trading sunday school for happy hour

Hallie Thomas

Hallie Thomas

Haley Bonar’s hoarse voice revealed her recent activities.

“I wore my throat out on the Low tour,” she said, “I just got back and it was great. I probably smoked too many cigarettes.”

The Size of Planets is the Duluth teenager’s second release. Full of haunting songs that touch on the singer/songwriter’s burgeoning sense of mortality, the album illustrates just how talented this Rapid City native is.

Growing up, Bonar remembers music as a presence. As a girl her great grandparents gave her a “horrible out of tune piano thing” and it wasn’t long until her plinking at the keys prompted her parents to sign her up for lessons. At fourteen, she abandoned the piano for a “six steel string guitar.” With her 2001 self-titled debut, Bonar cleaned house and recorded old material. She groans a little about the album now.

“I don’t really like it very much,” she said, “It was just a lot of old stuff I wanted to put out.”

Later this spring she will play the East Coast on the Chairkicker’s Tour with Alan Sparhawk, Low’s frontman. She’s also scheduled for a three and a half week West Coast venture with The Rivulets, another band that hails from Duluth.

“It’s a great scene. Its just picked up in the last couple of years. I’m enamored about how much people are into it,” Bonar said, “But it’s not saturated to the point you can’t enjoy it.”

She moved to Duluth from Rapid City to major in English at the University of Minnesota- Duluth campus. Two weeks into her second year at school, a nagging feeling told her she was doing the wrong thing. Even though her parents were very supportive, it took her a week to get up the guts to drop out. Once she did it, however, it felt right.

“I wrote four songs the next week and it felt as if a huge weight was lifted,” Bonar said.

Those four songs are some of the most powerful on The Size of Planets. One in particular, “Razor That Wins,” deals with heart-wrenching emotions that, according to Bonar, are more metaphorical than literal. “Coffee stains on my dress/ And marks on my hand/ It’s all part of the plan.”

“Most of the people that comment on that song are men,” she said, ” Guys seem to like it and want to know more about it.”

Another stand out track on the album is “Bless This Mess.” An ode to trading in Sunday school for happy hour, Bonar boasts “If you want to talk the good life then I’ll meet you at the bar.” She attributes her underage knowledge of the honytonk lifestyle to her chosen profession.

“In Duluth I hang out at bars to see shows. It’s more of a medium than a past time.” she said. “That, and emotion comes from alcohol and the scene around it.”

In April she’ll turn twenty, but her youth doesn’t seem to concern her.

“I don’t really think about age. I’ve been singing for a long time,” Bonar said, “People can do a lot no matter how old they are and I’ve just been lucky.”

#1.887190:73053703.jpg:haley.jpg:Rapid City native Haley Bonar recently returned home to Duluth, Minn after a long tour with another Duluth band, Low. Her CD is entitled The Size of Planets.:courtesy photo