2019 Rising Star Edmonton Music Award Recipient, 2019 Top 3 “My United Way Voice” Finalist, 2019 St. Albert Mayor’s Art Award Recipient. These, among many other awards, have been given to the more than deserving Hailey Benedict, rising Alberta based country music star and friend of a friend that I was thrilled to interview. I had come into contact with Benedict prior while reviewing her high school’s production of Matilda: The Musical with the Edmonton Journal Cappies, and was very happy to have her be a part of this project. Benedict–like me, is in the graduating class of 2020, and spoke on the difficulties of having to find alternate ways to honour everyone’s achievements during the Covid-19 pandemic, on top of the changes to her music life. “I think the music industry was hit hard. The thing I love most is to be able to perform and connect with people so it certainly has been a weird adjustment. None of us planned it to go this way.” She also expressed her sadness at losing the chance of having a traditional graduation and prom and missing her school friends. Dresses, caps and gowns may seem small and insignificant to some, but for many who have been working hard for years–it’s quite a loss.
Hailey Benedict lives a sort of Hannah Montana life–a normal girl thinking about school plays and friends and graduation–but she has certainly had some superstar moments that seem cinematic enough to be in a movie. Benedict performed her original song “Clean Slate,” in front of 200,000 people at a Keith Urban concert, and spoke with an effortless smile on her face about the dreamlike experience. “It was really cool–very surreal. I had always wondered what it looked like to see a crowd that big looking back at you. The entire night felt like a dream. Definitely an experience I will never forget.”
We bonded over our love of arts and arts opportunities for youth, which is my platform as Miss Teenage Edmonton. Benedict had nothing but praises to sing about the impact the arts community has had on her life. “It’s allowed me to connect with people. What I love about music is the stories I get to tell and the people I get to meet. The arts give people the opportunity to be themselves and express themselves.” She spoke about how art and music were therapeutic for her, helping her to cope and work through the bullying she experienced when she was young. “I just think it is important that people help support the arts for youth because it provides everyone with a really great outlet.”
When she isn’t singing on stage in front of crowds of hundreds in concert form, Benedict also does theatre with her school, and spoke to the unique experiences that come along with being part of a cast. “You are stepping into a character and a story. The cast and the crew and the directors–there are so many layers that come together. A cast is such a tight bond, and until you are in one it’s hard to understand how much of a community it is.”
Benedict is far more than just a performer, she also does philanthropic work with charities such as Santa’s Anonymous and the Stollery Children’s Hospital. “I think it is really important to give back to your community. Being an artist, I have a platform and a voice to be able to spread awareness. There is no cost to be kind. The world needs more kindness, and being involved in your community exposing you to real issues. I love to be able to invest back into my community.”
Benedict is impressive on her own, but she has been able to work and perform with a large number of notable artists over her career. She was able to sing with Canadian songwriter Jessica Mitchell. Benedict’s cover of her song, “Bulletproof,” gained traction, and gave Benedict the opportunity to collaborate with her. “To be able to sing that with her was so special. There were lots of tears and she was just the sweetest person.” The list did not end there, Benedict was quick to praise other Canadian women in the music industry. “I look up to Tenille Townes and Lindsey Ell. They are two amazing artists and songwriters.” She spoke about their continued support and advice throughout her success, and how they always connect with her at events. “They are very empowering. It’s hard being a woman in the music industry, and they are really just champions of being yourself and showing you can do whatever you set your mind to it.”
She shifted a bit away from music to give a shout out to Leslie Mcdonald, a large part of the Global Women of Vision project– a project that previously honoured Benedict. “She’s done a great job of investing back into her community and highlighting women’s voices. She’s so empowering.”
She also noted her mother as another woman who inspires her, and how her old but good advice has always stuck with her through everything she has done. “She always says that there is no cost to be kind. She built that into me at a young age and it struck home. She always told me to be myself and to give back in whatever way you can because the world can be a dark place. To be a light in a dark place is a very special thing.”
We turned our attention to the future, seeing what is next for this rising store. “I would love to be touring by then and have an album out. I want to connect my music with as many people as I can and learn as much as I can to become a better artist and person.”
We ended our conversation with a last piece of advice for young women out there. “Just keep going. It is so easy to get caught up in people’s opinions.” She spoke about the bullying and adversity she has endured, and how people didn’t always believe in her artistic dreams. “I just say, if you love what you are doing–keep doing it. Don’t listen to the naysayers and believe in yourself. As long as you feel happy and proud–keep shooting for the stars.”
Everyone keeps an eye on their televisions and radios because Hailey Benedict is here to stay. I for one cannot wait to see what this remarkable young woman does in the future–so we better keep an eye out for this rising star!
Interview by Sophia Wojdak, Miss Teenage Edmonton 2020