Underground Canadian folk icon Hayden has been climbing a circular staircase for the past 17 years.
He’s been completing the same cycle of recording and touring, coming back to the same place time and time again, but traveling consistently upwards with each trip around. And he’s been doing this independently, releasing records at his own speed (a breakneck pace of one record every four years, give or take) doing minimal promotion, letting the slow burn of his intimate, atmospheric folk music do the PR work for him. His new album, the contemplative and beautiful Us Alone, is his seventh cycle.
And, for 17 years, it’s worked. Hayden’s fans are Hayden’s fans. Without a droning hype machine or domination of the twittersphere, Hayden has been steadily turning introspection into a kind of art. He has generally avoided interviews, and has achieved a kind of infamy around that. “The problem isn’t doing many interviews,” he says. “It’s when I start doing interviews everyone always asks me why I don’t do interviews. It’s a vicious circle.”
But after 17 years, a few things have changed. A few Christmases ago, Hayden gave his sister-in-law, an elementary school teacher named Lou Canon, a vinyl record jacket with her name on it, and a promise to help her record a “couple of songs” in his studio. It turned out to be more than they each expected. “She just kept writing better and better songs and we were in a good flow,” Hayden says, “so it turned into a record. I had never really produced or engineered a record out of my own world. And Lou had never really been in a studio. So it was just a good union.”
Lou Canon’s self-titled release, a brilliant little folk-pop gem, has Hayden’s recognizable rustic touches, his fondness for deep and full textures, but Lou brings a playfulness that Hayden might have been hard-pressed to explore on his own. The two are now touring together, with Lou opening up for Hayden across North America. When asked if he sees Lou as a bit of a protégé, Hayden pauses. “Well, yeah, a little bit,” he replies, as if the prospect has just dawned on him.
And this is what’s great about Hayden. He incorporates music into his life, instead of bending his life to fit into music. He can be wry and sarcastic, (he summed up his inaugural trip to Austin, Texas mega festival SXSW with, “I hated it… You’re wrangled around, and there’s thousands of people all walking around saying ‘Look at me! Look at me!’”) but his music is generous, unassuming and immaculately crafted. He takes his time, and it pays off.
And as for conquering that twittersphere, his new handle is @haydendesser. Stay tuned for biannual tweets.
Hayden and Lou Canon play at The Royal this Sunday, March 24. Tickets are $25. Doors open at 8 p.m.