What We Know About Haley Johnsen (So Far)

Haley Johnsen is a 23-year-old singer, guitarist and model from Beaverton, Oregon, who auditioned for the eleventh season of American Idol. She is currently rumored to be among the top 24 contestants going into the live voting rounds.

Haley’s mother is Diane Johnsen, a makeup artist, and her father’s name is Brian. She also has a younger brother, Dane, who is cute in a Justin-Bieber-lookalike way and plays the drums. Talent must run in the family!

Haley’s interest in music began at a young age. In a recent article in the Oregon Music News, Haley was quoted as saying, “When I first began belting out tunes from The Little Mermaid at three years old, I knew I wanted to be a rock star.” This dream was encouraged when she attended the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland in 2001 (she would have been 12 or 13 at the time), and played in her first band along with best friend Beckie Hollcraft, aka Becca (also a musician, and now signed with Sony). The band was called Relish and was put together in two days, with lyrics written and sung by Haley and Beckie.

Haley and Becca

Haley Johnsen and her childhood friend, Becca.

Here is a video with shots of the Relish performing and the song playing in the background:

Of this very first performance, Haley has said, “I experienced that musician’s adrenaline rush, and I have loved it ever since.” She also says the camp gave her the knowledge and courage to embrace her artistic side and to rid herself of the fear she once had about it.

In addition to being musically talented, Haley is athletic. As a child, she studied gymnastics and placed well in competition. She hasn’t lost the talent with age either, according to one of her regular photographers, Katy Weaver. After a recent photoshoot, Weaver wrote, “I’ve always wished that I could do cool things like flips on a trampoline…Haley is AMAZING at that sort of thing.”

Haley attended Beaverton High School, where she sang at two assemblies. After graduating in 2007, she enrolled as a freshman at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis. You can watch a news report in which Haley is interviewed about her college living arrangements here (after the ad, skip ahead to 01:40). During her time at OSU, she traveled to China as a member of the OSU Chamber Choir. She also joined OSU’s women’s a cappella group, ‘Divine‘, and in 2009, won the title of best soloist in an a capella group in the state of Oregon.

Here is her winning performance of Bonnie Rait’s ‘Something to Talk About’ (see here for more versions):

According to this interview, Haley graduated OSU in 2011 with a Minor in Music. We’re curious to learn what her major was!

Haley has also done modeling, represented by the agency Sports Unlimited, which specializes in sports, fitness and lifestyle models. In addition, she has worked for the Conestoga Recreation & Aquatic Center in her hometown of Beaverton, and as a barista at E.cafe, on the OSU campus.

Haley taught herself to play guitar, and has written and recorded some of her own music (her original song ‘Save Me From Myself’ is available as a free mp3 download from last.fm). She has also performed in various small bars and cafes in Oregon, including the Fireworks Bar in Corvallis (where she once placed second during a ‘Talent Search’ night). Here is a video of her singing Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ at Fireworks (though we think it doesn’t show off her voice as well as her other – removed – videos do):

American Idol bloggers writing early reports on Haley have described her sound as a blend of Indie and Folk Rock. Since her Facebook page indicates that she likes Paolo Nutini, and since she enjoys covering Brandi Carlile (‘Dreams’ and ‘The Story’removed), this makes sense. Haley has also covered (giving each song her own indie/folksy flavor) Florence + the Machine’s ‘Cosmic Love’ (removed), Soul/R&B singer Janelle Monae’s ‘Sir Greendown’ (removed), and even Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, which you can watch below:

Haley auditioned for American Idol on July 2nd, 2011, at the Rose Garden in Portland. She was quoted as saying that she hoped for the golden ticket more than anything, but simply being at the audition was a good experience. “I just kind of hope for the best and if it happens, it happens. If it works out, that’s awesome. But if not, I’m not going to let that tear me down. I’m just going to keep trying to sing, write music and do my thing.” As we now know, it did happen. Haley got her golden ticket, and made it through all rounds of Hollywood week. Moreover it is rumored that Haley’s group during Vegas Week (which included Eben Franckewitz, Elise Testone, and Reed Grimm) was the only one to receive a standing ovation.

The rest of Haley’s journey remains to be seen, but we’re sure she’ll be amazing!!

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