Houston’s Halston Dare is a hit on Spotify — and she can thank her ‘Girls’

The singer celebrates female friendships on the mid-tempo song that is an ode to girls who stay home, hit up the clubs and even 'girls who like girls.'



Joey Guerra November 26, 2021 Updated: November 26, 2021, 2:26 pm


Halston Dare celebrates female friendships on her single “Girls.” The mid-tempo song is an ode to girls who stay home, hit up the clubs and even “girls who like girls.”


The Houston native’s inspiration for the lyrics, however, was the opposite.


“I’ve never really had an opportunity to have stable, close friendships with girls,” Dare, 22, says. “I wrote ‘Girls’ about the potential girlfriend group I could have someday.”


She was in Los Angeles for a writing session with Jesse Barrera (Tori Kelly, Us the Duo) when a group of “so-called girlfriends” began pressuring her via text to ditch the session and join them for a night at the club.


“They were just being really pushy and unsupportive and mean. Honestly, it sucked,” Dare says. “I just finally told them, ‘If y’all really supported me and my career, y’all would understand why I’m not coming out tonight. Y’all wouldn’t be telling me that I’m a buzzkill or a letdown’.”


It’s a predicament that many can relate to — and it has helped push the song past the 1 million streams mark on Spotify. It’s Dare’s third single since 2020 to hit that milestone.


Dare celebrated with a release party last month at The Vault downtown, where she debuted the DJ Riddler remix of “Girls.”


Barrera, who co-wrote and produced “Girls,” says it’s one of his favorites of the year.


“Working with Halston was so much fun. She trusted the vision from the jump,” Barrera says. “As soon as I sent her the first demo for ‘Girls,’ she showed so much enthusiasm, and I was stoked to write it with her. I am definitely looking forward to many more in the future with her.”

Bonding over Katy Perry

Dare grew up in the Memorial area as part of a musical family. Her father, who is from Cuba, was in a barbershop quartet. Her older brothers excelled at choir and musical theater. Dare initially wanted to be a marine biologist. But that changed the Christmas before she started high school, when her parents gifted her with Adele, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry CDs.


“I played them all year long. But the one that I played the most was Katy Perry. I don’t know what it was about ‘Firework.’ That song just made me feel so powerful and heard and understood,” Dare says.


The feeling was solidified when Dare and her best friend saw Perry perform at Toyota Center.


“We dressed up in the most wackiest costumes. I had white mascara on, I had pink dye in my hair. I wore these Chevron black, pink and white leggings with this neon yellow top and bright pink shoes,” Dare recalls. “Everybody else was dressed in tutus and weird outfits and crazy makeup and wigs. We were like, ‘This is our crowd. This is where we fit in’.”


When Perry soared across the venue singing “Birthday,” Dare had a realization.


“I vividly remember sticking my hand out and thinking I could almost touch her,” she says. “I remember just sitting there and bawling my eyes out and thinking, ‘I’m gonna do that someday’.”

Finding her vision

Dare attended Memorial High School until her junior year, when she left to tour with High School Nation, a program that enables young artists to perform at high schools around the country. She finished school online, signed a production deal and moved to Nashville before she turned 18.


She was releasing music, jumping from pop to country to rock and back again, and eventually realized she had no clear idea of who she was as an artist. She was instead relying on what others told her to be. It was exacerbated by her time in school, where she was bullied by other students for pursuing a career that didn’t fall in line with their shortsighted suburbia goals.


“I look back on it now and I realize that I listened to a lot of other people’s opinions instead of doing what I wanted to do,” Dare says. “All I really wanted to do was be home, hide in a corner and be on my phone.”


After hitting “rock bottom” and realizing her potential was being squandered on music she didn’t like and an image she didn’t recognize, Dare returned to Houston just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Her 2020 song “Replace You” was the first she truly connected with and seems to directly address her past strife.


“Tell me/Who told you that you could own me/Treat me like some kind of trophy?/On the shelf for no one else …”


And as for those high school bullies, they’ve become, as the saying goes, some of Dare’s biggest fans.


“It’s funny because about 95-percent of the kids that bullied me either follow me or have messaged me at some point saying, ‘I miss you. I’m so proud of you. I knew this would happen.’ But I’ve only received like one or two comments of, ‘I’m sorry I was not supportive’,” she says. “I’ll think, ‘I remember when that girl pushed me into a locker, I remember when that girl tried to cut my hair, I remember when that girl made an Instagram account just to bully me.’


“But you know what? None of that matters anymore.”


joey.guerra@chron.com


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