Songwriter and ‘The Goldbergs’ Actor, Hayley Orrantia, Talks New Song, New Movie and Always Challenging Herself

When it comes to the holidays, Hayley Orrantia says that she’s a bit more Grinch than Chris Kringle. On the other hand, though, she loves winter. So, while maybe the pomp and circumstance traditionally associated with the season isn’t necessarily her cup of tea, the coziness that can come with December has its delights. Orrantia, who is an accomplished country songwriter and recent presenter at the Country Music Awards, is also known for her achievements as an actor, especially so on the ABC comedy The Goldbergs.

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Fans can next see Orrantia in the upcoming festive film Christmas Is Cancelled. The movie, which also stars Dermot Mulroney and Janel Parrish, is out Friday (December 17). For the Amazon release, which she calls “a really funny, raunchy, oddball comedy,” Orrantia wrote a heartfelt track, “The Same Way,” which displays her writing touch and affinity for love songs.

“I was just going off my gut instinct,” Orrantia tells American Songwriter. “What I believed the director really wanted based on her direction. I love songs that involve winter elements but are not about the holiday itself. ‘Winter Song’ by Sara Bareilles is one of my favorites. That really inspired the tone of my song.”

For the new movie, Orrantia’s character comes home for the holidays to visit her recently widowed father, only to find out that he’s dating her high school arch-nemesis. So, Orrantia’s character attempts to break them up before the holidays are over. Shot in Chicago in May, making the movie nvigorated Orrantia’s love of acting, she says. Like an Olympic athlete training around other Olympic athletes for the first time, Orrantia picked up new techniques and saw new approaches to the craft that she could take back to her home team. For the song, Orrantia mentioned to the director, Prarthana Mohan, that she was a singer-songwriter and if she needed any new original music for the movie, she’d be happy to write something.

“And she said take a stab at it,” Orrantia says.

She did and now “The Same Way” has about 100,000 streams on YouTube alone in less than a week of its release on December 10. But that’s not the only song that’s racking up the streams for the 27-year-old Texas-born Orrantia. Her song, “Strong, Sweet & Southern,” has garnered nearly half a million views on YouTube. That song, which is all about the type of men Orrantia wants in her life, she says with a chuckle, is becoming her signature hit.

“I really lack upbeat songs,” Orrantia says of the 2016 single. “When it comes to me and piano, I tend to gravitate towards ballads. But I had this idea based upon a quote I saw online—‘I like my men like I like my tea: strong, sweet and southern.’ I was like, ‘How is this not a country song?’ I had a blast piecing together southern quips and sayings into this fun, sassy song.”

In 2019, Orrantia released her debut EP, The Way Out. The album was written in a tumultuous time for the artist. She’d found out that she was dating someone who was essentially lying about their identity. The person stole from Orrantia. It was a nightmare. But writing music allowed her a way to understand the moment and also grow from it. It represented and allowed for the next phase of her life. For Orrantia, music has long been a marker for new eras.

“I grew up listening to all different kinds of music,” she says. “At nine years old, I was singing along to the radio in the car with a family friend and she stopped and said, ‘Hey, you have a pretty good voice, do you want to sing for your parents when they home?’”

Orrantia sang a capella for her folks and they saw her talent. Soon, she was taking music lessons. At 14 years old, Orrantia was in her first songwriting sessions with professional writers. Like some kids know they want to be doctors or athletes, Orrantia knew she wanted to be a musician. It wasn’t so much that she knew she wanted to, or would dedicate the next handful of decades of her life to music, it was just what she knew she wanted to do today and tomorrow. She remembers looking into the bathroom mirror, singing into a hairbrush, mimicking songs she just heard on the radio or watched on television. Later, Orrantia found herself on the music competition show The X Factor.

“When X Factor came along,” she says, “I was comfortable on stage performing. Growing up, I was doing festivals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area almost every week. But The X Factor experience was very [enlightening]. I feel like those kinds of shows, as much as they claim to be about cultivating artist development, it’s more about them making a show, which was a really hard lesson to learn at 17 years old.”

Orrantia did not emerge from The X Factor as a winner on the season, but she did come out of it with a ton more experience. Any chance to see behind the Hollywood curtain is good if you plan to endeavor on its stage for a lifetime. Today, Orrantia is on one of the most popular network shows. The comedy, The Goldbergs, just renewed for a ninth season and stars Jeff Garlin. Orrantia began to try out for acting roles because managers told her getting a television show as a vehicle for her music career could be beneficial. But landing on The Goldbergs opened her up to a whole new world that she’s since fallen in love with.

“If it wasn’t for this show,” she says, “I don’t know how long I’d be able to keep pushing for acting. I fell in love with the writing and comedy, specifically. Being a part of it was so special. It is a little similar to music, you’re portraying and being vulnerable. It’s a form of therapy for me.”

It’s a love that Christmas Is Cancelled has since re-stoked. Opportunities like these have helped create Orrantia’s celebrity, too, which she gets to cash in on for fun events like presenting at the 2021 CMAs. At the recent ceremony, she presented for the Best Country Duo and got to give the award to Brothers Osborne, whom she knows. After The X Factor, she met them at a one-off show over a weekend. Since, she’s followed their careers and seen their ups and downs, including one brother coming out as gay in a musical landscape that isn’t often open about those matters. She remembers telling them back then they’d be headed for big things. Now, she was there in one of the moments that it came true.

“To be able to give them that award on stage,” Orrantia says, “and talk about it afterward with them was really cool.”

Looking to the future, Orrantia has her hand in a number of endeavors, from the artistic to helping her family’s real-estate business. She’s hoping to earn some director credits in the future, first on The Goldbergs and then in other creative realms. She’s going to pitch some shows to different networks. In short, she’s going to keep the creative ball rolling downhill. Challenging herself is the key, she says. Especially musically.

“Whether it’s me listening to another artist and feeling like they have hit the nail on the head with their lyrics,” she says, “or me writing about things in the most vulnerable, raw way that I can that will then resonate with other people—that’s just the most gratifying feeling in the world.”

Photo courtesy Persona PR

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