High hopes for de­but

Singer Halsey re­veals to James Croot why cre­at­ing Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom nearly broke her.

Sunday News - - ETC -

Halsey ad­mits to be­ing ex­cited about her up­com­ing Kiwi con­cert de­but. The 23-year-old Amer­i­can singer, dubbed ‘‘the voice of her gen­er­a­tion’’ by no-less than Bill­board mag­a­zine, Forbes and MTV, is bring­ing her Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom World Tour to Auck­land’s Spark Arena later this month. While the New Jersey na­tive did visit our shores for a pro­mo­tional tour last year, she says she hopes the sched­ule this time will al­low her to ex­plore her sur­round­ings a lit­tle more. ‘‘I didn’t get to see much of the ter­rain last time, but I know it’s what ev­ery­one talks about. I def­i­nitely want to take a cou­ple of days to look around, be­cause you go so many places you never thought you would and all you see is a ho­tel room.’’

Born Ash­ley Ni­co­lette Frangi­pane (her stage name is both an ana­gram of her given name and al­legedly in­spired by a Brook­lyn sub­way stop and street), the singer-song­writer has had a rel­a­tively rapid rise to fame, go­ing from putting songs on SoundCloud to play­ing sold-out are­nas in last a few years.

Es­sen­tially half­way through her cur­rent 12-month long tour, Halsey says she learned a lot from her first global ex­cur­sions in 2015-16. ‘‘It was a great time in my life and I was sell­ing out ev­ery sin­gle show. But I was also get­ting my foot­ing as a per­former and find­ing out what I liked about per­form­ing and be­ing on­stage. This time around, I’m a bit more sea­soned.’’

She says those ex­pe­ri­ences also fed into the cre­ation of her sec­ond al­bum, 2017’s Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom.

‘‘Yeah, when I wrote it, I was think­ing about what it would be like to per­form it. I wanted to put a lot of at­ten­tion into mak­ing sure the show was re­ally in­ter­est­ing and creative and a kind sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

A self-con­fessed ‘‘al­bum artist’’, Halsey says that al­though her for­ma­tive years were dur­ing a time when the ini­tial rise of stream­ing had seem­ingly de­stroyed al­bums, she sought out artists like Kings of Leon, Cold­play, Gwen Ste­fani, The Killers and Green Day.

‘‘They were peo­ple who cre­ated a uni­verse and they are the ones who still make the cut for me now I’m an adult – the ones I still care about. Study the cover of any of their al­bums and you can see a bunch of im­ages, a colour, a font – some­thing en­tirely rep­re­sen­ta­tive of that era. I want to give my fans that ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I re­mem­ber when Amer­i­can Id­iot came out, I was watch­ing their [Green Day’s] tran­si­tion from one song to the next and all the mu­sic videos they made had co­he­sive char­ac­ters and this same dystopian uni­verse. I lived for that, felt like I lived in it and was part of this com­mu­nity and sto­ry­line that a non-Green Day fan wouldn’t un­der­stand.’’

For Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom, Halsey’s in­spi­ra­tion was Wil­liam’s Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet (the play’s pro­logue even fea­tures on the open­ing track) with the fo­cus on two fam­i­lies (the An­gelus and the Aureums) liv­ing in a fu­tur­is­tic land. When heir to the throne So­lis An­gelus falls in love with Luna Aureum, chaos en­sues.

De­scrib­ing mak­ing an al­bum as a re­ally ex­haust­ing and emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence (‘‘be­cause I write all my own mu­sic and songs’’), Halsey says she be­gins her process by ‘‘tak­ing a cou­ple of weeks to fig­ure out what the al­bum looks like’’. ‘‘What colour is it? What im­ages rep­re­sent my state of mind? Then it be­comes like writ­ing a movie script fo­cus­ing on ris­ing ac­tion, a cli­max and hope­fully some sort of cathar­sis, then I go in and make all the mu­sic. It took me about five or six weeks from start to fin­ish for this one.’’

But, she ad­mits, Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom left her some­what cre­atively drained.

‘‘I felt like I’d used up all my juice. So when it came to try­ing to think of an in­spi­ra­tion for the tour’s stage de­sign, it was the first time I’ve ever thought, ‘OK, maybe I’ll let some­body else think of it for me’. But then I was two weeks from dead­line and I was in the kitchen when I sud­denly started cry­ing. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I think I was just over­whelmed and had a mo­ment where I felt like an im­poster be­cause I couldn’t think of any­thing.’’

For­tu­nately, at her low­est point, she re­mem­bered be­ing at a Kanye West con­cert a cou­ple of years back.

‘‘He had an all-white spi­ral stair­case like some­thing out of a mas­sive mod­ern art mu­seum. Then I re­mem­bered the first time I saw him play at a Made in Amer­ica Fes­ti­val and he was wear­ing this fake mask. Re­mem­ber­ing all these shows I re­ally liked, helped me bring my ideas to­gether of di­vid­ing the stage into two – one side show­ing a macro per­spec­tive and the other a mi­cro one – both of which could be both over­whelm­ing and un­set­tling. I also de­cided to make all my vi­su­als very non-lit­eral, like Dis­ney’s Fan­ta­sia – all im­ages and colours.

‘‘Maybe next time, I’ll do noth­ing – have a com­pletely white stage,’’ she laughs.

But al­though she’s ea­ger to get back into the record­ing stu­dio, Halsey ad­mits she’s de­lib­er­ately block­ing her­self from get­ting too ex­cited about her next move be­cause she wants to fo­cus on giv­ing her au­di­ences the ‘‘best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble’’.

‘‘I’m not one of those peo­ple who, ev­ery night when they go off stage, get on the bus and write. I do jot down lit­tle notes, lit­tle things I want to look back on and touch on when I’m writ­ing the al­bum. But when I’m on tour, I put my all on the stage phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. All I do off-stage is go to sleep and call my grandma.’’

Halsey says she has a good feel­ing about the Auck­land con­cert, hop­ing it might be as mem­o­rable as her first Aus­tralian per­for­mance at the 2015/2016 Falls Fes­ti­val in Lorne, Victoria.

‘‘I re­mem­ber com­ing off-stage, so far away from home and the crowd had been so loud and so amaz­ing, that I was walk­ing back to my dress­ing room with my heart in my ears, feel­ing like I was hav­ing an anx­i­ety at­tack. I just threw my­self down onto the dirty ground and just started scream­ing, ‘that was f...ing awe­some’. I was just so be­side my­self.’’

‘ When I’m on tour, I put my all on the stage phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. All I do off­stage is go to sleep and call my grandma.’ HALSEY

● Halsey will bring her Hope­less Foun­tain King­dom World Tour to Auck­land’s Spark Arena on Thurs­day. For more in­for­ma­tion, see livena­tion.co.nz

Singer-song­writer Halsey has had a rel­a­tively rapid rise to fame.

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