SAN FRANCISCO -- Hayden, the artist, writes songs that are like three-minute
snapshots, made to be pasted into an aural photo album for the listening.
Like a candid snapshot, these songs encapsulate everything from the occasional short
story of grave importance to the more common disposable-Polaroid moment imprinted
briefly on his mind.
Hayden, the music critic, sometimes wonders if people aren't misunderstanding his
"My lyrics are a way for me to express how I'm feeling about something at a certain time,
especially when I don't feel like I can communicate it any other way," 27-year-old
Hayden said. "Sometimes I have fun telling little stories and try to capture little moments
that five minutes later, I would have forgotten about. Little things like that, to full-out
stories with beginnings and endings."
On his second LP, the recently released The Closer I Get, the Canadian
singer/songwriter has continued to develop his unique musical portfolio, tackling subject
matter ranging from late-night television to common beach behavior in a flash.
Ensconced in a deep leather chair in the back corner table of a darkened Bimbo's 365
Club, Hayden talked about the latest batch of brooding songs that he and producers
Scott Litt (R.E.M., Nirvana), Steve Fisk (Screaming Trees) and Daryl Smith (Sloan)
committed to CD. Dressed simply in dark jeans, wearing a red-and-white plaid shirt over
a gray T-shirt, Hayden spoke softly, his words dancing in counterpoint to the flickering
light of three candles in glass bowls that he had brought to the table.
One song on his mind was
"Two Doors" (RealAudio excerpt), a melancholy musing with a self-conscious twist.
"It's kind-of like a lonely, staying-in-a-hotel kind of story, about seeing someone as you're
checking in and then finding out they're staying in the room beside you," he said. "You
can hear what they're watching on TV through the wall. The person in the song is writing
the song in the hotel room and singing it, kind-of assuming the woman can hear through
the wall and can hear the song saying, 'Why don't you come to my room?' "
Hayden's "snapshots" initially came to the attention of the music industry in 1994, when a
tape he had recorded on a four-track in his parents' basement generated a fierce bidding
war. After inking a deal, his debut LP, Everything I Long For, was released in
While the debut album was hardly a vast commercial success, the power of Hayden's
intense, somber songs drew the interest of critics, musicians and producers, including
Litt, Fisk and Smith, who signed up for the new album.
Guitarist Mitch Roth, 27, grew up with Hayden in Toronto and has played off and on with
him for the better part of the last decade.
Roth signed on to be part of Hayden's first full-fledged touring band after hearing the 13
songs of The Closer I Get.
"I love the man's songwriting," Roth said. "As soon as I heard the new record it was in my
mind completely and I'm still in love with it. With all of Hayden's songs, there's a real
element of honesty. It's easy to relate to the music being played and the music he's
The song "Memphis" (RealAudio excerpt),
for instance, captures one of Hayden's self-proclaimed "little
However, the tune, originally sparked by watching a late-night documentary about Elvis
Presley, grew into something much bigger in the eyes of fans and critics, Hayden said.
"I was pretty fascinated because I was never a big fan of Elvis [Presley]," he said, "just
because when something goes Hollywood like the Elvis story does, or has, you kind-of
avoid something that's so big."
The night of the program, Hayden said he became inspired to write a song about the
King, a brief moment in his life which made it all the way to his new record.
"People think it's a huge tribute to him or I love him, or I'm obsessed with him. That's
what's weird about writing a little snapshot," Hayden said. "Literally the next day, I
wouldn't have written that song."