Hayden (Paul Hayden Desser)

Hayden's music has been described as "folk-rock." While his early tracks featured poignant vocals accompanied by solo acoustic guitar, his later work has incorporated electric instrumentation and demonstrates a more refined sound.


Hayden (Paul Hayden Desser)

 Hayden (Paul Hayden Desser). Singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, b Thornhill, ON, 12 Feb 1971; BAA Radio and Television Arts (Ryerson) 1993. Paul Hayden Desser performs under the stage name Hayden. Initially interested in radio and filmmaking, Hayden turned to music after his song "Take" was selected for the album New Music Search, compiled by Toronto radio station CFNY in 1993. Hayden played guitar on the track and enlisted two friends to sing vocals. Hayden continued to recruit vocalists until 1995 when he began to showcase his grainy baritone.

Hayden's music has been described as "folk-rock." While his early tracks featured poignant vocals accompanied by solo acoustic guitar, his later work has incorporated electric instrumentation and demonstrates a more refined sound. He has attributed his distinctive vocal style to the influence of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Lou Barlow.

Recordings and Tours

Hayden's debut album Everything I Long For (1995, Hardwood Records) was recorded on a four-track at his parents' house in 1994 and was released on his own label, Hardwood Records. Featuring haunting vocals, narrative lyrics, and sparse instrumentation, the album remained at the top of the Toronto indie charts for more than a year, and earned Hayden recognition from Spin Magazine as one of 1997's 40 most vital artists in music. Everything I Long For attracted the attention of a number of major North American labels, and in 1995 Hayden signed with Outpost Recordings. Despite receiving critical acclaim and garnering a 1999 Juno Award nomination for best alternative album, his first major-label release, The Closer I Get (1998, Outpost Recordings), was not a commercial success. Following an eight-month album tour, an overwhelmed and disillusioned Hayden took a brief hiatus from the music industry. He built a studio in his Toronto home where he produced music in isolation and slowly regained his passion for writing and recording.

Hayden re-emerged quietly in 2001 with the releasing of Skyscraper National Park (Hardwood Records), an emotionally lighter album with fuller instrumentation. Shortly after its release Hayden embarked on a small-venue tour, during which he recorded Live at Convocation Hall (2002, Hardwood Records).

Collaborations

Hayden has directed music videos for Canadian singer Anhai and Canadian rock band hHead, and wrote the title track for the 1996 film Trees Lounge (Steve Buscemi, director). He has toured with Canadian acts such as Feist, Sarah Harmer, and the Tragically Hip, and appeared at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert in 1996. Canadians Basia Bulat and Cuff the Duke have released albums on Hayden's Hardwood label.

Selected Discography

In September. 1994. Independent.

Everything I Long For. 1995. Hardwood Records CD002

Moving Careful EP. 1996. Hardwood Records WM 9957

The Closer I Get. 1998. Outpost Recordings OPRD-30006

Skyscraper National Park. 2001. Hardwood Records 4400162982

Live at Convocation Hall. 2002. Hardwood Records 7697422292

Elk-Lake Serenade. 2004. Hardwood Records 7697422772

In Field & Town. 2008. Hardwood Records HW008

The Place Where We Lived. 2009. Harwood Records HW009


Further Reading

  • Howell, Peter. "Hayden: The folkie in rock star clothing," Toronto Star, 11 Jan 1996

    Powell, Betsy. "Hayden is singing again, this time without the hype," Toronto Star, 10 May 1998

    Everett-Green, Robert. "Singing to his heart's content," The Globe and Mail, 7 Feb 2002

    Zillich, Tom. "There's life after death for Hayden," Vancouver Sun, 21 Oct 2004

    Rayner, Ben. "Master of his music-making house: Hayden makes solo music on his own terms and in his own time with impressive results," Toronto Star, 14 Jan 2008

    Wheeler, Brad. "Sharing secrets, and heartache," The Globe and Mail, 26 May 2009