Raised in London and brought up in a highly musical family, Hayley Jane Batt was introduced to instruments and jam sessions before she had ever spoken her first words or taken her first steps. Her deep-rooted musical proclivity comes from her father Mike Batt, who is a songwriter, producer, conductor, and band manager, and her brother Luke, better known under his moniker Superheart, who is a popular songwriter is his own right. So when it came time for Hayley to choose her desired vocation, the decision was easy. Having studied piano and flute from a young age, Hayley was a natural when it came to rhythm and melody, but it wasn’t until she picked up the bass at the age of 14 that she truly found her calling.
“Those other instruments quickly fell by the wayside once I picked up a bass. Playing bass in bands was much more fun that practicing my flute at home. My dad and brother started asking me to join in on their jams, where my dad would shout chord changes from his piano and I’d just chug along and try to keep up. I then joined my brother’s band and instantly knew that I wanted to be a touring musician. There was no going back at that point.”
Hayley worked tirelessly to hone her talents on bass as a teen and all of her effort paid off when she was awarded two scholarships to the Berklee College of Music with the Timothy B Schmitt Endowed Scholarship Award and the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship. At the age of 19 she packed up her bags and gear and headed to America where her real work would begin. Intimidated by the immense talent around her and the challenging curriculum at first, Hayley put her fears aside and submersed herself into her studies and came out of the experience prepared to apply everything she had absorbed. Upon graduating from Berklee, Hayley found work immediately, joining acclaimed indie band Freelance Whales and performing with New York artists Tei Shi and Catey Shaw.
In 2015 she decided to make the jump to Los Angeles, which instantly proved to be the right move, as she landed touring and performing roles with Emily Kinney (of The Walking Dead), Zara Larsson, and YouTube sensation Madilyn Bailey. Currently, Hayley is holding down the low end for two critically acclaimed artists who are rapidly skyrocketing in popularity with indie synth-pop crooner BØRNS, and the new project of The Wombats frontman Matthew Murphy, Love Fame Tragedy. Hayley’s keen sense of groove and her ability to lay it down on both electric and keybass while belting out beautiful vocals have made her a highly in demand player. Fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a professional musician would be gratifying enough for most, but for someone with the talent, work ethic, and ambition of Hayley, this is merely the beginning.
Why bass? What attracted you to it?
Bass always felt natural to play and just made more sense to me than other instruments. I gravitated towards bass lines when I listened to music and loved figuring them out and being able to play along with records or with other musicians. Bass is such an integral part of songs and yet you don’t have to be front and center on a stage. I was a shy kid, so I liked the comfort of having an instrument to hide behind, while also feeling powerful holding down the foundation of a song. Shyness isn’t such a problem now!
When did you really start to excel on bass?
I think the reason I loved it so much was that it came naturally to me. I was told I had good feel and timing and a good ear for picking up lines. This allowed me to coast along for a while, but all of that only gets you so far. Going to music college gave me the kick I needed to progress my playing.
You were awarded two scholarships to attend the Berklee College of Music. What was that experience like for you?
It really pushed me out of my comfort zone. You’re surrounded by so many talented musicians and teachers there, and that can be very overwhelming. But that’s how you get better. Playing with better musicians forces you to lift your game. It was a lot of sink or swim-type scenarios. That was really invaluable. The Wes Wehmiller Scholarship really opened some doors for me, as part of the ‘prize’ included flying to LA and playing a show. John ‘JR’ Robinson was on drums and still to this day I will never forget being in that rehearsal and feeling the pure ecstasy of playing with a drummer of his caliber.
What were the biggest things you took away from your time at Berklee?
Play the money notes. Serve the song. Listen. You are always a student of music, there’s always more to learn. I had some brilliant teachers who truly believed in me and prepared me for ‘the real world.’ They reminded me to stay true to who I was as a player, not who I thought I should be. You will be perfect for some gigs and not others and that’s okay. It took me a long time to accept that, but it was freeing when I did.
When music gets stressful in any way, I remind myself of one particular Berklee lesson. A harmony teacher asked us to memorize some chord progressions for the next day. The class sighed and the teacher said, “guys, this is simply for your benefit, this isn’t medical school. If you don’t learn this stuff, no one is going to die.” Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that it’s only music.
You sing in a lot of the bands you play in. How natural is that for you?
It definitely wasn’t natural at first and it always depends on the song. Often I hear the parts and think “how the hell am I going to play and sing that at the same time?!” Once I break it down and figure out the rhythmic puzzle of where everything falls, it is much easier. Like most things, once you’ve figured it out you wonder why you ever stressed about it. There’s always a way. It’s so much more difficult than people think though.
You have been on the road with BØRNS for a while now. What is it like playing that music from a bass standpoint?
I didn’t write them, but the BØRNS bass lines are brilliant. There’s no room for being shy on that gig. They are melodic, groovy, powerful, and are often the main hook in the songs. The gig is pretty much a 50/50 split of synth and electric bass. I have a lot of changes during songs, moving between bass, synth, and vocals and so the dance routine of that keeps me very busy.
What do you like most about playing the music of BØRNS?
The songs are so well crafted and every musical and lyrical element is carefully thought out and purposeful. A lot of Garrett’s (Clark Borns) music sounds quite epic and feels even more so when we’re playing it live.
Another band you’re currently playing in, Love Fame Tragedy, is surging in popularity.
Love Fame tragedy is such a fun band to be part of! Murph is a brilliant songwriter and has written some very catchy songs with melodic and strong bass lines. We really get a chance as a band to go full rock vibes throughout most of the set.
The single “My Cheating Heart” has a strummed bass part through the verses and then booming whole notes in the chorus. You have some key vocals parts in that too.
That’s a really fun one to play. The song is centered around that strummed bass part which runs through the entire song. For the chorus I move to low chugging bass notes that follow the synth in the track and help to fatten it up even more. The female vocals on the record were sung by Maddi Jean Waterhouse, and they are so prominent that it’s practically a duet, which is fun for me to do live.
You play a lot of synth bass with Børns and LFT. How do you approach playing synth bass differently than electric bass?
I guess the different approach comes from the simple fact that they are two completely different instruments, both physically and sonically. Their role within the song remains the same; it’s just a question of what sounds best for the music. Some of the BØRNS synth lines are pretty intricate and robotic. For example, in “Man” and “Iceberg” those bass lines wouldn’t have the same effect if I played them on an electric bass. I never knew when I started playing bass that I would also have to be a keyboard player, but I love it now, and I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t play synth to learn it alongside the electric.
How do you achieve your ideal bass tone?
I have flats on all my basses now and I never play a show without my Ampeg SCR-DI. It’s my bass pedal comfort blanket and can achieve a punchy, warm and rounded tone that I love. I primarily use a Fender Precision and although I love rolling the tone all the way off, I split the difference for live so it cuts through. I also use an Ampeg scrambler and an OCD pedal, which I call the “rage” pedal. We all need to rage sometimes.
Describe your playing style.
I do a lot of left-hand muting and mostly play with my fingers. Right now most of my gigs have quite aggressive picking, rock bass lines. That takes a different attitude, which impacts the way my hands meet the instrument. For some reason on stage I dig my left foot into the ground and it swivels from side to side. I don’t know where it came from, but I can’t stop it and it seems to help me groove. Perhaps it’s a way of keeping my whole body in time.
Who are your greatest bass influences?
The first bass line I heard that made me feel all kinds of emotional was Pino Palladino’s bass line on Oleta Adams’ “Get Here.” His playing has had a massive influence on me. I also love Rhonda Smith. I saw her play with Jeff Beck and she was just awesome.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass?
Learn records and play along with them. That was the first thing I learned in my first bass lesson at 14 and it remains the most important, even though it seems obvious. The greatest bass players are all accessible and right there to play along with. Being able to pick out a bass line and figure out what and why those decisions were made is invaluable to understanding your role as a bass player. –BM
Bass Fender Precision, Fender Jazz, Fender Mustang
Rig Ampeg SVT-CL, SVT 810
Pedals Ampeg SCR-DI, Fulltone OCD Overdrive, Boss Super Octave OC-3
Strings Ernie Ball Slinky Flatwounds .045-.100
Synth Moog Sub 37
For more visit: Hayley Jane Batt
Photos by: Jasmine Safaeian