Hayley Westenra was born on April 10, 1987, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her preternatural musical abilities, given to her by her singing grandmother and piano playing grandfather, became evident after she appeared in a school play when she was 6. It was then that Hayley’s pitch-perfect singing voice was noticed, and it didn’t take long for her parents to immerse their talented daughter in the world of musical performance. After learning to play the violin and to read music, Hayley expanded her repertoire and took up the piano and the recorder.
It was clear to everyone around Hayley that her true strength was in her voice, and as a result she signed up for classes designed to improve her singing. Being proactive in her passion, Hayley had appeared in more than 40 local plays and concerts by the time she reached the age of 11. The following year, Hayley entered the studio to cut her first album, Walking in the Air. The recording was originally intended to be a vanity disc for her family and friends, but a short time later, while performing on the streets of New Zealand, Hayley was inundated with requests for the album.
While busking, Hayley impressed a bypassing television journalist who immediately gave her an artist’s spotlight on the air. A well-known concert promoter, Gray Bartlett, was among the millions watching and he helped Hayley land a record deal with the Universal New Zealand record label. In 2001, Hayley released two albums: a self-titled debut and My Gift to You. Both discs were released in New Zealand only, but that proved to be more than enough to win the up-and-coming superstar a small and fiercely loyal following.
Hayley spent the next few years touring and performing in and around New Zealand, but it wasn’t long before she began to grow frustrated with her limited appeal. In 2003, Hayley signed with Decca Records (the same label that Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti have called home) and began work on an album consisting of both classical and pop-based songs. Pure was released in 2002 to instant success, going so far as to set a UK record for the fastest-selling debut album on the classical charts. In New Zealand, Pure was certified platinum 10 times and Hayley was officially crowned the country’s best-selling artist of all time — in any genre.
Hayley’s exposure grew steadily around that time, as she began to take slow steps into the North American market. Following appearances in an episode of American Dreams (2004) and the straight-to-video Disney sequel Mulan II (2004), Hayley embarked on a whirlwind tour on the East Coast of the U.S. where she was quickly embraced as the next big thing within the pop-classical world.
In 2005, Hayley emerged with Odyssey. She cowrote and arranged many of the tracks on the album, which is an eclectic mix of musical styles, including New Age, Celtic and classical. Shortly after, Hayley was invited to tour with Il Divo in 2006 and she later managed to set up several dates of her own throughout the UK and Germany.
Hayley also signed on with Celtic Woman in August of 2006. When the musical ensemble released Celtic Woman: A New Journey in January 2007, the DVD/CD set shot up the Billboard Top 200 chart to No. 4. The group has been compared to the likes of Enya and began a tour of the U.S. in 2007.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Hayley released of her junior international album, Treasure (four of its tracks were again cowritten by Hayley), in early 2007. The output level only legitimizes her permanence in the field and the release of her third album cements Hayley’s status as one of the most promising up-and-coming soloists of her generation.