Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram

Hayley Marsten Breaks Down Every Track On New Album ‘Girlhood’

19 June 2023 | 10:53 am | Mallory Arbour

‘Girlhood’ is out now!

Hayley Marsten

Hayley Marsten (Image: Supplied)

More Hayley Marsten More Hayley Marsten

“For me, Girlhood is the album I wanted and needed to hear when I was younger,” Hayley Marsten says of her second crowd-funded album release. “Everything from the songs down to the way the album looks was really inspired by who I so badly wanted to be when I was a teenager and I’m really proud of what I made for that younger self.”

Girlhood, which was crowd-funded with over $20k, features the singles I Am A Rich Man, Drowning Myself, I’m Fine, Thanks and Bittersweet at Best. The album also saw Hayley working with an “A-Team” of producers that she trusts implicitly – Kieran Stevenson, Dan Sugars, Michael Muchow and co-executive producer Cody McWaters, and features co-writes with fellow country music artists, Imogen Clark and Melody Moko.

Girlhood follows her 2019 debut Spectacular Heartbreak, which collected multiple award nominations, including ‘Alt-Country Album of the Year’ at the Golden Guitars and ‘Country Work of the Year’ at the Queensland Music Awards in 2020. The record also racked up over half a million streams and was crowdfunded for over $17k.

We’re so delighted to bring you this exclusive track by track, as Hayley Marsten talks us through each individual track: the creation, sentiment, and everything in between.


1. Getting Better

I wrote this song the day before we went to Airlock Studios to do a big day of band tracking. A lot of this album is very introspective and came from me going back to therapy in 2020, which was the best thing I ever did for myself. But part of that experience was feeling like I was cured and never needed to return and then being knocked right back to square one.

Join our community with our FREE weekly newsletter

Last year my anxiety was at an all-time high and it was incredibly difficult for me at times to just look after myself. There’s so much stigma around mental health, at times I really did feel like I was letting everyone around me down, and myself. Once we got in the studio, I knew I wanted this big sweeping dramatic intro and that it should be the album opener, Toby Alexander did the strings on this and totally nailed it. I love that it links to the strings in Bittersweet at Best.

A big strength of having a production team of long-time friends was them being able to decode my production directions. Because the wildest one definitely was for this strings intro, I wanted the drums to come in over the strings ‘and stomp on them like when sims stomp on a dollhouse’. I’m sure my Sims girlies will agree we nailed it. 

2. Drowning Myself

This track was one of the first co-writes Kieran Stevenson and I did for the album, although we didn’t know it was becoming an album at the time. We had a standing Tuesday afternoon co-write and over 4 weeks in June/July of 2020 we wrote Drowning Myself, I’m Fine, Thanks, I Knew the Pain and Good Writer one after another.

Drowning Myself was the first single from Girlhood, while it was still being written and recorded. I still think it’s the perfect first single, the intro really sets the scene for something completely new, and I love that it name-checks Spectacular Heartbreak in the first verse too. 

3. Teen Movie 

I really thought a lot about my teenage self while I wrote this album and one thing I clung to as a teenager was pointing to the example of plots of the tv shows and movies I would watch that things would turn out ok. Which sounds so sad when I write it down. I had a few rough years that I chronicled in my diary (which I had found during writing this album too), my best friend ditched me for more popular pals, my parents got divorced, I had terrible eyebrows. I was looking for a happy ending to point to anywhere I could. As I got older it really showed because I had no idea what normal healthy relationships looked like or what was a real expectation for one.

I think this song is probably the most introspective on the album. Plus, I know it’s guaranteed to bring a few tears out when we play it live on the last verse. I love inducing a recreational cry in people. 

4. I Am a Rich Man 

Imogen Clark and I wrote this over Zoom 2021, and it was one of the easiest co-writes ever, I think because we had had conversations about this for years within our friendship so putting it into a song was so natural.

The hook line comes from an interview Cher gave where she was talking about how her mum said to her once that she should settle down and marry a rich man and she said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man’. Something we had both experienced was the notion that even though we had reached major milestones in our careers and personal lives if it wasn’t engagement, marriage – it wasn’t really that big of a deal.

It’s always bothered me the fixation that those are the biggest indicators of a full and accomplished woman and that we don’t celebrate the other goals as much. And in my opinion, whether or not a woman has a ring on her finger, she can have a whole and fulfilling life, and be her own rich man to settle down with. 

5. Bittersweet at Best

This turned out to be the first song I wrote for the album when I went back through all my many voice notes. I sat down one-night April 2020 with a glass of wine, and it just fell out. I had actually written another song just before that I spent a lot more time on that never saw the light of day, maybe I was just clearing space for this one! I love this moment on the album with the piano and the strings taking centre stage. 

6. Feel it All

I wrote this song a week after bittersweet, I guess it turns out I was on a roll even though it did not feel that way at the time. The idea for Feel it All came from a constant criticism that I feel too deeply, mostly from my previous partners. I’ve always thought and felt a lot and had been made to feel ashamed of that by many people throughout my life. 

But when I wrote this song I had just started going to therapy and I had said to my therapist after having a breakthrough, ‘Everyone should do this!’ and he pointed out that ‘not everyone can do this’. Not everyone can take the mirror to themselves, not everyone can work through these feelings, but I could because I feel them all so deeply. And I started to look at my vulnerability as a superpower rather than something I should be hiding. 

Girlhood is for my younger self and this message is one I really wish she knew sooner. 

7. I Knew The Pain 

This was the last song Kieran Stevenson and I wrote in our streak of bangers. I remember halfway through this co-write and thinking ‘We’ve lost it, this song sucks’ but by the end of the session, I knew it was one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written. This song really came from the depths of my depression, the comfortable, familiar numbness had become like a safety blanket to protect me from a world of unknown new sadness. It sounds so upsetting and confronting to write it down like that. And it felt like that too when I explained it in that co-write, but Kieran understood, and we made something beautiful from that terrible time.

On a lighter note, the day after we wrote this song, I had a new ear piercing that went into my lobe, and I had to get a doctor to remove it. I texted Kieran a picture of my professionally extracted earring and said, ‘I knew the pain and it was inside of me’ It truly is one of the funniest things I’ve ever said in my opinion but no one else would’ve understood it until now. 

8. Good Writer

When Kieran and I started writing this song it had a completely different chorus melody. I misheard Kieran singing the chorus and it turned into the one you hear on the record which is so weird to this about now. We really just wanted to write something fun and sassy, a little call back to some of my previous work. Then, when we were doing the final recording sessions for this song, it was just Dan [Sugars, her partner] and I at our home studio, basically in the middle of the night adding more funny parts to this song.

I texted Imogen Clark and just asked her to send me a voice memo of her saying ‘ew, gross’ with no context and she immediately sent it back. We turned the first verse into the kind of debrief you have with your girls with that and some voice memos from me too. This song really isn’t trying to take itself too seriously, I think it’s a pretty good representation of my personality and sense of humour. I might write a lot of heart-wrenching songs but in my normal life and between those songs on stage, I am always doing it for the laughs. 

9. My Body Was Not My Own 

I almost didn’t put this on the album. It was a very confronting song to write and sing and I probably will never play it live for that reason. But as time went on and we had it half-finished the more I knew how important it was. I feel like as a young woman your body is constantly under fire, too big, too small, too much skin, too prudish, you can never win.

Patriarchal views had taught me as a young woman that my body was not mine to hold agency in. And it’s a framework I have been actively tearing down over the last few years. But even as a woman nearing 30 people still feel the need to comment on how I should be existing in my body, but I feel much more comfortable telling them where to go now. 

10. Girlhood 

Melody Moko and I wrote this a week before the album was supposed to be finished. Girlhood is mentioned in My Body Was Not My Own and I knew I wanted to call the album Girlhood and it was just such a good word, how could I not write a title track?! And I’m so glad we did because I think it pulls the whole album together, not just because it’s the title track, but because it encapsulates a lot of the messages I wanted to give my younger self in this album.

It’s funny because I knew I would call my first album Spectacular Heartbreak from just the title and then I wrote the song. And both times I just had this feeling that I knew it was going to be great. I think both times I’ve been dead on, she says so humbly.

Melody was the perfect co-writer on this song, she’s one of my closest friends and she knows me so well she could totally tap into my and our collective experience of girlhood. We did write the hook like ‘Only now at 29, I’m leaving girlhood behind’ in January but funnily enough I turned 29 the day before the album came out. 

11. I’m Fine, Thanks 

For most of the time I was writing and recording the album, this was its working title. But in December after we shot the cover and I was starting to make the artwork, I just knew it wasn’t her name. I did think it would be hilarious originally to have an album full of songs about being really sad called I’m Fine, Thanks. But as the writing went on it wasn’t about that at all and Girlhood became the obvious choice.

My band and I love playing this live and I think it’s become the fan favourite at gigs because of that. I love getting the last word and shooting down people trying to speak for me and this song is the perfect little anthem for that. 

12. Last Transmission (Live) 

In January this year, I had the listening party for the album. People had pledged to come and be a part of it during the crowdfunding campaign and I wanted to make it even more special to say thank you for believing in me to make a great album. So, when I wrote this song in September of 2022, I knew I wanted to record it live at the listening party for all of those people, so they are actually on the album that they pledged for!

Way back in May 2020, when I first started writing for what became this record, a part of me really considered never coming back to music. I felt exhausted and defeated and that my time in the sun was over. Then I got a bit philosophical and thought about how I might not know when my last gig is, and I wrote this song. So that if I do play my last gig tomorrow, I will have said a proper goodbye. But now, I’m hoping I have a long many years of shows to go and I’m so glad I stuck around to play them.


Keep up to date with Hayley Marsten via her Facebook page here.
Hayley is currently on tour supporting Girlhood, ticket information via here.