Hailey Whitters Recalls Waiting On Jon Pardi While Trying To Get Her Music Career Going: “I Wanted To Find The Back Door & Run”

Hailey Whitters country music
Harper Duddy

The harder you work, the luckier you get…

Hailey Whitters released one of my favorite albums of the year so far with Raised last month, and the Iowa native recently sat down on the Whiskey Riff Raff podcast to talk about her 3rd studio album, the grind of being an independent artist and her early days in Nashville just trying to make ends meet.

She’s currently on tour opening for Jon Pardi with Lainey Wilson, but her history with Jon goes way back. She met him pretty soon after she moved to Nashville over a decade ago, and in 2016, he asked her to open some shows for him.

She says was a huge opportunity for her at the time:

“I didn’t have a whole lot goin’ on, so he was throwing me a giant bone by letting me come out and have that opportunity.”

It was right around the time his fantastic California Sunrise record came out, and after a few more years went by, Hailey was back to a day job waiting tables and working at a local restaurant in Nashville.

And as luck would have it, Jon walked right in and sat at a table in her section:

“Flash forward a few more years, you know, I’m waiting tables again, not where I wanted to be in my career, I had to go back to a day job.

And I’m working a shift at the restaurant and in walks Jon. And it was just like, kinda that really awkward moment, a little bit embarrassing, you know.

He’s walkin’ in, I’m smelling like fried food, greasy beignets and shitty beer and like, I wanted to literally find the back door and run for my life. But, I had to go take his order, he sat in my table.”

And because he recognized her talent so early on, he was confused as to why she wasn’t out on the road playing her music:

“And so I like go up to him and I’m like ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god’,  and he’s like ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ And I was like, ‘I’m workin’, woo!’

And he was like so sweet about it, he was like ‘Well, you wanna get me a beer then?’ Like, immediately put me to work.”

Hailey refused to give up on her dream, though, and it just goes to show the importance of hard work and determination with anything in life.

All of that time and effort is paying off now, as she’s an opener on his headlining summer tour with several incredible records and amazing songs to pick from to play for thousands of people every night.

I love stories that come full circle, and it’s refreshing to see an artist like Hailey struggle and put in the work to get where she wants to be, no matter how long it takes:

“Yeah, so it was kinda one of those really humbling Nashville broke and busted musician moments for me.

But he was super cool about it, and then now flash forward a few more years and some career upswings, and I’m going on tour with him.

So it’s kinda been a crazy story.”

There’s a lot more where that came from, and Hailey has so many great stories and insights into the music industry that you’ll definitely want to check out the entire conversation.

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts by searching “Whiskey Riff Raff” or click here.

We’re also available on Spotify and wherever else you can listen to podcasts.

Cheers, y’all.



A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock