Twelve years ago, Hailey Whitters left her hometown of Shueyville just south of Cedar Rapids to conquer a career in country music. She didn’t anticipate spending nearly a decade trying to break into the industry, taking every side gig, songwriting offer and waitressing job along the way.
“I thought I would be noticed right away,” Whitters said of moving to Nashville, Tennessee, when she was 17. “I remember booking my first show within a month of being down here.”
Instead, she found herself working hard for her 1 breakthrough moment.
After 10 years in Nashville trying to become a star and waiting for her big break, she took a step back to really look at what she wanted to do as a singer-songwriter. She wrote “Ten Year Town” with Grammy Award nominee Brandy Clark, a ballad that looks at how rejection can lead to empowerment.
"This next song could turn it all around," she sings in the final verse. And for Whitters, it did, landing her a feature in Rolling Stone and an opening gig with headlining country singer Maren Morris.
She’s written songs for country artists such as Alan Jackson, Martina McBride and Little Big Town. She co-wrote “A Beautiful Noise” with a group that included Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlisle, which earned a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year in November.
Now her new album, “Raised” comes out March 18, a follow-up to her breakthrough 2020 album “The Dream” that includes "Janice at the Hotel Bar," written with Lori McKenna and dispensing wisdom such as "have a glass of red a day," a piece of advice from Whitters’ own grandmother.
Last August, she performed the Iowa State Fair, a dream of hers. "I wanted to saddle up the butter cow," she said.
On Feb. 4, she kicks off her “Heartland” tour at Wooly’s, her first time headlining a show at the East Village venue at 504 E. Locust St. Tickets are $20 for the 7 p.m. all-ages show.
Whitters says she’s bringing 5-foot-tall stalks of corn to decorate the stage as she plays quite a few songs from her new album. “It’s going to be fun for us, because it’ll kind of be a nice first listen to some of these songs and we get to gauge some of the audience reaction,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Country singer Hailey Whitters kicks off tour at Wooly's in Des Moines