SHAWNEE – Hayley Watson Keffer from Zanesville, Ohio has recently made it to the round of 100 hopeful singers vying for a spot on “The Voice,” the American singing competition show on NBC. On Friday, Feb. 5, the last of the auditions to make it to the round of 60 finalists will take place. Shortly thereafter, Hayley will be notified if she is one step closer to realizing her dream, or will hear “better luck next time.”
Now 39, Hayley began performing at age 14 when she won a singing competition that took her to Nashville to record with Joe Diffie’s band. Although she was the youngest performer at the Nashville session, she also won the grand prize for that event.
“I did a Reba song and won the grand prize,” recalls Hayley. That’s where she was “discovered” by music promoter Phyllis Greiner of Variety Attractions. Greiner, along with George Moffat and Nick Door, booked her as the opening act for some of Nashville’s top performers, as well as a slot performing the National Anthem for the Cincinnati Reds.
Neal McCoy, Ricky Skaggs, Easton Corbin, Aaron Tippin, Tracy Byrd, Billy Joe Royal, and Confederate Railroad make up half of the artists Hayley has opened for at their concerts. Her list of credits and accomplishments prompts Hayley to admit that “my career has been a blessing.”
But all those events are behind her, safely stored as forever memories that will always belong to her. Right now she is laser focused on a future in the music business that could not come at a better time. Her two children have crashed through the 18-year-old barrier and are following their own paths now. Hayley and her husband, Joe Keffer, are poised to make the most of the chance an appearance on “The Voice” can mean to a performer.
While Hayley is awaiting word on her possible next step in the music business, she has constantly stayed busy in venues ranging from festivals to county fairs. Name any county surrounding Muskingum and stretching to Franklin, and Hayley has performed there.
When she appeared at the Moonshine Festival in New Straitsville a few years ago, a friendship formed when a Shawnee resident decided he had to meet this young lady with the big voice.
“I wasn’t really paying much attention until Hayley started singing,” says George Biggs. “Right then I knew I had to meet her.” Biggs is active in bringing entertainment to the Tecumseh Theater in Shawnee. After hearing Hayley in New Straitsville, he has made her a big part of special weekends and festivals in the area.
“Did you know Hayley drove all over this area to sing for veterans’ homes?” Biggs’ remark was more statement than question. “She dragged her sound equipment in her car and sang outside the buildings; because of COVID-19, she couldn’t go inside to sing.”
When it came time to film her audition for “The Voice,” Hayley’s first choice of location was the Tecumseh Theater. When the logistics for that shoot could not be managed, Biggs suggested using the Black Diamond Tavern in Shawnee. His idea and Hayley’s performance produced enough musical magic to impress the judges as she advanced to the round of 100.
If Hayley makes the cut to 60 competitors, all she wants is a chance to perform for the judges sitting in the chairs facing away from the performers.
“I’m ready to take the next step,” says the mother of two. “My kids are grown, and I am telling myself that I just want a chance.” However, Hayley Watson Keffer is as much competitor as she is singer. She has the support of her family behind her in this quest, including her parents who have always been her most supportive fans
“If I don’t make it, I’ll give it one more shot,” Hayley admits. “But then that’s it.”
When a singer performs on “The Voice,” the judges, Blake Shelton, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas, sit with their backs to the performers. If a singer impresses them, one or more of the judges will turn around and face the performer. “Making it this far is great, but I know what I want,” admits Hayley.
“I want to turn those chairs around.”