ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Country music star and West Texas native Scott Hayley is no stranger to hard work- his oil field grit has helped him climb the county music charts and has taught him a lot about what it takes to succeed. Four months ago, Hayley packed his guitar and boarded a plane bound for Romania- all to help a crisis-stricken country wean itself off of Russian oil.
Hayley has worked in the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin for nearly 20 years; most recently, he’s acted as a consultant lending his directional drilling expertise to companies in the area. He originally wanted to take a break from drilling and focus solely on his music, then COVID hit, and the world stopped. Drilling came to a halt and concerts across the country were cancelled. That’s when Hayley decided it was best to find balance and kept pursuing both of his passions.
“I tried to leave oil and gas several years ago and just play music. But, as you know, this stuff gets in your blood- that black gold runs through your veins. It’s something I just couldn’t give up,” Hayley said.
Which is probably a good thing, as the oil and gas industry in the U.S. has ramped up its production amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And while the U.S. is well equipped to handle the demand in the wake of the halt on Russian imports, other countries in Europe aren’t as lucky.
Earlier this year, a business partner approached Hayley and asked if he would be willing to travel to Europe, specifically Romania, to lend his drilling expertise to people there who were hit hard when Russia’s oil stopped flowing.
“This was right after the Russia-Ukraine conflict started,” Hayley said. “I didn’t even know where Romania was.”
When he looked at a map and saw Romania’s proximity to Ukraine, Hayley said no. But it didn’t take long for things to change- he was again asked to help about two weeks later.
“I’d really regretted saying no to that. The more I watched, the more I saw what was happening- you start hearing about Russia cutting off the supply of energy to Eastern Europe,” he recalled. “I started to think maybe there’s a higher calling to go and do this. I decided to give it a go.”
According to Hayley, the people of Eastern Europe have been incredibly grateful for the help. Romania specifically lags behind the U.S. by about 20 years in terms of technology. And that can easily bring a country’s oil production to a halt.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” he said. “That new technology is coming right here (the U.S.) because that’s where everybody’s bread and butter is. But there (Romania) where they have one, maybe two land rigs in the entire country, it’s a lot harder to get the new technology out there.”
Hayley said when he stepped into the Romanian oil fields, he had to go back to the old school drilling practices he learned nearly two decades ago. His hope is that the oil producers in Romania can learn everything they need to be free of Russian supply.
“I hope Romania, I hope Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary- all those countries there- I hope they embrace drilling and completely wean themselves from relying on Russian energy,” Hayley said.
And they’ve come a long way, it seems. Hayley said Romania excels in “clean drilling”.
“Their engines put out no emissions. They’ve figured it out, they’ve really set the example on how you can do that,” he said.
Which is why Hayley is also taking the opportunity to learn from the people of Romania.
“It’s really an exchange of knowledge and experience,” he emphasized.
Which is important to Hayley because his true desire is that every European country can become energy independent.
“My hope is they start drilling their own oil and gas. I think they have no choice with what’s going on in Russia. We have to say (to Russia) we don’t need your oil. We don’t need your gas. We don’t need your imports…until we completely cut Russia off, they’re going to continue to act up.”
In his down time, Hayley has used his time in Europe to perform for the people impacted by conflict- it’s all part of that balance he has been seeking.
“I love the career (oil and gas) I’ve built, but I’ve had a strong desire to play music since I was four or five years old. Now, I’m using music as a vessel to take me to see the world and to do a little bit of good…music has been a great platform,” Hayley said.
Since landing in Europe earlier this year, Hayley has had the chance to perform for refugees in Poland. Specifically for the children sent to Poland while their parents stayed behind in Ukraine. He said the children had never seen a cowboy hat and he was happy to let them wear his- bringing a little part of Texas to children overseas.
“Something changed while I was over there,” he said. “I’ve learned a bigger purpose. I’d play a show and then talk to some of the people about what they were going through. Some of the stories I’ve heard…how their friends were tortured and killed. Some of the most god-awful things you’ve ever heard. But then to see them smiling listening to music…” Hayley said.
While Hayley continues to lend a helping hand in Romania, he is also working to improve his singing voice as it grows and matures. He’s exploring new styles of music as well.
Recently, Hayley got to put some of those new skills to the test. He returned to Texas in late July to spend time with family, especially his nine-year-old son Cannon; to perform for some friends, and to record his newest album which will be released in late 2022 or early 2023. While stateside, Hayley also released the first single off his upcoming album- The Life I’ve Lived. You can listen to the song on Spotify or any other streaming platform.
There, you will also find new singles as they are released throughout the year. The singer and humanitarian described his album as a mix of red dirt Texas country and rock and roll.
“I’d call it hill billy swamp rock, ” Hayley chuckled.
Soon, Hayley will return to Romania to continue the work he and the people there are doing to develop the oil and gas industry. When he returns to the states for good, Hayley said he will tour the U.S. and bring his music to the American masses. But for now, helping a country in crisis is enough for him.
“It doesn’t matter if you have 10 thousand fans. What matters is, can you touch the heart of just one person? Because it may just save their lives,” he said. “When I come back, I will focus on music, and I will stay working in the oil and gas…I’ll just get better at what I do,” Hayley said.