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Folk Singer/Songwriter is a Storyteller at Heart

For singer/songwriter Hayley Restivo ’18 (studio composition and literature), connecting with an audience through storytelling is her favorite part of performing.

It explains perfectly why she’s so drawn to folk music.

“It puts such an emphasis on the lyrics. It’s less about being creative with your chords and more about sharing an experience,” the sophomore says.

Restivo’s passion for songwriting started early—when she would have her dolls sing to each other—but admits she wasn’t very good. “I had a lot of people tell me, ‘you’ll never be a musician, you’ll never be a singer.’ It drove me to make myself good and develop my voice,” she says.

She immersed herself in voice, piano, and bass lessons. At age 15, she formed a folk duo, SYMBA, with her best friend. They began playing gigs around her hometown of Jamestown, NY, eventually gaining the confidence to perform original music. As relative youngsters in the local folk music scene, they found an accepting audience, which tends to skew older.

During Restivo’s senior year in high school, SYMBA released an album, Eleanor Evermore, which sold more than 600 hard copies. Her resolve to pursue music professionally was then set. 

Grateful to be accepted into the studio composition program—Purchase was the only school to which she applied—she enrolled in literature courses last fall to strengthen her lyric writing skills. Literature soon became her second major. “I learned so much about writing lyrics by reading and analyzing writing. If you can read well, you can write well,” she explains.

Restivo records and performs as Addison Moon. She feels a deep connection to nature and the Earth. “The full moon has always been a good luck sign for me,” she says. If she could add a third major, it would be environmental studies.

With several gigs lined up back home this summer, one she’s particularly excited about is the annual Great Blue Heron Music Festival, which draws thousands to the three-day event.

But first, she’s looking forward to the release of her next album, Elevation, in two weeks.