An hour before showtime, I met NY’s very own singer/songwriter Hailey Knox for a brief portrait session before she was due to go on the sold-out show of her support of the Ruth B tour. Usually, with portraits, you only has such a finite amount of time. It’s craziness of soundcheck and a musician trying to get into a mental head space to perform. Sometimes, you get lucky and there’s a vibe that permeates. Sometimes it’s anxiousness, even nervousness. Each of these emotions is understandable – given the musician is about to perform the open journal which is their art in front of a crowd of people.
Knox seemed ready, composed, even playful. If you understand some of her background, you’d understand the confidence that radiated from her. In 2016, she was included in People’s “Ones To Watch.” Building her fan base through the app YouNow and performance on the Today Show, the talented singer is well on the road to something special. So for that particular Thursday on an unseasonably warm night in a hometown show in New York, it was another crowd who didn’t know they were about to become fans with some family mixed in.
Now, for those who haven’t been to Le Poisson Rouge in New York, it’s not your typical concert venue. The table seating which likens itself more of a intimate jazz performance. There’s standing room along the back. Call it fate, but this was the perfect setting for a talented woman and her acoustic guitar.
The first thing you’d notice from Knox’s performance was her veteran-like composure. Armed with her acoustic guitar and loop pedals, she mimicked the versatility and layers of a full band. There were some mixtures of harmonies, beatboxing, and even some trumpet during her cover of Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s.” The most impressive thing was her voice control. Seemly going from a melodic tranquility to powerful in an instant. This was best on display during her mid-tempo, R ‘n’ B, tinged, “Kid Ourselves.”
A couple of highlights from Knox’s set included a stripped down version of her newest single, “Don’t Got One.” There was even a nod to the classics. Within her song, “Traumatized,” she added the chorus to Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” Some of the best musicians know when to improvise and when to draw back and let the song take its course.
Knox ended with a creative mash-up of “Crazy Train” / “Crazy In Love” / “Black Beatles” / “Fancy”. The same confidence radiated as the singer flowed back and forth between singing and rapping parts. The crowd who was already enamored with her from the start added some clapping and a little shoulder bounce. They gave looks of “ok, now, you’re just showing off.”
As a writer and photographer, one of the fruits of your labor is to find talented artists in smaller venues and chronicle their ascension to superstardom. In pop music, there seems to be so many ways avenues to make it. Whether it be reality TV shows or social media. When it all comes down to it, sometimes the best impression is using your talented voice and picking up your guitar. Hailey Knox’s set at the Le Poisson Rouge is one of many great ones to come.