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April 6, 2012

Local musician has new CD


Coming to Vancouver with the intention of becoming an actress, Haley K. Turner “dreamt of pretty dresses / And glasses of champagne / The smell of fresh red roses / And the life with all the fame,” as the lyrics to “Sunset Mountain” reveal. However, although she still may well achieve fame and all its trappings, she has chosen to follow a different artistic path – that of a singer-songwriter.

Turner grew up in Kelowna. “Prior to moving,” she told the Independent in an e-mail interview, “I had written about 13 songs or so with the help of my dad, but I didn’t play an instrument yet, so I focused on acting rather than a career in music.

“My reasons for becoming an actor were very different than my reasons for writing music. The promise of fame and fortune that had initially interested me in acting eventually lost its appeal when I discovered that, unlike with acting, music allowed me to have creative control over the message and image I was putting out there. The first song on the album, ‘Sunset Mountain,’ is about just that. Shortly after moving to Vancouver, I purchased a guitar and I have been focusing entirely on music for the last couple years.”

One tangible result of all that work is Turner’s debut CD, Ready or Not, which was released last fall. Featuring five songs, all of which were written by Turner, it has a cheerful, optimistic, pop-folk sound – a very promising first recording.

On her website and on the CD’s inside cover, Turner shares, “I write about what I see and feel and what I think people need to hear. I write about stories I have heard, people who have inspired me, and random moments I experience.” As but one example, the second song on the CD, “Hope,” was inspired by a trip to Israel. In it, Turner encourages people to take on the task of tikkun olam, though she doesn’t use that language. She writes, “All the people say, that it’s someone else’s job to do / But I am telling you that it’s just as much yours too / We have it pretty great in this corner of our world / But just because it’s out of sight doesn’t mean it’s not our fight.”

“I first visited Israel on a CIE [Canada Israel Experience] Birthright trip in 2009,” Turner told the Independent. “For me, part of being an artist is the desire to encourage and inspire others, which has always led to an interest in being part of a volunteer project.

“In May 2011, I chose to integrate my love for Israel and my desire to volunteer, and participated on a Volunteer Social Action Mission with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. We volunteered at Shechafim, a multi-language, multicultural school located in the northern area of Israel, situated not too far from the Syrian and Lebanese borders. Muslim, Druze and Jewish children from age six to 21 with severe disabilities learn side by side. Seeing firsthand the sense of equality this school brings in such a conflicted region was inspiring to say the least.”

The two trips came together in her writing, she said. “The inspiration I received from staring at the desert the first time I visited Israel led me to writing the second song on the album, ‘Hope,’ and the experiences from my second visit added a whole new depth of meaning to the song.”

Her volunteering, as well as her other work, prove that Turner isn’t simply a woman of words.

“This past year,” she said, “I was privileged to work with a wonderful local nonprofit called Cassie and Friends Fund, [which is] for children with juvenile arthritis. My background is primarily in the entertainment industry and, as a past performer for a similar program, I came on board as the program coordinator for their educational touring puppet troupe.”

That her skill set encompasses both the creative and the practical is evident from the recording quality and marketing of Ready or Not – though she admits that everything didn’t come easily to her.

“I think some of the best advice I have received is to focus on the things you are good at, and find others to work with in the areas you’re not so good at,” she said. “The artistic elements of creating a CD, such as writing, come a lot more naturally to me than the business components and it’s definitely been a learning curve. As an independent artist with a limited budget, it’s not always an option to hire people to help with the business side of music.

“It’s not just about releasing the CD, but finding the right producer and musicians, planning and executing the marketing strategy and designing the CD packaging, to name a few. I really had to execute many of these tasks alone, but I was also fortunate to find some wonderful people to work with.

“I also couldn’t imagine trying to run your own business without the information made available by the Internet, and some of the other great resources available to artists, such as Music BC,” she continued. “I attended many workshops and events, attempting to immerse myself in the industry and obtain as much knowledge as I could prior to getting into the studio. I first wanted to record a CD about five years ago, and I think that it took me this long to gain enough knowledge to execute it successfully and also save up enough to fund the project myself.”

While Turner said she considers it fortunate that artists can start their careers independently, she admitted that, with digital sales and free downloads, it is difficult to recoup the money invested in a recording.

“Although it is possible to buy the songs online,” she said, “a lot of work and heart went into designing the CD packaging and I encourage local fans to purchase a hard copy of the album. The anonymity of online sales prevents me from knowing my audience and, as a songwriter whose music is directly influenced by the people around me and the events in my life, it means so much to me to know who my listeners are. Plus, the CD itself is purple and that is just fun! I’m happy to pop it in the mail or arrange to drop it off, a perfect example of a do-it-yourself task for an indie artist!”

This positive attitude has been ingrained in Turner, who one day hopes to write music for TV and film. “I think it’s safe to say that I grew up in an artistic home,” she said. “Aside from watching my dad perform in local venues around Kelowna, my mom is a committed supporter of the arts. Both of my parents have always been encouraging to my older sister, Erica, and me. Erica left home at the age of 11 to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer. She retired a few years ago and is now heading down her second career path, attending Columbia University in NYC.... I know a lot of kids grow up with parents who don’t see the value in the arts, and I feel truly blessed to have not had them standing in my way. You encounter enough obstacles and disbelievers when seeking a career in the arts, and I couldn’t imagine not having had the support I received from my family along the way.

“My very first concert was a sold-out show at the JCC in Kelowna,” she added. “The support I received from both the Jewish and Kelowna community really encouraged me to continue. This past year, I performed in Kelowna for the first time in a very long time and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of the faces that were there for my very first show!”

Ready or Not can be purchased at, Bandcamp and CD Baby. For a signed CD, e-mail [email protected].