Halle Bailey Says It’s a “Beautiful Thing to Just Be a Sponge” When Starting a Solo Music Career

Halle Bailey is showing her appreciation for all she has learned in the industry, from starting out as a musical duo with her sister to leading one of the biggest movies last year and kicking off her solo music career.

The singer-actress spoke about her unique path as an artist at the Grammy U Masterclass on Friday, moderated by Muni Long.

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Bailey and her older sister, Chloe Bailey, initially got noticed from the music covers they would post on YouTube as teenagers. But things changed once Beyoncé discovered them and signed the sister R&B duo Chloe x Halle to her label in 2015.

“I don’t think I would be able to be in this industry or start this way without her, you know, because she was the one that was pulling us both forward to be like, ‘Come on, we can do this,’” she said of her sister, adding that she’s “so grateful” to have her as an “anchor.”

As a duo, they earned five Grammy nominations for their albums The Kids are Alright and Ungodly Hour, Fast-forward to this year, Bailey scored her first Grammy nod as a solo artist for her single “Angel,” which is up for best R&B song.

While she’s “so proud” of all her recent success, which included starring as Ariel in The Little Mermaid last year, Bailey admitted that it was a “gradual transition” to becoming a solo artist since she looks at her sister as her “safety blanket.”

“I think what started the slow transition was really Mermaid [as it] was like the first project that I had gotten and been like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to do this alone. And I am scared, like, what the heck. I never done anything alone by myself,'” she told Long.

But Bailey ended up finding comfort and peace in her new journey in film thanks to the music.

“I just felt so immensely grateful because I felt so true in my love for what I was doing in my music,” she said. “And the fact that I got to sing songs in the film I think is the only thing that made me comfortable because I have loved those songs since I was a little girl. I mean, we’d play it on repeat, ‘Part of your world.’ … So this was a very surreal moment for me.”

The Color Purple actress was also met with some personal challenges when she began writing her own songs.

“I think when it comes to writing my own music, I’m a bit more to myself, but I’m learning now, especially being in sessions with beautiful writers. … It’s a beautiful thing to just be a sponge as an artist,” she said. “And I feel like I have so much more to learn, so much more to go.”

As for how Bailey handles obstacles in a grueling industry like entertainment — Long used an example of “being young Black women in a genre where people try to say R&B is dead, it’s not valuable” — Bailey had one word.

“I just ignore, ignore, ignore,” she said. “If somebody says something I don’t like, I don’t want to hear it. I’m turning the other way. I won’t listen. I just have to say to myself, ‘You know what? Thank you, I appreciate your opinion, but I agree to disagree, and I’m going to show you otherwise.'”

Muni Long and Halle Bailey
Muni Long and Halle Bailey

Elsewhere in the conversation on Friday, Bailey also recalled the moment she made everyone cry during her audition for The Little Mermaid.

She said, “I scared myself so much” ahead of the audition, and when she went in, “I prayed to God. I was like, ‘Please just help me, guide me.’”

“I closed my eyes, and I just felt myself singing, and then I just felt tears falling down my eyes. And I’m like, ‘Why am I crying? What’s going on?'” she continued. “And I feel like moments like that, I feel like God is speaking to me through song and saying, ‘You know what? You are amazing, you can do this. I’m here, I’m here with you.'”

But when she opened her eyes following the performance, the actress was definitely taken aback by what she saw.

“I remember just shutting my eyes crying and opening my eyes and then seeing everyone else crying,” she recalled. “My first instinct was, ‘Oh no! They hate it.’ … “And then it was, ‘OK, I think they’re crying happy tears.'”

The 66th annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Trevor Noah, will air live on CBS from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 4. The event will also stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

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