Last summer as part of a Fourth of July celebration, Haley Zimmerer performed her first solo gig in the only place she would have ever wanted. She performed in her hometown of Verdigre at her hometown bar, Misty’s Soakers.
The 2010 Creighton graduate and former Kolach Queen is an extremely proud Knox County native. Born in Creighton, Zimmerer moved to Verdigre when she was four after her parents bought the Verdigre Livestock Market. She went back to Creighton for high school and made her way south after graduation to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., where she majored in music business. Went it came time for her first gig, playing back home only made sense.
“I’m so proud,” she admitted. “I’m very proud of where I come from.”
A 90's Country Superstar
Zimmerer began singing at a young age, citing Shania Twain as an early influence to her music style.
“I got a Shania Twain cassette and we wore that out,” she reminisced. “So that’s what I always wanted to be, like a 90’s country superstar.”
It wasn’t until high school, however, that Zimmerer became serious about attempting to make music her career. That’s when she decided to head to Nashville. Her parents made sure she took courses in music business to help further her understanding of the industry. When she arrived in Tennessee, she quickly learned that she needed to make herself stand out in the city that is known as “Music City, U.S.A.”
“It took me a long time to find who I wanted to be as a singer and songwriter,” she said. “There’s so many cookie cutters, and that sometimes sells, but it’s important to find that vision that encompasses who I am.”
It took her nearly three years to find that vision. After some self-examination, Zimmerer finally decided on an image that she felt fit her real life personality.
“It’s not that style that you hear on the radio right now,” she explained. “I like that old country but I’m also really influenced by southern rock and blues.”
She combined that into a style she considers “the female, bartender version of Eric Church.” That style has been infused into her first two singles, “Pin up From the Boondocks” and “Highway 14”, a song she wrote while returning home last year. Both songs draw from real life experiences Zimmerer had growing up in Verdigre.
When she described her songs, Zimmerer said that “Pin up From the Boondocks” is a song that is about the kind of girl she really is. It talks about being a girl from a small town and having a slightly rough edge to her. “Highway 14” talks about real-life experiences she had and real people she knew growing up. She performed both songs Friday night as she headlined that stage on the opening night of Kolach Days in Verdigre, a show that brings her career over the past year to a full circle.
Since her first show in Verdigre, she’s played a second show in town for New Year’s Eve, a few gigs in bars around Nashville and multiple shows in Paducah, Ky., a city known for it’s promotion of local music and musical growth.
Along with her original songs, Zimmerer played numerous cover songs during her four hour performance on Friday. She played many songs that influenced her, including songs by Joe Diffie, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Black Crows as well as various dancing songs. Her weekend did not end after her show on Friday, either. She was back on stage Saturday night in Magnet for another four hour show as part of the Magnet Bar’s second anniversary in which she experienced another strong turnout.
While she strives to have a successful career in the music industry, Zimmerer’s largest goal is much more personal, as is reflected in her music.
“My goal is to put this area on the map and show that we’re not just corn,” she said. “I want to represent this state perfectly, humble but we can hold our own. I want to make this area proud.”