Hayley Williams graphic for women's history month

Women’s History Month: Hayley Williams

For Women’s History Month, the Girls Behind the Rock Show team members are writing about women in the industry who inspire them.

I have always wanted to be Hayley Williams.

Yes, that’s how I’m starting this piece off.

I became a fan of Paramore in 2008. I remember listening to the CD my friend burned for me of both Riot! (it had come out the year before, when Williams was only 18) and their debut album, All We Know is Falling. All We Know immediately became a favorite album of mine – and it still is to this day.

I loved Williams’ lyrical style, her hair color, her voice, how unapologetically herself she was. Everything was perfect in my eyes. As a young singer-songwriter myself, her lyrics heavily influenced my own. From ages 16-19, I rocked red hair and played pop rock music. While it was because I DID enjoy these things, it was also because I wanted to be the strong, loud, carefree woman that she was. Succeeding at such a young age because of her talent was inspirational for younger Tess.

When Brand New Eyes came out in 2009, I fell in love with the song “All I Wanted.” Williams herself said she couldn’t perform the vocals live, so I went ahead and did it myself. Did it sound great? Hell no. But did I have fun? YES! That was another lesson I picked up from her – always enjoy yourself, and don’t do anything you hate. If you’re not dancing, something is wrong. That’s why I wasn’t frustrated when they shifted from pop punk to pop for their self-titled album. Something had to give to enjoy music again. So, that’s what she did.

And then, of course, there’s After Laughter. I have cried to this album, danced to it, screamed along to the lyrics, blasted it during road trips—it’s been with me every step of the way for the past few years. Despite it not having the “Paramore sound” (whatever that means), it’s easily my favorite of theirs. Williams truly brought lyrics back to the basics—you don’t have to write metaphor after metaphor in flowery prose to achieve brutal honesty and catharsis. 

Her new EP, Petals for Armor, is incredible. And fans agree. In fact, my friend recently debuted a tattoo with lyrics from “Simmer,” despite the song only being out for a few weeks. It’s clear that she has a strong impact on her fans, who have followed her from Paramore to her own project. And the best part: no one is crying out that she’s gone solo, like they would have years ago. Instead, there’s nothing but encouragement from the fans. I think it’s because these fans (like myself) have grown with her, and they no longer fear the end of Paramore—they simply support the members in their own endeavors. That’s growth.

Then, of course, there’s her openness about mental health. While society is slowly becoming more accepting and sympathetic and open about it, it’s still considered a ~big deal~ when a prominent figure comes forward and speaks about it. Williams’ bravery encouraged me to speak openly about my own bipolar disorder. And her encouragement of therapy means the world to me—there’s still a stigma attached to it, and it’s time we cut that stigma off. Her grace, strength, and eloquence is to be admired.

I never considered myself a stan. I didn’t understand it. But writing this piece, I am proud to admit: I am a Hayley Williams stan. Always have been, always will be.