20 Questions for...Hayley Westenra

Hayley Westenra
Hayley Westenra

HAYLEY Westenra is such a familiar face on the music scene, and has been for such a long time, that it is often surprising to remember she is just 24.

But the talented soprano, who made her first professional recording at the age of 12, is still going strong and is soon to take her UK tour to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton.

The New Zealand-born singer balances her successful recording career with a keen support of charity work. She became one of the youngest ambassadors for UNICEF when she was just 17.

Hayley, who has sold over four million albums to date, will - together with a 25 piece orchestra - be performing at the Derngate on March 4. To book tickets log onto www.royalandderngate.co.uk

1) Can you tell me a bit about what audiences can expect from your current tour?

They can expect a range of songs from my album Paradiso as well as some of my old favourites from previous albums. The show will include quite a mix of different styles so it will be quite varied. I have my band as well, a small orchestra, out on stage with me. It will be great fun.

2) You became an internationally known star at a very young age, how did you cope with your new-found fame?

For me it was just all the travelling that was quite hard and being away from my family. But, at the same time, it was my family who kept me grounded and protected. They kept me in a little bubble and I never got caught up in the crazy music industry and the dark side of the industry. I focused on my performances and came back to New Zealand, caught up with friends and family and my brother and sister would haul me back into line if any diva-ish tendencies came out.

3) When did you first know you wanted to be a professional singer?

I was 11 when I realised that singing was my future, it came so naturally to me and it made sense to me. It was part of me and it was really fortunate that I had a big break into the industry so young so I could pursue my dream.

4) Why has it been so important for you to get involved with charitable organisations such as UNICEF?

When I was first approached I was only 16 at the time and I did not think I would be able to fulfil all the responsibilities of being made an ambassador of UNICEF, but I said yes because I thought I could help them. It was wonderful to have the chance to give something back.

Our first project was to raise money for girls in Ghana to get to school. We were told more bikes would be useful as many were living long distances from school and many weren’t going to school as they were having to go such distances. When we went back to see the girls with their bikes and the huge smiles on their faces it was wonderful. It is such rewarding and meaningful work.

5) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Stay true to yourself; Dame Malvina Major told me that and it is so true.

6) You have sung for many high profile people, including several world leaders, do you ever get nervous when performing?

Yes, but not so much in front of the high profile people, it is really the people I look up to as my musical heroes. Ennio Moriconi, the first time I sang for him I just hoped I would be what he was expecting.

7) I read that you will be taking part in the official Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the Queen this year, how do you feel about being involved with this?

I will be performing in Guernsey and it is exciting to be part of it, I have performed for the Queen many times now and this will be wonderful.

8) Is it difficult to avoid being pigeon-holed into one style of music?

It is almost impossible to avoid being pigeon-holed, but you have to do what you have to do. When it comes to making albums I record songs I want to and tend to not worry to much about what people expect of me. When it comes to putting on a show I personally think it is fun to include lots of different styles of music. It keeps things interesting and the audience wondering what will come next.

9) How do you like to spend your time when not working?

I enjoy doing not very much, just being at home and staying indoors, cooking and doing very normal things.

10) What music do you like to listen to?

A real mixture. Nina Simone if it is a lazy Sunday morning or, if I’m cooking, maybe some classical music to chill out to.

11) What meal do you most like to cook at home?

I’m not very good at cooking but right now I like to cook heavy dishes, I love experimenting with soups and coming up with all different combinations depending on what you have in the cupboard.

12) What is your proudest achievement?

Probably performing the national anthem at the Rugby World Cup for my team - New Zealand - who went on to win, so that was the greatest moment of my life. Watching my team win the cup was incredible.

13) What is your worst habit?

Setting my alarm for far too late, I think I can get ready in 10 minutes.

14) What are your pet hates?

Rudeness, a lot of the things I hate come down to that.

15) If you could perform with any other singer – who you have not already performed with – who would you choose?

Damien Rice or Mumford & Sons.

16) What is your most treasured possession?

Probably my laptop because it holds my photos, music and everything.

17) What has been your best moment?

Signing my record deal was a pretty crucial moment for me, I can appreciate it now I’m older.

18) What has been your worst moment?

Probably a few times when I have been away from my family, those moments when I really wanted to be with them and they were thousands of miles away.

19) Who has most inspired you in your life?

Musically, probably Andrea Bocelli as his was the first album I ever bought.

20) What ambition would you most like to fulfil?

I would like to release an album of all my own music. I don’t feel any need to rush but eventually that is my long term goal.