One thing American riders who race in Belgium say about their trips is the Belgian cyclocross fans treat them like rock stars. When he was a Junior ’cross star, Gavin Haley was one of those riders who got to experience living like cyclocross royalty, and he made the most of his opportunities to shine on the European stage. Haley finished in 11th place at the 2015 Junior World Championships in Tabor, won the Milton Keynes Junior race in 2014 and Junior race at the third World Cup in 2014 and reached the podium at the 2014 Superprestige Spa Francorchamps.
With a bright future and seemingly endless potential in cyclocross, Haley decided to take his career in a completely different direction and lay down tracks of a different kind. One year after his memorable Worlds ride in Tabor, he traded in his bike for a guitar and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a literal rock star.
Last winter, Haley achieved the dream of many a musician by releasing his first single “Fades Away.” He plays acoustic pop influenced by Ed Sheeran and Bryson Tiller, and he has gotten attention for his “emotionally-compelling, touching lyricism.” His latest music video is for his single “Picture Me Now.”
Gavin Haley: From Mud to Music
Cyclocross Magazine‘s Andrew Yee recently caught up with Haley to chat about his transition from cyclocross to music.
Cyclocross Magazine: When did you get into music and did you ever think you would be a professional artist?
Gavin Haley: I’ve loved music since I was a kid. I didn’t ever think about it becoming my profession, but I was always singing. When I was about 13 my best friend Ian McShane, who is a cyclist as well, invited me to his church. That led to me singing in their choir, and that’s when I realized I really loved to sing.
Racing started getting serious when I was about 15 or 16 with several trips back and forth to Europe with the national team. During that time I picked up the guitar. Music was really my escape from all the pressure and stress that came with that level of racing.
Sure, people say “How much stress could you actually have as a junior?” Well, when you perform well in Europe people begin to talk. You learn you’re only ever as good as your last result. It becomes about the result and not the love for the sport. My guitar got me through that. Through the 25-hour training weeks, the bad results and the press of the good results. I raced better when I balanced things out. I never took things too seriously because there is only so much you can control. I just liked to play music and go fast on my bike.
“I just liked to play music and go fast on my bike.”
CXM: How did your professional music career get started?
GH: My first season as a U23 was a letdown for me plagued by injuries and bad luck. During that time I was playing my guitar and singing six hours a day. It kept me positive. I started writing and learning to produce my music, and I decided to see where it could go. I sent some demos to several agencies in Los Angeles. To my surprise, I got replies that were followed by several life-changing meetings that really made me think.
I spent that entire season in Europe racing and loving life but also thinking about what I was going to do. When the season ended I knew it was time to step away from the racing. I raced because I love to ride. I knew that would never change, but I don’t have forever to chase a dream like music. So last year, in the spring of 2016, is when I went full time with music.
CXM: What has the experience in the Los Angeles music industry been like?
GH: The journey has been crazy. I moved to L.A. in July of last year and it’s been a constant learning process. I spend almost every day creating new music, playing shows and in meetings. The weirdest thing for me has been watching my idols since I was a child become my friends and work companions. Life is crazy, anything is possible.
I put out my first official single in December of 2016 and since then have received over 2 million plays on my music from around the world. One of the top countries my music is listened to in is Belgium. It’s amazing to see that crossing [Ed. note: nice pun!] over from cycling to music. I know what’s coming and I’m excited to keep learning and chasing. I’m still the same skinny cyclist, just racing to stages instead of finish lines now.
“I’m still the same skinny cyclist, just racing to stages instead of finish lines now.”
CXM: Do you still follow cyclocross and get out to ride your bike?
GH: I still ride. I’ve been surfing and riding a lot. Actually, I just finished my last music video and did something special with Giant for it. I follow cyclocross and cycling religiously. I made some of my best friends during that time of my life. I am probably going overseas this fall to follow some races and hang out with family over there. My mother’s side of the family is from England.
Although we are bummed we do not get to see Gavin race cyclocross anymore, we are stoked for him and all the success he is experiencing as a pop star. After Kevin Pauwels’ splash onto the rap scene and the De Romeos’ cyclocross anthem Viva de Cyclocross, stay tuned to see if Haley will be the latest artist to drop a cyclocross smash hit.
You can follow Haley and his latest tracks on Youtube here.
Enjoy these looks back in time? Relive these moments with our Throwback Thursday cyclocross series here.