Chattanooga native and current Nashville resident Hailey Miller has a disarming way of revealing emotional devastation without resorting to blunt force. She’s not necessarily subtle about the effects of this trauma nor the abuse (physical or otherwise) from which it results, but she approaches these collective experiences with a balance of fiery self-empowerment and personal insight. Building a persuasive and complex musical landscape from a host of folk, pop and country impulses, her work is both mesmerizing and insightful as it dissects love, joy and the ache of everyday life.
Possessing an intuitive sense of how to relate universal sentiment to individual struggles, she effortlessly mines these familiar rhythmic avenues for unique perspectives and an artful awareness of self-worth and emotional preservation. Rather than relying on bland sentimentality like so many other artists who wander these specific musical atmospheres, Miller searches for earnest associations within her music. And regardless of whether she’s opting for a strip-down acoustic narrative or something with a bit more muscle, the music strikes down into the deepest parts of your heart.
On her new single, “Deserve,” Miller recounts the end of an especially damaging relationship. Backed by churning guitars and a propulsive drumbeat (reminiscent of something you might find on a record by The Bangles or The Go-Go’s), her voice catches fire as she paints a vivid portrait of defiance and newfound freedom. Influenced by the swirling pop-rock of the ‘80s, the track is an incendiary indictment of toxic connections and the lengths that people will go to in order to maintain hold over someone else. As details emerge, we’re shown how much strength it takes to break free and also how necessary that can be in situations like these.
“Writing ‘Deserve’ was the cheapest form of therapy possible,” Miller explains. “In short, this song is about a messy breakup, but, in reality, it marks the beginning of extraordinary growth in my life. It was one of those songs written in 20 minutes. I distinctly remember driving home, closing my door, picking up my guitar, and, within less than an hour, the song was born. I then put the guitar down and walked away from this tune for a few months. After some healing, I sent the song to my good friend Itamar, and he ran with it. Itamar took my bare-bones demo track and turned it into the empowering anthem I only hoped it could be. Lyrically, I tried to return to this song months later to add a bridge or a verse, but I came up with nothing. I said all that I needed to say.
She continues: “Writing this song helped me get over the breakup, and, once I was over it, I had nothing left to write. Technically, ‘Deserve’ is a breakup song, but, to me, it is a coming-of-age story. It took me until that moment to realize that I deserved better treatment than I was receiving. Since then, I have grown and matured in ways I never expected. Part of me did not want to release ‘Deserve’ since I am now the happiest I have ever been and did not want to relive that time in my life, but just because this song helped me heal doesn’t mean it has run its course. Hopefully this song can remind others that they deserve to be treated with love and respect always.