Few things are more cathartic than writing a country song, and Hayley Orrantia turned to songwriting to deal with the hurt and betrayal she felt when she discovered her boyfriend had been stealing from her. In processing her pain and disillusionment, the young actress/singer/songwriter channeled her feelings into the songs on her new The Way Out EP.
“I really did struggle for a very long time with the idea of going public with it,” she says of her ordeal, “but it really came down to the music for me. I kept songwriting and I kept finding myself writing about the same person and the same situation with just some different angles. It ended up that I packaged all that pain into this EP where each song is a representation of a different stage of grief that I experienced after that situation.”
Orrantia, who plays Erica Goldberg on the popular sitcom The Goldbergs, met a former Marine on the set of her show when he was taking a tour of the studio with a group of wounded veterans. They began corresponding and eventually started dating. A year and a half into the relationship, after he’d been on vacation with her family and begun sharing her Nashville home, Orrantia began getting disturbing calls from her bank and soon found out that her boyfriend was responsible almost $9,000 in fraudulent credit card charges and bank withdrawals.
“I’ve been telling my story a lot lately because the more that I speak it, the less that it is mine and I’m able to connect with other people who have had similar things happen to them. It makes me feel less alone,” she shares with Sounds Like Nashville. “The music, and coming out about the story, has been a way for me to heal. A lot of people go through different kinds of grief and I just wanted to put mine out there on the table and be something that people can use to hopefully heal themselves.”
Written by Orrantia, Robyn Collins and her producer Mike Miller, “If I Don’t” is the first single released from the project. “We had just this magical songwriting session and that was the day we wrote ‘If I Don’t.’ I just remembered coming out of that feeling like I’d really been understood by everyone in the room,” she says. “I got to tell my story to them to even say, ‘This is a goal that I want to write an EP about each stage.’ Mike was just so supportive of that and interested in the challenge, but also in helping me convey the whole story because he recognized how important it is.”
Each of the five songs on the EP represent one of the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. “Being able to write about each specific stage was a challenge for me. It gave me a goal to write towards each specific kind of moment I went through,” she says. “That’s why I’m very proud of the EP as a songwriter because it really did challenge me to focus on all of those things while also having my own form of therapy through it.
Songwriting has long been a creative outlet for the young artist. “I’ve been songwriting since I was in elementary school,” says Orrantia, who grew up outside of Dallas, but now divides her time between LA and Nashville. “I remember writing songs with my friends on the playground and it wasn’t until probably when I was 14 that I started taking some songwriting classes and working with some professionals that I feel I got a little more of an idea of what songwriting was supposed to be like. Ever since then it’s been a form of therapy for me and just a way for me to tell my story.”
Orrantia is hoping that sharing her story will help keep others from suffering a similar fate. “We’re talking about planning some dates at colleges because I want to do this kind of talk/performance thing where I get to tell my story. I envision it being kind of like a half conversation/half performance scenario where I just want to talk to people about warning signs of people with bad intentions just from what I’ve learned.”
Orrantia pressed charges and her ex was found guilty and ordered to pay restitution, but didn’t serve jail time. “I’m a very trusting person because you want to believe the best in someone. You want to believe that they are good and no one would take advantage of you like that or if they did you would recognize it,” the 25-year-old artist says. “But the truth is there are a lot of people out there that are very good at what they do. They are very skilled at conning and scamming other people. It’s crazy to see how many men and women that I’ve had conversations with recently that have gone through stuff like this.”
Orrantia says none of her family or friends suspected her boyfriend could be capable of such betrayal. “I hope this story can encourage other people to share their stories and to know that they are not alone,” she says. “A lot of people have asked, ‘Are you embarrassed?’ or ‘Do you feel stupid that you didn’t know what was happening?’ The truth is no. These people are very talented and there’s not anyone in my life who knew what was going on or recognized him as being this person that he actually is. I want to make sure that other men and women who have had this happen to them don’t walk away from it beating themselves up over it.”
As for her future, Orrantia is looking forward to the seventh season of The Goldbergs and to continuing her music career. She is already focused on writing happier songs, but she hopes the songs on The Way Out will resonate with people and bring hope. “When I was growing up, I remember sitting in my room and on those days when I found it really hard to function or I was depressed or there was something really bad I was going through, I would find music,” she says. “I would listen to it on repeat and get out all of these negative feelings and tears and listen to songs over and over again in my room. That was my form of getting through whatever it was I was going through. There’s a part of me that really hopes that this EP can be that for someone else, that maybe they are just going through a hard time and grieving and they could have this EP accompany them along the way. Hopefully, this can be your way out of whatever you are going through and into the next chapter for you.”