Toronto singer-songwriter Hayden set to hit Massey Hall this weekend

With his soulful melodies, introspective lyrics, and captivating stage presence, Hayden promises an unforgettable evening of music on May 27 when legendary singer takes the Massey Hall stage.

As far as sad and forlorn singer-songwriters go, Hayden is surely one of the OGs of the genre.

Hayden started 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 back in the day on, wait for it, cassette, followed by his debut album Everything I Long For, recorded at his family home on a four track. It’s been eight years since his last album, but he’s back with Are We Good. 

Known for his deliberate approach to songwriting, Hayden’s discography reflects a meticulous dedication to capturing inspiration at its peak. The artist has been known to patiently nurturing his craft, almost to a fault, allowing his creative process to unfold when it is ready.

“Maybe because I’m not a member of a band and things aren’t as scheduled as they would be with three or four or five people in a group, where everyone has to get in line for a certain time period,” says Hayden, regarding his extended period between albums.  “I enjoy the process of writing songs when I’m inspired and going up in the studio when I’m inspired so much, that those periods end up lasting a long time because I’m not in a rush for it to stop.”

What helped Hayden get to this particular wonderful finish line that is his latest album, was his friend and fellow singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, who brought the musician into a rarefied songwriting club of sorts during the pandemic.

Hayden’s involvement in the club during the hiatus proved instrumental in shaping his latest album. Amidst the challenges of lockdown and the responsibilities of caring for his children, the club provided a supportive and challenging environment that encouraged him to dedicate focused time to songwriting. This effort resulted in the birth of several new tracks, five of which made it onto the album.

We won’t name drop who was involved in this club, but Hayden says he was the least well-known member, and we know one of the names was Beck. So there’s that. The big names perhaps spurred the songwriter to reach a little deeper.

“I was going through, you know, what a lot of people went through during that period, which was being at home a lot. Being with my kids a tonne, one of whom has special needs. So it was extra intense,” he explains. “So this activity just forced me to spend several hours a day just super focused on writing songs, knowing that these contemporaries are going to be hearing them every morning and so it just lit a little fire for me. So in the end of the seven songs, and seven days that I wrote, five of them went on my album, and I threw out five that I was certain were going to be on the record. So it was extremely helpful.”

One of the songs he wrote ended up being the first single released off of the new album, a duet with Feist called “On A Beach.” Although it took a long time for Hayden to get together the new collection of music, that song came to him almost fully formed.

“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.”

Hayden’s upcoming concert at Massey Hall holds a special significance for both the artist and his fans. Known as a Toronto landmark and revered for its exceptional acoustics, Massey Hall has witnessed countless legendary performances throughout its storied history. For Hayden, this venue represents a homecoming of sorts—a chance to share his music with the city that has played a significant role in shaping his artistic identity.

“It’s incredible, of course. It’s kind of all the more special to be on that stage. It sounds incredible in the audience. As far as a performance it sounds so beautiful and balanced up on the stage as well. It’s my favourite place I’ve ever played.”

As Hayden navigates the ever-evolving music industry, he embraces authenticity and refuses to compromise his artistic vision. With an abundance of music readily available to listeners, standing out and capturing attention can be a daunting task. Yet, Hayden remains steadfast in his commitment to creating music that resonates on a deep and personal level, believing that true talent and beauty can transcend the noise and leave an indelible mark.

Perhaps that’s why the album has been received so well by listeners, which Hayden says he appreciates but is also a bit strange at times, but he gets its. It’s a great album.

“It’s nice. I mean, it’s also strange because some of the songs I recorded, you know, when Barack Obama was still president and so hearing people talk about a song that’s so old as like, a brand new thing, is odd, you know,” he says. “I remember, for a lot of them, how excited I was when I, say, came up with the baseline, or came up with the middle eight or whatever. Those are the moments that kind of keep you going.  I remember being excited. So, it’s not crazy for me to hear that people are happy about some parts.”

Hayden’s upcoming concert at Massey Hall is a testament to his artistic prowess, his unwavering dedication to his craft, and the enduring power of music to touch hearts and souls. Don’t miss this special Toronto talent. It might be another eight years before we get new music.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO