Hayley Orrantia Carves Her Own Path in Music City

She may best be known for her role as Erica Goldberg on ABC’s hit comedy series, The Goldbergs, but Hayley Orrantia was singing and writing songs long before she ever became an actress.

“I started out singing when I was 9,” Erica tells Nash Country Daily. “For me, music’s always been that thing that you do—like a kid going out for soccer or volleyball. Music was my thing. I did that for forever. I wrote songs. I actually came out to Nashville when I was 14 and started writing. I met with different people and then record labels were the ones that told me that I should get a platform like a TV show, if I wanted to get signed.”

As crazy as that sounds to anyone trying to break into the music business, Hayley did it. She went and got cast in her very own hit comedy show, The Goldbergs—an ABC sitcom that takes place in the 1980s in Jenkintown, Pa., and follows the lives of—you guessed it—the Goldberg family. The show stars George Segal, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jeff Garlin, Hayley, Troy Gentile and Sean Giambrone.

Hayley with TV Mom, Wendi McClendon-Covey – Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC

“So because of the record labels, I got involved in acting classes. I had no idea what I was doing. I was horrible at it,” says Hayley with a laugh. “I just kept auditioning, and pretty much The Goldbergs was my first thing. It’s just kind of a freak accident that it worked out the way that it did. So I start meeting with labels again and it’s kind of a Catch 22. They said, ‘Well, you’re an actress. How much of a musician really are you?’ I’m like, ‘I’ve been doing this a lot longer than acting.'”

In the interim, the shows producers learned of Hayley’s singing talent and subsequently incorporated her music background into the show, giving Hayley a platform to showcase her vocals in a few episodes—something she hopes will become a more regular event.

“It was really great that they did that, but people don’t think that it’s actually me singing. It’s great that they did it because it’s really helping promote my music, which I still want to do—even though I’ve been working on acting. It’s weird. Both things fell in my lap at different times, and The Goldbergs worked out. I love that show.”

Growing up an only child in Texas, Hayley filled her time singing and listening to R&B and pop music—artists like Luther Vandross and Brian McKnight. For the aspiring singer, it was all about soul and the powerful voices of artists like Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Shania Twain.

“Rascal Flatts has always been a huge thing for me. Every song of theirs just makes me feel good,” she says. “Carrie Underwood, of course. I remember watching her on American Idol. Shania Twain and Faith Hill—my mom really got me on all that. The big voices are what I always grew up listening to, whether it was Shania, Faith or Carrie, or all the way to the other side to Whitney [Houston] and Celine Dion. It was always big voices, no matter what genre.”

With aspirations of being the next JoJo (Pop singer, songwriter, actress), Hayley appeared on Fox’s talent show, The X Factor, where she decided that she really wanted to be singing country-pop music. “That’s just where my heart is,” said Hayley. “When I’m writing—that’s just how it comes out.”

Today, Hayley’s heart is with her new single, “Give Me Back Sunday.” A song she co-wrote with Jason Saenz and Todd Clark, about missing home and recalling those nostalgic memories that bring her comfort.

“I actually wrote this song when I first came out to Nashville,” recalls Hayley. “This was one of the first songs I wrote—about three years ago. I wrote the song when I was 19 and I moved out to L.A. Being an only child, this was the first time I was away from my parents. I was away from home. It was new to me. While it was very exciting, I really missed home. I missed my parents and I missed that small town feel. Los Angeles is a whole different world. I was very inspired to write a song about all the things that reminded me of home, specifically Texas, growing up in the South and being close with my parents. We were able to tie in things that not everyone’s gonna know are personal to me. Like having ‘Amazing Grace’ in the song—doing that little snippet. My Nana’s name was Grace. I used to sing that to her and I sang that song at her funeral. For me, that has a lot of meaning.”

“I’d trade every star on the ground for one in the sky in my home town / Slow down but hurry up and wait for a little bit of rest on the seventh day / The only day we can’t have Chick-fil-a / Daddy’s cursing at the football game / Mama’s at church just praying away / We sing ‘Amazing Grace’ / Give me back, give me back Sunday / Give me back, give me back Sunday / Only for a moment even if I can’t stay / So give me back, give me back Sunday,” Hayley sings in the chorus.

“Give Me Back Sunday,” could very well be the first country song that name checks the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.

“I have to say that when we were writing it, I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is a singable word, much less is this going to resonate with anybody?’ I remember growing up in Texas—really in the South, wherever there’s a Chick-fil-A—we would get up early enough to go to Chick-fil-A and get chicken minis and a sweet tea before school every day in high school. It was the best,” remembers Hayley. “It’s how you start your day. Every time, to this day, I will go to a Chick-fil-A on Sunday [when the restaurant is closed], and I’m like, ‘Crap! Why did I not know [it was closed] when I got in the car?’ Everyone who loves Chick-fil-A has gone on a Sunday and been like, ‘Well, this ruined my entire day.'”

Photo by Jason Simanek

While Hayley is getting her singing career on track, a slight setback will prevent her from performing and singing as much as she would like this summer.

“Sadly, I’ve been having some vocal issues. I found a cyst on my vocal cords,” she reveals. “I thankfully don’t need surgery, but I’ve been having to go to speech therapy. I’ve limited my performances for the summer, because I have to get back to the show and I had originally hurt my voice while working on the show, because there’s so much yelling.”

All is not lost for the Texas native. There’s more music to come following her current single, “Give Me Back Sunday.”

“My plan is to just release singles over the course of the year,” she adds. “Especially, when we start the show again—releasing one every month or every two months to keep it going. I hate that feeling of letting go of music for a whole seven months [during filming].”

While L.A will need Hayley back to start filming a new season of The Goldbergs soon, she will be sticking around Music City for the foreseeable future. With co-writes and friendships keeping her in her newly adopted hometown, Nashville just may have found it’s newest permanent resident.

“I love Nashville. It’s been four years since I moved out of Texas. Even though I miss it and my friends and stuff, I really feel at home in Nashville. I could see myself here for a long, long time. I’m here for the long haul.”