Hayley Johnson is a 26 year-old, San Diego, CA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based folk singer/songwriter, who writes and performs under the moniker The Little Miss. Inspired by Fiona Apple and Jewel, jazz, classic blues, folk and Americana, Johnson can trace the origins of her music career to when she was a child, starting girl bands during recess at school and writing lyrics in notebooks. And while in middle school, Johnson had begun performing original music at coffee shops and surf competitions around the San Diego area with her father. After performing for several years with the stage name Hazel, Johnson came up with The Little Miss while studying philosophy at San Francisco State University — and upon graduating, Johnson relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a music career in earnest.
Johnson has begun to receive attention for a sound and overall aesthetic that nods at the likes of the great T. Bone Burnett as both a solo artist and as a producer, or in other words, a sound and approach that’s comfortably anachronistic, in the sense that it bridges both the contemporary and old fashioned, while being soulful and viscerally earnest. “Doubt,” Johnson’s latest single is a bluesy bit of Americana featuring a scuzzy guitar line and a trippy organ chords paired with her soulful, whiskey and cigarette-tinged vocals. And while some will suggest that the song nods at Fiona Apple, whose voice Johnson’s bears a similarity to, or the White Stripes, the song reminds me a bit of The Mountain-era Heartless Bastards, as “Doubt” possesses a similar sense of regret and longing. Interestingly, as Johnson explains in press notes “‘Doubt’ concerns itself with the intellectual understanding that life’s answers cannot be summarized, but takes note of the relentless desire to still call for said answers. Eventually, it’s about asking questions that you know you will never have an answer for — i.e., “I pray everyday and I pray every night,/ but I’ll never know if I am getting it right/Or will I?”
Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times on this site, as I’m listening to tracks on Soundcloud, I’m usually multitasking — as I write this post, I’m watching the New York Yankees season opener down in Tampa Bay. And because my mind is in several different directions, I wind up being introduced to a track by a new artist I had never heard of, or going through an entire artist playlist. So unsurprisingly, while listening to tracks I stumbled across The Little Miss’ haunting, dusty and old-timey folk-leaning cover of Johnny Cash‘s “Ring of Fire.”