Alone with everybody

Singer/songwriter Hayden returns with Us Alone

Vanessa Heins

Hayden sounds a bit overwhelmed when we connect. The Toronto singer/songwriter is navigating South By Southwest - unbelievably, his first time at the Austin, Texas music festival.

“Somehow, in 17 years of making music, I’ve managed to avoid this festival,” he says with a laugh. “It’s pretty crazy. But you can find little nooks of quiet. There’s lots of friends here. It’s like anywhere - if you’re with good people, it’s manageable.”

The fact Hayden is seeking out nooks of quiet at one of music’s biggest gatherings is telling. SXSW is more of a grin-and-bear it scenario for the 42-year-old vet. He’s repping a new label, Arts & Crafts, and he’s touring in support of a brand new record, Us Alone, his first in four years.

“I feel like I’m starting fresh in so many aspects,” he says, before deadpanning: “I just want to be discovered.”

He’s joking, but there’s some truth to that statement; Hayden’s been especially elusive the past few years - so much so, in fact, that his Wikipedia page claimed he was dead.

He quietly released an album in 2009, The Place Where We Lived, but didn’t do much in the way of promoting it. No shows, no interviews.

“It was about what I didn’t want to do last time around,” he says. “I didn’t feel like talking when my last record came out.”

The release of The Place Where We Lived coincided with a life-altering change in his personal life: the birth of his daughter, who was born with a rare chromosomal deletion.

Priorities shifted. Hayden needed to be there for his family.

I didn’t feel like talking when my last record came out.


He recognizes that being able to pull back from the business side of music is a decision not all musicians can afford to make, and he’s thankful.

“Early on in my career, I had a taste of what being at a certain level felt like - I’ve never had that unknown fantasy of chasing that,” he says, referring to the now-famous bidding war bewteen major labels Vapor and Outpost following the release of his breakout 1995 album, Everything I Long For.

“I was afforded the freedom to make the records the way I wanted to make them and stop touring when I felt it would be detrimental to me as a person, or my family or my music.”

Still, it’s not like Hayden was completely inactive during those four years. The writing process for Us Alone was long.

“I think I worked on it on and off for about two years. I would write a song and start recording it right away. It’s a very slow process for me. I add stuff and then I take it away.”

The writing process was also protracted by the emotional roller coaster he was living - the joy of a new baby girl mixed with the fear and worry.

“I didn’t feel like digging too deep,” he acknowledges. “It’s been a very high and low four years.”

Still, he’s come out on the other side with an introspective folk album that will feel like a homecoming for fans — and, yes, a discovery for new ones.

“I’m very happy with it,” he says. “I really like the mood of it and the sounds. I like the warmth of it. It was definitely a struggle making it, but I’m proud of it.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 21, 2013)

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