones, just because we wouldn’t just be writing a banger pop song. My beginnings in music were Jazz, Jazz guitar, and then Jazz vocal in college. I think it would feel very full circle to do something like that with her.

“Foolish” is out now on all streaming platforms.

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