Since Ronnie Hayward left the Kootenays in 1984, ditching his day job to pursue life as an itinerant musician, he’s recorded 15 albums and toured across Canada, North America and Europe.
He estimates he’s written over 400 pieces, ranging from bluegrass and rockabilly compositions to jazz tunes and beatnik poetry. He’s even been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
And now, after 30 years on the road, he’s returned to Nelson.
“It’s nice to be back here, in the area where I grew up. I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” the 52-year-old told the Star. Having already played a few shows in the area and gotten some airtime on local radio stations, Hayward is now planning a tour of the surrounding communities in the spring.
“I’ve been playing as much as I can since I got here. Every time you come to a new place it takes a while to establish yourself. I’ve been here since November and things have been starting to pick up.”
Hayward’s lifelong passion for music was born the day a friend of his father’s gave him a rockabilly stand-up bass. He’d been playing music off and on since learning to play rhythm guitar at age 9, but wasn’t interested in pursuing music full-time until the moment he first ran his fingers over those strings.
“I got that in 82, 83 and I loved it. I thought ‘I’m not going to do anything else’ and I haven’t since. Since the 80s I’ve just been playing every day. Haven’t had a day job since I was a teenager.”
Hayward said most of his songs center round women.
“Oddly enough they all seem to be relationship-based, either good or bad. You know how country and blues and rockabilly is. Every song and poem I’ve written is based on something that actually took place.”
Hayward has plenty of experience starting over in new places. Wherever he goes, he starts a new act, whether it’s Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal or overseas.
For instance, in 2005 he put out a jazz album that was wildly successful, topping the chars for three months.
“It’s a miracle because none of us were jazz players. We were just making this stuff up,” he said.
A few years ago Harward went over to Europe planning on a two-month stay, and ended up playing music for over a year. Many of his albums were recorded overseas.
According to him, that’s all part of the lifestyle he enjoys. And after getting disillusioned by city living, he’s looking for inspiration back in B.C.
“I was so sick of cities, for a long of reasons, and I’ve already been getting inspiration being back in the mountains.”
Hayward is collaborating with Nelson musician Craig Korth, who he originally met in Calgary.
“I’ll be doing it both ways, touring alone and with Craig. Maybe we’ll even get a snare and brushes, a drummer. But I’ll be doing solo things too.”
Hayward said it won’t be long before fans can expect a new album.
“I’ve got enough songs now to do a whole new album. Hell, I’ve got a suitcase full of songs in Calgary I haven’t shown anyone.”
Harwood’s most recent album is called The Sound of Ronnie Hayward and his Quartet.