Back in March, I went to Hayden‘s show at The Rio. Before the show, I wasn’t very familiar with his music, other than his great new album, Us Alone, and a few other songs. Still, I figured I knew what his “thing” was: quiet, unassuming music, innocuous and pleasant, enough for an enjoyably low-key concert.
I was completely unprepared to for the devastating emotional impact of this man in a live setting.
It’s kind of hard to explain Hayden’s appeal, especially since I didn’t fully “get it” before seeing him live. Yes, his music is lovely: soft, sad, and delivered with a pleasingly deep and grainy voice. But it’s also subtle, quiet and doesn’t immediately grab you. It’s almost too mellow, to the point it may never grab you at all.
Although I don’t usually go in for the confessional singer-songwriter thing, I don’t find Hayden’s lyrics to be mawkish or syrupy. There’s something exquisitely melancholy in his chronicles of failed and faltering relationships. His subdued delivery lulls you into a sense of security, only to break your heart.
Onstage, he comes across as shy and sweet, almost surprised to find a theater full of people cheering for him. It’s utterly disarming and, like I said, devastating. Oh, did I mention the fact that he is tall, svelte, well-dressed, bearded, and looks like Mark Ruffalo? This also helps.
The funny thing is, he’s remarkably self-aware and realistic about his career:
for sure, my music isn’t for everyone. A lot of people think I mumble. And that I’m mopey…. But there’s a huge, huge possibility—and I’m not being self-deprecating here—that if I fully promoted all of my records crazily, toured my ass off, had U2′s manager or whatever, had all the pieces in place, that I still wouldn’t be a big artist.
I think that attitude encompasses why I’m so taken by Hayden. He’s not doing anything ground-breaking and he knows it, but that honesty in turn drives his music. He’s unpretentious, almost to a fault, but ultimately it’s completely endearing. As he says himself, his music isn’t for everyone, but go on. Put the kettle on, wrap yourself in a blanket, and put on a Hayden record with me. Sometimes it’s nice to wallow in the sweet sadness.