COLUMBIA — Hayley Leal’s pink flip-flops tapped the pavement to the beat of the notes coming from her acoustic guitar. As she strummed the opening bars of her first song, she squinted into the sunlight to see her parents and family friends watching.
Without a quivering voice or blushing cheeks, Hayley began to sing the first song she'd ever written.
The wind carried her music far from the microphone, and the melody wove in and out of the canvas tents at the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market. Vendors and customers approached her makeshift stage to drop dollar bills into a coffee can with a red construction paper "Tips" sign taped to it.
The market is just one of the many local venues 12-year-old Hayley uses to showcase her talent and her love for music.
Hayley's parents, Wayne Leal and Allison Smythe, said Hayley grew up with musical surroundings because their family was always exploring new music and playing it in the house and in the car.
When writing her songs, Hayley draws from everyday life for lyrical inspiration.
"I usually just use life experiences or something that I read in a book or something my friend went through," Hayley said.
Smythe describes Hayley as determined. Last summer, Smythe said Hayley had a dream of taking a road trip to Tennessee so she could play her music on the streets of Nashville.
"But we didn't fit that one into the schedule," Smythe said.
Although not in Nashville, Hayley has been able to perform outside of Columbia. Wayne Leal said she gave an impromptu show during a vacation in Annapolis, Md.
"On her own accord, she said, 'I'm going down to the waterfront,' and stood down there and sang," Wayne Leal said. She got tips, but she didn't do it for the money, he said.
"I think she did it mostly just to enjoy singing in front of thousands of people," Wayne Leal said. "She just went off and did it."
That determination has helped her write enough original songs to fill an album. With the help of a voice coach, Hayley will soon record her first single. The song will be available on her website, which is currently in the works.
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