Back in January 2020, when the global COVID-19 pandemic had not yet stormed the United States, Halley Greg — a 29-year-old science teacher — felt on top of the world in the Seattle, Wash., music scene. So much so, she decided to quit her job and focus solely on performance. Little did she know what was ahead.
“The world felt like my oyster,” Greg exclusively tells OK!, having just successfully played her first headlining gig in Seattle at the time. “I put in my letter of resignation in January, and then COVID hit two months later.”
After the first 14 days of lockdown, and a “couple weeks of denial,” she admits, she worried about job security. “I called my principal and tried to un-resign.”
Well, being a singer who decided to risk it all for the dream of full-time artistry, that plan did not bode well for Greg. The school was under new leadership, and the “American Harlot” songstress was officially out of a job in education.
But, like many around the world experienced, 2020 proved to be a roller coaster — and a new high was right around the bend, with none other than America’s very first American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson, in her corner.
In May, she was sought out by a recruiter on The Voice to send in her materials for the competition, and a few months later, she was contacted to attend Blind Auditions for the show. By the fall — a pre-taped recording from Blinds recently aired on the 20th season of the hit NBC reality show — Clarkson was enthusiastically turning her chair around to see the songbird behind the ethereal voice covering Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird.”
A mere 17 seconds into Greg’s stripped-down, acoustic cover of the early 2000s classic, Clarkson had smacked down her iconic red button to come face-to-face with Greg, a curly-haired rocker standing just under 5’5” but possessing vocal cords with unlimited range.
“I was stoked when Kelly turned her chair for me,” gushes Greg. “It was so early in the song, so it was just a huge relief that she turned so early and I could be like, ‘Okay, let me just focus on singing the song that I planned… Now I can just sing my heart out.’”
By the end, she had received a standing ovation from the Grammy-winning Clarkson.
“This is the most awesome feeling ever ‘cause I know 100 percent I can’t lose you right now,” Clarkson exclaimed on set of The Voice.
It’s safe to say that scoring a coveted spot on Team Kelly was a dream come true for Greg. After all, the world-famous “Since U Been Gone” vocalist has sold millions of albums and conquered the world of pop rock — not to mention Clarkson’s award-winning real-life demeanor.
“Kelly is exactly as wonderful as you would want her to be,” Greg explains about working with the three-time Grammy winner. “She is just so kind, she’s so energetic, she’s so bubbly, and she’s funny. She always has a quip about everything.”
Just a year before meeting Clarkson, Greg was “nearly killing” herself trying to balance a full-time teaching job with a full-time passion, she reveals. She was singing backup for another artist, writing her own tunes and networking till the wee hours of the morning — only to “get my butt to work by 7 a.m.,” she says, and start the process all over again.
“It was unsustainable, and unfortunately, in a lot of ways, I wish I could have stayed a teacher and also be a musician,” she tells OK!. “Maybe one day I’ll find a way to do both simultaneously.”
But with her recent advancement on The Voice, it doesn’t seem like that day is anywhere in the near future. She’s too busy being a hometown superstar.
“The video is getting shared by the high school that I used to work at and the school district,” says Greg, a biology and psychology grad who opted for a more “practical route” following her time in school.
“The sweetest thing is having prior students reach out to me.”
As for that principal who didn’t rehire Greg amid the global pandemic? There’s no bad blood. “He reached out to me and congratulated me. He was very nice,” she says, smiling. “I said, ‘Thank you so much.’”
The Voice airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.