The True Grit of a Hard-Working Artist
I’m lying on the floor of my apartment, daydreaming as the dewy-eyed nostalgia of Pollyanna—the new album by Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, The Little Miss (aka Hayley Johnson)—pours over me. Recorded using analog equipment, Johnson’s voice is so rich and warm in tone that it almost crackles—I’m half-convinced that the record is spinning on an old phonograph in the corner, rather than streaming from my Macbook. Unsurprisingly, the world Johnson weaves through her lyricism is decidedly old-timey, conjuring up imagery of the Wild West, complete with strange travelers, gusty winds, and “long arduous rides along the mountain valley.” Her aesthetic is cohesive with this frontier theme, donning a cowboy hat and suede fringe coat in the photo on her Bandcamp page—a mason jar of what appears to be whiskey in hand. While her look and sound form a neat package, the depth embedded in Johnson’s lyrics excuses her from the realm of gimmicks and one-trick ponies. In the album’s emotional pinnacle, “Thirty,” Johnson croons, “I’ve been struggling so hard just so I can make some art, and I don’t know if it will matter in the end,” in a voice so exasperated from daily stress that it nearly breaks. Tuning into her words, which evoke a wealth of experience in life’s sufferings, it is impossible not to wonder about the story of the woman behind the finely-crafted persona of The Little Miss. It turns out that Johnson is, in fact, no stranger to the hustle—a hardworking waitress at a café in Echo Park, she still manages to play an impressive lineup of gigs each week. This dedication, whether or not it is cloaked in the dusty glamour of The Little Miss, is what makes her so likable. In describing the recording process of Pollyanna, Johnson explains that the entire nine-track album was recorded in the span of two hours on a “whirlwind trip up north,” allowing her to make it back on time for work the next morning. Perhaps it’s this resiliency and personal integrity that the title of Johnson’s album, Pollyanna, alludes to—drawn from Eleanor Porter’s 1913 novel about an optimistic orphan, able to transform her tough living circumstances through a positive outlook. However, the poignancy of her lyricism makes it clear that The Little Miss is more than a simple character—she is backed by the strength of a woman enduring real trials in real time. Working 8-hour restaurant shifts and spending endless nights recording and performing may not sound as poetic as allusions to Americana folklore, but such character-building grants her stage persona a depth that makes it even more magnetic. It turns out, all the lovely garb and poetry is just the maraschino cherry atop the all-American banana split of Johnson’s art. The Little Miss has true grit, and she’s far from little—with a work-ethic comparable to that of a land-conquering cowgirl, Johnson’s career is bound to be sensational.
Listen to Pollyanna by The Little Miss here: https://thelittlemiss.bandcamp.com/releases