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Strip pianist Halsey Harkins develops a voice of her own

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From the Strip to Downtown, Halsey Harkins is crafting her own sound.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

You might not know her by name, but Halsey Harkins has already mastered the musician’s hustle. The 23-year-old Las Vegan, whose vocal style falls somewhere between Norah Jones and Madeleine Peyroux, regularly subs as a pianist for Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers, Jersey Boys and Wayne Newton. Recently, she launched a solo project when plans for another venture unexpectedly fell through.

Harkins carried on, opening for Fell Runner, Desert Magic and Shayna Rain at a June Bunkhouse show, and now she’s focused on locking down a cast for her own namesake neo-soul project. “That was the show that necessitated it. Are you going to cancel or are you just gonna play your songs? I chose the latter, [and] it was such a great show.”

Harkins grew up in Las Vegas, listening to bands like The Strokes and The Vines even as she studied in the jazz program at Las Vegas Academy. Harkins graduated from UNLV with a bachelors’ in jazz performance in 2015, building skills that landed her a steady gig as a professional pianist, and helped her craft unique, original material.

When she isn’t working or performing, Harkins can often be found supporting other Vegas musicians, soaking up the scene around Downtown. “People will claim that Vegas has no community or culture, but I think they don’t know where to look,” she says. “I quite love the city—every aspect of it. Working on the Strip, even though it’s showbiz, you’re working with people who are so good at what they do. That’s so inspiring.”

Harkins says she hopes to have new recordings finished by November, but until then she’s focused on booking gigs (a summer house show and a Shade Tree fundraiser are already in the works). “On the Strip you have to go in under the radar and play your part right—that’s all that matters,” she says. “[With my new project], it’s a lot of fun to be able to create.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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