GVSU freshman releases debut EP

By Karina Lloyd | 9/22/17 4:25pm

GVL / Courtesy - Karina Lloyd

Grand Valley State University freshman Hope Waidley released her debut EP "Hope" on Spotify and Apple Music Friday, Sept. 15, continuing her lifelong dream of sharing her music with others.

At midnight, balloons scattered on the floor, and a poster decorated with the words “Congrats Hope” hung in the second-level lounge of GVSU's Hills Living Center. Roughly 30 students gathered in celebration of the release of Waidley’s self-titled EP, a recording with more tracks than a single but not enough to be categorized as an album. 

“One doesn't often think about how much of an impact music has on a community,” said Hill’s resident assistant Alan Carter, who organized the surprise party with Waidley's roommate, Sheila Babbitt. “Hope’s EP truly demonstrated how supportive and dedicated we are for one another, whether it is with music or with something totally extraneous. A close community we’ll always be.”

Waidley, who wrote and performed the music on the album, was both shocked and humbled by the outpouring of support from the GVSU community.

Waidley, who grew up on the east side of Michigan, first began writing songs at the age of six. She still remembers when she walked into her living room and belted out a song she titled “Billy Bob Joe Bob Steve.” 

Though the song was silly, her family was shocked by Waidley’s creativity and supported her in developing her songwriting and singing. Thanks to the love and encouragement she received, she continued dabbling in music, and soon, singing and songwriting became an everyday practice. 

“Since I was six, I wanted to be singer,” she said. “It was my dream. But music has really become how I process things.”

Waidley says she writes multiple songs daily. The topics are broad and range from everyday tunes—like how she lost the key to her dorm room—to more serious things like a bad breakup. The songwriting process allows her to reflect on what's happening in her life and helps her connect with the people around her as they relate to her songs.

“I just love people,” she said. “All the people I’ve met through music is what makes it so great.” 

As the years went on, she got involved in her church choir, and she was given several opportunities to perform. She sang in YouTube videos, on street corners, during open mic nights and even on stage at her high school graduation. 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better hometown,” Waidley said. “Everyone was super supportive when it came (to my music). A lot of my friends and family would hear the raw versions of the songs, and they actually really helped ... to give really good feedback to each song.”

During her junior year of high school, Waidley’s vocal skills landed her in the second round of Michigan's "America’s Got Talent" auditions. Though she did not make it onto the show, she took comfort with the results.

“Faith is super important to me,” Waidley explained. “So (when I didn’t make it), it was like, that’s OK. This isn’t God’s plan right now.” 

Soon after the audition, Waidley met producer Kenny Harris, a current student at Central Michigan University who had also worked with popular up-and-coming artists like rapper Tee Grizzley and country singer Chelsea Mazur. Harris and Waidley met through mutual friends and began getting together to collaborate. In May, the pair decided to produce Waidley's debut EP. 

“Hope is just a genuine person, and I have mad respect for her,” Harris said. “It’s not really about money with her. She just wants to put music out because she loves it. (Her intentions) are very genuine.”

Within the span of four months, the two, along with help from producer Ashton Parsons, worked together to write, record and master the four songs on the EP. Parsons, who is also currently working with the girl band Fifth Harmony, worked to master the music before it was sent off for production. 

“(Parsons) definitely knows a lot more about the music world than we do, so he was able to give lots of advice (on the structure and sound of the music),” Waidley explained.

Waidley would write the songs and sing vocals at both Harris’ and Parsons’ in-home studios. Harris would mix the track and then Parsons would add last-minute final touches to the tracks through a process called mastering.

Waidley describes the music on the EP as "indie music meets pop" and attributes her inspiration for the album to all the people she has known and the places she has been.

“The EP could not have come out at a better time,” Waidley said. “It’s such a blessing because it would be such a different story if there wasn’t all these people here to support and encourage me along the way. It’s an incredible school that really just wants its students to be able to have dreams and to be able to fulfill those dreams, and I just feel like Grand Valley open-heartedly helps them as much as they can.

Life is just about loving people, and I think Grand Valley shows this.”

As far as the future goes, Waidley wants to keep making music, performing and working with new people. Grand Rapids serves as the perfect place for Waidley to perform and continue exploring her music. With the easy access to downtown and her involvement in student ministries, Waidley is able to sing in the streets of Grand Rapids, at local concerts and on campus through worship bands. 

“I just want people despite their differences to come together and jam out,” Waidley said with a smile.

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