Beloved Toronto musician Hayden set to release first new album in 8 years

As far as sad and forlorn singer-songwriters go, one of the OGs of the genre is surely Toronto’s Hayden Dresser. It’s been eight years since his last album, but he’s back and set to release Are We Good on April 5.

Hayden starting strumming beautifully mopey ditties in the bedroom of his Thornhill family home back in the early 90s when the music landscape was decidedly different.

He released his first EP In September on, wait for it, cassette followed by his debut album Everything I Long For recorded at his family home on a four-track. These are albums that aren’t even available on Spotify! If you can imagine that.

Hayden, his penchant for plaid, his unkempt looks, his reclusive persona, became a hot commodity and a bidding war between major record labels ensued with the venerable Geffen Records winning out.

What followed what a series of really quite wonderful albums and a career that possible peaked early on in terms of exposure and success in the mainstream maelstrom of things. But this one is gifted and his music is a wonderful thing and one we are happy to see more of. It’s been too long.

Word of a new album comes alongside the arrival of the lead single “On A Beach (feat Feist)” and a star-studded official video featuring fellow Toronto musician Leslie Feist with cameos by Matt Berninger of The National and actor Steve Buscemi (who Hayden last worked with on the music for Trees Lounge, Buscemi’s 1997 directorial debut).

Although it took a long time for Hayden to get together the new collection of music, one song, “On A Beach” came to him almost fully formed.

“One afternoon February 2021 I was asleep at my piano when I received a text from my friend Leslie (Feist), inviting me to be a part of a songwriting workshop with several other musicians of note. I was terrified, but joined in as an attempt to jolt myself out of submission,” said Dresser. “The idea was to write a song a day for seven consecutive days, sharing them later each evening with the other writers. A great combination of pure feet to the fire expression and accountability.”

Hayden says “On A Beach” was his submission on day four of the workshop.

“I continued tinkering with the song and recording in the following weeks, adding a bridge, tracking several synth lines to try to create what I thought hypnosis may sound like,” he continued. “A few weeks later, Leslie was in town and I invited her to sing on a newer verse I’d written to make the song more of a conversation. Who better than the best, and the one who basically made the song happen in the first place.”

The album, Are We Good, was written, produced, and mixed predominantly by Hayden at Skyscraper National Park, the studio at the top of his Toronto home. It is here where Hayden lives with his family, his wife and child who has developmental disabilities. His daughter is what inspired Hayden to create the now iconic Dream Serenade benefit concerts that happen every November, mostly at Massey Hall. And that’s where we have had our only chance to hear him perform as of late alongside a collection of spectacular guests who come together to raise money for his daughter’s Beverley Street School,  and other like-minded schools and care-centres in the GTA.

Hopefully, a new album means more opportunity to catch Hayden perform live in and around the city this spring and summer.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO