Though it starts with the line “She was just a little girl,” the opening lyric to Ottawa-based Chloe Hataley’s song “Palace” is no reflection of its author’s musical maturity.

By Chris Campeau

At just 15-years-old, Hataley has developed a sound well beyond her years. It’s no surprise, then, that “Palace” landed her as a top 10 finalist in this year’s CBC Searchlight competition—the nation-wide hunt for Canada’s undiscovered musical talent.

Born in Yellowknife, Hataley moved to Ottawa when she was four, roughly around the time she took up piano lessons. By age seven—already equipped with three years’ formal training—she started writing her own material. By nine, she was enrolled in vocal classes, a move her parents made in response to her tireless shower-singing.

Now a Canterbury tenth-grader, and a Grade 10 piano student, Hataley’s compositions are as intricate as her voice is polished. And though she didn’t win this year’s Searchlight (prizes went to Halifax’s aquakultre), her enthusiasm hasn’t suffered.

“I get excited just talking about it, because it was such a happy moment for me,” she said, referring to the day she received the email letting her know she’d made it into the top 10—a staggering accomplishment considering there were more than 2,000 entries.

 

“That day, I somehow misplaced my phone, so I had no idea [I was in the top 10] until I got home and found it. I saw the email and said, ‘Wait a second.’”

It wasn’t her first go at a contest—Hataley submitted to Searchlight in 2017 and advanced to the second of four voting rounds. This year, she has a few more things lined up, including competing in a classical-singing contest at Ottawa’s Kiwanis Music Festival, which runs until April 28 and takes place around various schools and churches in the city.

Hataley appreciates lyrics with a narrative slant, a theme common in her work.

“The first few songs I wrote were really based on books—stories in books and stuff like that. But recently, it’s been more of actual experiences in my life.”

Inspiration for “Palace” came from a snippet of Greek mythology found in a Percy Jackson novel. The anecdote tells of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, accidentally killing her friend Palas during fighting practice. As a result, the song’s lyrics are at times dark, despite their positive subtext, which makes their juxtaposition with Hataley’s striking piano ballad all the more captivating.

As for what’s next, Hataley said she’s just going with the flow.

“I hope one day I can perform and do all kinds of things with music.”

Like any budding artist, she aims to record more songs, and eventually learn to track them herself.

If we’re lucky, it won’t be long before she does because if her talent today is any indication of what’s to come, then there’s no doubt that Ottawa, and audiences beyond, are in for a treat.

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