Hayden Pastes Musical Snapshots Into New Album

Canadian singer/songwriter captures 'little moments' with somber songs on latest record.

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."