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Hayley Marsten Was On the Come Up—Then COVID Happened

After a global pandemic interrupted her plans, the singer found solace on social media and the strength to rebuild her dreams.

Australian country singer and Linktree Passion Fund winner Hayley Marsten

Hayley Marsten was at the peak of her success as a musician—until the pandemic hit. After years of struggling to make it in the music business, the singer-songwriter from Gladstone, Australia released her highly acclaimed debut album, “Spectacular Heartbreak” in August 2019.

The alt-country album received national airplay all around Australia and over half a million streams on Spotify. Following its triumph, the 27 year-old embarked on a three month headline tour around the country. In early 2020, “Spectacular Heartbreak” was nominated for Alt-Country Album of the Year at the Golden Guitars and its title track was nominated for Country Song of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards, both prominent awards ceremonies in Australia.

After her album tour ended, Marsten jumped back into her three side jobs—working in retail, graphic design, and dressing up as an elf in a Christmas photo set—all of which she had taken on to earn enough money to continue touring and writing new music for the following year. Those plans were cut short in March 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, and she found herself in a dark place.

“​​Coming to the end of that new music cycle and having all of my touring taken away was really, really difficult for me,” Marsten says on Linktree’s “Beyond the Feed” podcast. The singer joined Linktree’s Head of Audio Marc Raco on the podcast this month to talk about her journey. “I struggled a lot.”

Marsten says that she lost thousands of dollars as a result of COVID-19 gig cancellations that caused her to push back all of her planned new releases, as she couldn’t afford to pay her team. “I really would’ve liked to have a single out last year but I didn’t have the funds, motivation, or opportunity to tour to make it happen.”

Although the forced time off granted by the global pandemic was difficult, it made Marsten pay more attention to her mental health. She realized that a lot of her concepts of self-worth were connected to having a successful career. Since then, the singer has been working on herself while sharing a lot more with her followers on Instagram.

“This new unedited version of me with vulnerability has really connected with my audience,” she says. As a result of being open on social media, Marsten fosters a deeper connection with fans. “I feel like we have a much stronger community now, especially when we’re all kind of feeling a little bit fragile and a little bit more vulnerable.”

“This new unedited version of me with vulnerability has really connected with my audience.”

Through connecting with people and building an online community, Marsten has realized that the desire to be understood and heard is a universal feeling. “We’re all kind of experiencing a lot of the same stuff on an emotional level. I don’t think there’s anything better than feeling like somebody else has been there as well.”

In June 2021, after some self-care and support from her online community, Marsten learned about Linktree’s Passion Fund while updating her Linktree. The Passion Fund is Linktree’s global grant program that invests in creators, activists and entrepreneurs who want to take their passion to the next level and make it a career.

Marsten’s application, which combined videos of her performing and speaking candidly, caught the attention of judges like “Queer Eye” host Karamo Brown and fitness entrepreneur Grace Beverley, and she was selected as one of five finalists for the People’s Choice Award, an award voted on by the public.

Marsten turned to social media to garner support and secure votes, filming funny videos for Facebook, updating her Linktree, and posting about the $20k prize on Instagram. Her fans responded with an outpour of digital love: votes, comments, and shares.

Through the voting process, Marsten also found Linktree’s Support Me links to be really helpful. Support Me links, a form of Commerce Links, allow people to collect payments from visitors directly on their Linktree. “A lot of people ended up giving me some support through that tip jar, which was just monumental. It wasn’t very much money, but I have not toured for almost two years, so every little bit counts.”

While Marsten did not end up taking the People’s Choice Award, she did go on to win a Bronze award, receiving a monetary prize of $1000 USD that is helping fund the upcoming release of her new single, “Drowning Myself” in October. Besides boosting her finances, Marsten says the prize stopped her from returning to a place of self-doubt. “I’m sure without this…there was a very high chance I would have just spiraled right back into that horrible place I was in last year with nothing to look forward [to],” she says.

Using Linktree has also helped Marsten streamline her work as an artist, providing a platform for her to present all of her musical assets and events. When releasing her first album in 2019, she utilized Linktree to promote everything that is involved in an album release, from tracks to ticket sales. “There’s nothing worse than trying to pick which is the most important thing, because I want people to preorder the album, but if no one comes to the show, then that’s pretty embarrassing,” Marsten says about making her Linktree.

Music Links give Marsten’s fans an easy way to listen to her music in the midst of a lockdown, by providing one centralized place to stream her songs across numerous platforms. “It [Music Links] makes it so much easier to put less steps between my audience and the thing I want them to listen to. I want to get as close to them as possible and be safe [while] distancing.”

Marsten’s latest single “Drowning Myself” comes out on October 8. In this track she finds inspiration in her own journey of self-realization, presenting to the world a rejuvenated person who has found a safe place to share her own story. It is the first time the self-managed, self-booked artist is producing and playing guitar on one of her tracks, and we are excited to hear it.

Ultimately, Marsten wants her love for music to resonate through her songs for years to come.

“There’s nothing that I release that goes out to the world that I haven’t had a huge hand in creating and I’m not incredibly emotionally attached to. I just hope that other people feel that same passion when they hear my music.”

Beyond The Feed podcast with singer Hayley Marsten
Listen to Hayley Marsten's podcast episode here!Stream Beyond the Feed