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Halie Loren: Butterfly Soaring

R.J. DeLuke By

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There was one radio station in the town, but it did play a lot of jazz and blues. An older sister traveled to mainland U.S. and returned with songs played on pop music stations in the "Lower 48" states. "But most of my influence was what we had at home already. I'm really glad for that. When I got a little older I started developing my individual music taste a little more. I got into Annie Lennox and singer/songwriters who were starting to become popular around that time, like Sarah McLaughlin. Then I discovered Joni Mitchell through Sarah McLaughlin, because somebody very wise said 'If you like Sarah, you should definitely check out Joni Mitchell.' So that became a big thing for me."

As a child, she was frequently writing, but mostly short stories and poetry in the early years. "I didn't know how to express it through song. I think I was afraid to because, for one thing, I was raised on all these songs that were so impeccably crafted it just seemed impossible. It was only once I began to hear singer/songwriters of that day, the '90s, that I realized they don't have to be exactly like that. I had some room to create poetry to song and that's how it started. Applying some of the poems I'd already written to melodies. So it began"

By then she had moved to Oregon. She was 13 and writing songs, not stories. She hasn't stopped. She won awards including a Billboard World Song Contest honor at age 18, among others.

Loren graduated high school at 17 and left for Nashville, bent on honing her writing skills. The town then was full of songwriters and she fell in with them. "I had some incredible experiences... I wrote with a long line of writers who had been making their living doing that for many years. Some of them had been exceptionally successful with all kinds of Grammys, people who wrote for Garth Brooks and had paid off the mortgage on their house," she says with a bright laugh. "Those Nashville success stories are pretty incredible sometimes."

"It was a great learning experience for me. In its own way, the writing that happened in Nashville that I was around was what I could imagine some of the Tin Pan Alley writing to be about, as far as experience. People being so concentrated on the craft of songwriting. It's a business. People make appointments and they have ideas and they bring all these ideas to woodshed, to see what sticks with the other co-writers and feeling what they can latch on to in that moment. It was amazing learning the process of how that works there. For me, someone who'd been writing in her bedroom for a short time. I'd only been writing for four years at that point. It was a great learning experience for me to see just how much attention to detail goes into the crafting of some of these songs that end up."

She formed friendships and writing collaborations still exist today.

"One very important figure in my life, someone I met there, was Larry Wayne Clark who I wrote numerous songs that ended up on my jazz albums," she recalls. "He and I wrote a ton of songs together. He was a huge fan of the American Songbook tradition and it showed in his writing. We connected over that. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago. We have a big collection of songs I'm still trying to figure out ways to pull from and incorporate into what I do now."

After a few years, Loren returned to Oregon and went to college, but not for music. She had been performing professionally since age 14, and continued to do that in Oregon to help pay for school. She earned a degree in visual arts and has used it to create the artwork for her albums, as well as other graphic design work.

Back home, she was playing piano more. "I had this tenuous relationship with it, because there were piano lessons. I had always been someone who learns very quickly by ear. So piano was always frustrating for me. Teachers that I had off and on wanted me to read. I didn't want to read, I wanted to just hear it and play it and play around. I started to give myself permission to just do that: use it as an instrument of creation rather than emulation. That opened up a whole bunch of songs. they came to me within a year at the most. They all kind of walked in together."

In 2006, she had a collection of originals she decided to record, that became Full Circle. "That was my first foray into album making. It was a steep learning curve, but really satisfying. I was only 19 when I started recording an album. Considering it was totally do-it-yourself, with the help of a friend who knew a little bit more about production later on in the process. It was pretty cool to be able to just do that."

She's been recording steadily since, living in Eugene, Oregon, and occupying herself with west coast tours and forays elsewhere, her work receiving acclaim and drawing more and more fans. She says Portland and Eugene in her home state have strong arts communities.

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