Matthew Hager is a veteran of the music industry whose songwriting and production resume includes work with Duran Duran, Simply Red, Mindi Abair, Mandy Moore and many others. Allison Iraheta was a teen sensation who found success on American Idol and released one album for Jive/BMG. Their pairing materialized when her guitarist David Immerman asked Hager’s publisher if they could write together. They wrote a song and the rest unfolded like something out of a movie. “I’d never worked with Allison before and, to be honest, I wasn’t really familiar with her because I didn’t watch American Idol,” admits Hager. “But David said Allison would kill on the song and thought she would do the demo as a favor. She came over a couple days later and sang. I’ve worked with some great singers and she was absolutely jaw-dropping!”
The song they wrote together, “Gone,” turned out to be the single they would later release as Halo Circus. And what started out as a writing experiment turned into four or five more songs. The sessions were feeling less like a continuation of Iraheta’s solo career and more like the formation of a band.
"I told her, 'You've already been through the machine. You don't have to do that.'"
The next move was label shopping, but these industry vets wanted to avoid the typical pitfalls. “The truth is a lot of major labels can’t afford to lis ten with their heart,” says Hager. “The majority thinking was that they love Allison’s voice but they want her to sound like Pink or cut songs by other people. I told her, ‘You’ve already been through the machine. You don’t have to do that.’ This is a band, and every time we play we get new fans.”
Their signing with Manimal Vinyl came through John Taylor of Duran Duran. He knew Hager from their production work together on a David Bowie tribute album. Taylor was friends with the label owner and recom- mended he give Halo Circus a listen. A year later Paul Beahan did just that, catching a performance at L.A.’s Hotel Café. He signed them shortly afterward.
“He loved the material and didn’t wanna change anything. And that was good enough for us,” says Hager. “This is the best band I’ve ever been a part of. It’s really an exciting time!”
Halo Circus will release a full-length album in 2014.
– Eric A. Harabadian