Haley Blais Spotlights Mental Health Issues on “Rob the Original”

The Vancouver-based songwriter shares a playlist of inspirations for Below the Salt along with the Tennis-produced single.

After years of putting out (literal) bedroom pop singles and EPs, Haley Blais finally has a street date locked in for her debut full-length collection of songs, Below the Salt. While we’re still a month out from its release, Blais is teasing its arrival with another empathetic single balancing a concern for mental health with guitar-and-piano led instrumentals brimming with positivity in the form of the Tennis–produced “Rob the Original.”

“‘Rob the Original’ was inspired by a close friend of mine who has dealt with depression and various mental health issues their entire life, and recollections of how it feels as though an alien completely takes over your body,” she shares of the new track before pointing to an offhand phrase in the Wikipedia entry for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as the origin of the song’s title.

You can hear the track below, and for an inside look into the recording of Below the Salt, listen through the playlist Haley made for us listing a few influences during those sessions (“While we were recording, my mantra was, ‘Carole King, bitch,’” she shares in the accompanying commentary). 

Below the Salt is out August 25 via Tiny Kingdom—pre-order it here.

Cocteau Twins, “Iceblink Luck” 

I wish every song I’ve ever written came out like a Cocteau Twins song. “Iceblink Luck” is the song that plays during the opening credits of an ’80s coming-of-age movie that hasn’t been made yet, and that notion has somehow influenced everything I’ve ever done. I can’t explain what this song does to my literal bones

Andy Shauf, “The Man on Stage”

Andy is my favourite modern songwriter. I remember the day I was listening to The Bearer of Bad News and it hit me that you can write songs about completely fictional stories or experiences that haven’t happened to you personally, and I was like, “Oh my shit!!” It changed the game for my teenaged brain, and for a while all I did was write stories into my songs. Lately, and especially on this album, I wrote about myself. And it was hard, but really cathartic. Who knew!

Jenny Lewis, “Just One of the Guys”

Another formative song for me, and can directly be correlated to the last track on my album, “So Funny.” I would love to sing a song, any song, with Jenny.

Tennis, “In the Morning I’ll Be Better”

Tennis produced three songs on Below the Salt, and you can really hear their genius in those tracks. “Rob the Original” is one of those. They turned an originally moody and brooding track into a cruising summer jam, and thank god for them. I listened to Yours Conditionally everyday in 2018, so the chance to work with them on a handful of tracks was a dream come true.

Carole King, “Music”

While we were recording, my mantra was, “Carole King, bitch.” To be honest, it still is. WWCD? Carole King and Karen Carpenter felt like my music godmothers growing up, the era of female ’70s singer songwriters is untouchable.

Donovan, “Hurdy Gurdy Man”

I have a confession: Every six months I Google “Is Donovan dead?” Because the day that happens, I will lose hope and completely stop trying. This song is it for me. Alaina [of Tennis] had a story of when she met Donovan and asked what effect he used on his vocals for the chorus of this song, and he was like, “What effect, luv?” Or something like that. So cool. The GOAT.

Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”

The outro of “Rob the Original” is a self-professed Kacey Musgraves rip off. I was listening to Golden Hour a lot while writing the album—it’s so tender and warm. I trust every word she sings. It’s rare to be that naked, that genuine, in my opinion.

Sheryl Crow, “Strong Enough”

I’m obsessed with the production of this song. The completely dry vocals layered with so many unique sounds and instruments—I swear there’s three hundred different instruments mixed in here. Growing up, I never appreciated Sheryl Crow as much as I should have, and now she is such a beacon of light to me in terms of songwriting and production.

Natalie Prass, “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”

“Our love is a long goodbye.” Woof. This is a great cry-and-then-start-fist-pumping-to-the-horn-section-at-the-end song. I admire Natalie Prass as a lyricist and a vocalist—how can you be so soft and so powerful at the same time?

Angel Olsen, “Sister”

I’ve learned the hard way that I have to pick and choose times when I can safely listen to this song. Usually it’s alone, in the dark, so no one gets spit and salt on them. I can only hope and pray I one day write a song as punishing, emotional, raw, and beautiful as this one. I caught her show last fall while she was touring All Mirrors, but she spontaneously played this live and I could cry thinking about that moment. Angel Olsen has changed my life in uncountable ways, but the drop at 6:42 of this song is the most impactful.

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