Hayden - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Canadian singer/songwriter Hayden came about at a time when indie folk wasn’t exactly in vogue for indie rock enthusiasts. Entering the scene in the mid-90’s when Pavement was still the norm and indie rock as a genre was still relatively buried in college scenes, Hayden began releasing lo-fi folk based music with hints of alternative rock flavors. Unlike most of the vapid folk pop artists populating the mid-90’s, Hayden’s unique sound was characterized by stark and haunting arrangements accompanied by a sepia toned vocal growl definitely not meant for a mainstream obsessed with Jewel’s brand of overbearing sentimentality. Born as Paul Hayden Desser on February 12, 1971 and hailing from the greater Toronto area of Canada, Desser began releasing an eerie blend of grunge, country, and folk under the moniker Hayden after graduating from Ryerson University in 1993. The debut cassette only full length, In September (1994 Paul Records/Hardwood Records) largely featured early versions of material Hayden would re-record for his official album, Everything I Long For (1995), self released on his own Hardwood imprint. Simultaneously boasting better production values yet reveling in a lo-fi indie aesthetic, Everything I Long For garnered Hayden a moderate amount of national attention, an opening tour slot for indie godfathers Guided By Voices, and the ear of Outpost Records, a subsidiary of the Geffen label, who signed Hayden in 1996.
After releasing the intimate stripped down EP, Moving Careful (1997 Sonic Union), Hayden returned with his first major label debut, The Closer I Get (1998 Outpost). Criticized for its overt similarities to Everything I Long For only with a more accessible rock bent, the album wasn’t the crossover hit the label was hoping for. Outpost folded the following year and Hayden was subsequently dropped. After a three year hiatus he returned with an even quieter, more intimate folk style and a new full length, Skyscraper National Park (2001) again released on his Hardwood imprint. Originally limited to a pressing of 100 copies with handmade packaging by Hayden himself, the album was recorded with friends without the intention of being released publically. Demand was surprisingly high and an additional 1,500 copies were pressed to be sold for a Canadian tour. Skyscraper National Park was eventually released internationally by various labels throughout 2002, garnering Hayden some of the strongest reviews of his career. Hayden supported the U.S. release of Skyscraper National Park with an in-store performance at Amoeba San Francisco on May 7, 2002. He subsequently performed an entire North American tour solo, armed only with an acoustic guitar. The resulting double disc live album, Live from Convocation Hall (2002 Badman) was recorded in his hometown of Toronto and features stripped down acoustic versions of tracks spanning his entire career.
Hayden made his second Amoeba San Francisco in-store appearance on May 15, 2004 in support of his fourth full length, Elk Lake Serenade (2004 Badman). Universally regarded as the quintessential Hayden album, Elk Lake Serenade’s stripped down aesthetic paired with Desser’s insightful lyrics and subtle strings garnered Hayden numerous comparisons to Neil Young and Beck at their most intimate and inspired. After another three year hiatus, Hayden returned with the lush yet personal, In Field & Town (2008 Spunk), which built on his winning indie folk formula by adding more eclectic instrumentation to the mix.