Between the increasingly crowded music marketplace and America’s love of NFL football, an enterprising country music duo could do a lot worse than to partner with their favorite franchise in an effort to have their voices heard.
Ryan Michaels and Shannon Haley, who make up the hubby-wife duo of Haley & Michaels, have had a successful, busy 2019, thanks to some high-profile concert spots, including a set during the famed Calgary Stampede in Canada, and getting some new tunes out into the world. Married since 2015, Haley & Michaels are now living a new, perhaps unexpected, dream by partnering with the San Francisco 49ers.
Although the pair grew up only a few miles apart from one another in Northern California, it was until they moved to Nashville they actually met, oddly enough. Here are they are now, a couple of California natives, seeing “Hail Mary,” their anthemic ode to never giving up, all set to be featured as the football team’s rallying anthem, played just before the start of each home game at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium this season.
The majestic, soaring song was also featured in the Netflix film Walk. Ride. Rodeo. earlier in the year, so to say the duo has been watching their musical baby grow into an independent young star is to put it mildly. We recently caught up with Shannon Haley to discuss the pair’s favorite football squad, seeing their tune used in a movie, and when tragedy strikes close to home.
Is it safe to assume you were both 49ers fans before writing “Hail Mary?” Were Sunday 49ers games a big deal for your families growing up?
Absolutely! We are both die-hard 49ers fans and grew up watching every game. Our families centered Sundays around football (and pizza) and we have so many great memories from our childhoods of those game days. Together as a couple, we definitely still center our weekends around the games and no matter where we are in the country, we find a way to watch every play. It’s definitely our favorite kind of date. Being from the San Francisco Bay Area and having “Hail Mary” a part of the team’s season is truly a dream come true!
I read that “Hail Mary” was written about some of the challenges you’ve faced in your music careers. What moments along your path stand out as the most challenging thus far?
It’s been an amazing journey so far, filled with lots of thrilling times and it’s also had its share of difficult times. During the hard times it’s a struggle to put everything you have into your passion and career and do that with your spouse and then have times where you wonder if any of it is going to work out. We’ve had a lot of doors close along the way. But we’ve also had some doors open with amazing opportunities and dreams that have come true because people have believed in us. Ultimately, the doors closing have helped us grow more than anything. Looking back now, we’re able to see why those doors didn’t open at that time; whether it be that we just simply weren’t ready with our songs, or that it just wasn’t the right path for us. For us, we like knowing where our goals for next steps are set and having a vision on how to execute, even if they change along the way. The most challenging times are whenever we are a state of limbo without a plan.
The song is also featured in the movie “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” What’s it like to see something you created become a part of something someone else has created?
When we found out that “Hail Mary” was chosen to be featured in Walk. Ride. Rodeo., the recording wasn’t actually finished. It was one of our favorite songs we’d written, but we didn’t have a plan for releasing it. We actually got the chance to meet Amberley Snyder, the person that the movie is about, at a show we were playing at the NFR in Vegas. She came to the show and we immediately connected, and it made it that much more real for us that our song was a part of telling this amazingly inspiring woman’s story. When we watched the movie back for the first time, it was such a powerful experience and such an honor. It was so amazing to see how music can take on different meanings depending on whose story it’s a part of. That’s one of our favorite things about music – it’s expansiveness and ability to connect to all of us in different ways. We love the way you asked this question–having something we’ve created be a part of something someone else created–it gives a whole new meaning and weight to what we all do as creative people and it was so fulfilling.
On a serious, sad note, the tragic shootings at the Gilroy Garlic Festival recently hits pretty close to home for you both, given that you’ve performed at the festival and it’s not too far from where you are from. What has gone through your minds since hearing the news about the tragedy?
We weren’t physically together when we heard the news. I was actually at a dinner table with my family in San Jose and someone told me there was an active shooter at the Garlic Festival. I swear my heart actually stopped and I lost my breath. I immediately reached out to Ryan, who hadn’t heard yet, and the people I knew who were there. Our hometown radio station is KRTY and they were all there. Ryan found out his Mom’s close friend and her son were there and had to run from the gun shots. When it’s literally close to home it becomes that much more real, and it hits you that much harder, not because the other situations have been any less tragic or devastating or horrific, but it’s just that feeling when you have loved ones in actual danger that hits us all so deeply. We also performed at Route 91 the year before the tragic shootings and had friends there too. We’ve had many things go through our minds, mainly feeling so angry and helpless and devastated for everyone who’s ever lost someone. We’ve also had to have the hard conversations about what to actually do if we were ever in a situation like that, and about safety and awareness, which is a chilling conversation to have to even have. It’s surreal to us.
What can you tell us about the full-length album in the works? Who are your co-writers, who is producing, where is it being recorded? Any ideas on a release date?
We are so excited to be releasing our first full-length album. We are including songs that have been with us from the beginning, including the first song we ever wrote together. We’re also releasing brand new songs that we literally finished today. One of the things we love is that we wrote many of the songs with our producers, Zach Abend and Matt McVaney. Many of the musical hooks on the final recordings were actually created in the writing session. So the songs have gone through a process from start to finish, but they haven’t lost the organic spirit that created them. We’ll be releasing the album in October!