It all started about two months ago now, when I received a rather intriguing cold sent email from James Barker at London-based PR company Mystic Sons, which read, "First Listen – New Album from Australia's [Answer to] Bon Iver – Hayden Calnin, Cut Love Pt. 1;" described as a "fantastic artist" whose debut single, "Cut Love," at the time, already garnered 40,000 digi-spins at Hype Machine and had received stylistic comparisons to the likes of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), M83, Dawn Golden, Beach House, and whom, I, myself, immediately likened to Electro-Soul crooner James Blake. "'Cut Love Pt. 1" the album is a testament to Hayden's creative abilities, demonstrating that each track can resemble a new chapter. It is experimental to say the least, but an experiment that certainly works. It's exhilarating, truthful, and vicariously touching," Mystic Sons befittingly wrote within their initial emailed press release. Leading up to Cut Love Pt. 1's March release, Hayden Calnin's music was featured within popular TV series Suits, Parenthood, Teen Wolf, The 100, and Oscar-winning film Room. While Cut Love Pt. 1 was self-released on Calnin's own Woodlyn Records as recently as March 4th and Cut Love Pt. 2 is soon impending this upcoming May 13th, I can confirm that I've in fact heard a coveted Mystic Sons advance of both Cut Love Pt. 1-2; with that said, I can honestly attest that Cut Love Pt. 1-2 is about as creative, sprawling, and ambitious as any "debut" album I've heard throughout the past 6-10 years doing this whole freelance writing gig. The Witzard has whole-heartedly 100% gotten behind Australia's single greatest musical export since Men at Work and I can't wait to see and hear what Hayden's capable of next... until then, please enjoy my exclusive, in-depth 12-question interview with none other than "Australia's answer to Bon Iver," Hayden Calnin himself.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
I. I know that you're heavily influenced by Bon Iver, James Blake, Beach House, etc.; but what would you say were some of the most unexpected or less "obvious" inspirations behind Cut Love Pt. 1?
I wouldn't say that I am "heavily influenced" by any of those acts, though people seem to keep comparing my sound to theirs, which is totally fine, as they are all amazing musicians in their own right. I would say my biggest musical influences are artists such as M83, Sigur Ros, S. Carey, and Glen Hansard. All of which are either beautiful lyricists or composers; but for as for a specific influence for this album in particular, there isn't really any. The album was heavily influenced by my own thought and reflection of my own experiences.
II. How do you feel you've grown as an artist and singer-songwriter between the creation of Cut Love Pt. 1 and your two previous EP's, Oh Hunter and City?
A whole lot. The two EP's were me finding my feet as a recording artist. Making an album was really scary. It felt like a lot of responsibility and I put a lot of time and thought into creating it. My first EP, City was a representation of me starting out as a musician. I was very new to the whole thing and didn't quite know what I wanted out of it. Whereas when I created the Oh Hunter EP, I definitely knew what I wanted to create, but still felt that I didn’t quite get it right. I wanted to make Cut Love Pt. 1 as close to what I set out to make as I could, which is why it took so long to come out in the first place. Making an album at home is, I feel, just as hard as creating one in a studio. There's one benefit and that is time. I had all the time I needed to get it sounding right. However, too much time can be a really bad thing also because you start to get a bit precious about it all and have time to overthink.
III. Now, this might be a rather obvious question... but Cut Love Pt. 1-2 are ultimately meant to be consumed as one cohesive "album," why then, split it up into two abridged parts?
Part 1 was all recorded, mixed, and produced at home by myself, whereas Part 2 was recorded, mixed and co-produced with the godly man and producer, Tim Carr, up in Sydney at 301 Studios. They are two very different sounding LP’s, but collectively they work because they are all about the same topics and feeling. You can opt to listen to them together or [separately]. I'm so excited to share what I created up in Sydney with everyone, as I'm super proud of what we made up there. Working with Tim Carr was such a pleasure and we made something pretty special.
IV. Since first hearing Cut Love Pt. 1, James Barker and Johan Larsson from Mystic Sons have sent me music from your roster mates Mavrick, Juke Jaxon, and The Manor. What can you likely tell my readers about your fellow Mystic Sons-repped artists or any other artists you might have recently discovered?
To be honest, I haven't really had a chance to listen to anything new lately. I've been so caught up in the release of this album that I just haven't had the time. But I have been to a lot of gigs around Melbourne lately and I must say I saw this band Twin Fires from Sydney, by chance the other night, and they were fantastic. So, be sure to check them out. I'm pretty sure they only have the one track out at the moment, but keep an eye out for them.
V. Cut Love Pt. 1 was initially put into motion after you were "contacted by UK-based, award-winning contemporary dancer/choreographer Lukas McFarlane, who was in search of new musical material to choreograph and perform to;" did that collaboration ever get off the ground? Are you aware if McFarlane ended up choreographing routines to your music and were these early compositions ultimately included on Cut Love Pt. 1-2?
I can't really say too much on that at the moment because we haven't announced anything on that yet, but I can say that yes, we have been working on something very special and that it's very, very exciting!!! Lukas is an incredible dancer and I got to finally meet him a few months ago, whilst he was in Australia and we went out and shot a music video together. He is such a talented guy and his passion for dance and music has been very inspiring!
VI. What made you choose "Cut Love" as the lead single to represent Cut Love Pt. 1 as a whole?
I thought it best represented what the whole album is about. It's weird, long, and doesn't adhere to any obvious Pop structure, so there are no expectations for the rest of the tunes that follow it. I'm not gonna lie, I was very nervous about putting out an almost 8-minute track as the lead single. It's definitely not made for radio. However, it's had such a positive response from blogs, press, and listeners so far so I think that we made the right decision.
VII. I remember you mentioning or alluding to the fact that you'd like to eventually work with Brooklyn emcee Joey Bada$$; is there any chance of a collaboration ever happening? What else might you deem as a few of your dream collaborations?
I love that guy. He is doing something really cool. Yeah, I'd love to try a track with him, but I doubt that would ever happen any time soon. Dream collaborations are a hard thing to think about. I've done a bit of co-writing and most of the time it is pretty challenging. You often think that something is gonna work, but if you are two very different minds, then the result will tend to only satisfy one party and not the other. That being said, I have had some great experiences co-writing. But you just never know what you are gonna get out of it.
VIII. As I'm sure you may very well be aware: The Witzard is a primarily Hip-Hop-centric publication. However, I thoroughly enjoy covering non-Rap material, as well. What might you peg as some of your personal favorite Hip-Hop releases from let's say, 2015-16?
Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Both of these albums I reckon I have spun at least 30 or 40 times each. They are perfect records. Everyone's got [their] own taste in music but these two albums have really meant a lot to me and [are] worth the listen. Both artists are doing great things for the Hip-Hop world.
IX. What can you tell my readers about growing up in Red Hill and recording the albums in Melbourne, Australia? How do you think each town ended up affecting the creation of Cut Love Pt. 1-2?
Red Hill will always be home to me. I love it there. It's when I am most relaxed. The city is so drastically different. It's busy and populated. Having lived in both places, it really can give you a good look at Australian culture and the different ways in which people can live [their] lives. Red Hill is such a special place, it's where the ocean meets the forest and where you always need a fire going to keep warm. There are few distractions there and you want to walk around all the time because it's so beautiful. Now that I'm talking about it, it might be time for me to head back down there for a few days. Yeah, I miss it a lot.
X. While I'm readily aware that it was recorded and released prior to your current album cycle, what might you be able to share about your bluesy, stripped down cover of Elvis' infamous 1956 single, "Hound Dog" (which unbeknownst to me at the time, actually appears deep within Cut Love Pt. 2)?
It was a song I use to bust out at a camp fire [every once in a while] and just sing for fun, so I knew at one point that I would record it. I never thought I would put it out, but I ended up being really happy with the result.
XI. How exactly did your music become featured within Suits, Parenthood, Teen Wolf, The 100, and Oscar-winning film Room?
I'm lucky enough to have some great sync representation over in the US and in Australia who look after pitching for all of that stuff for me. I always find it pretty amazing when I get told that some network or film company want to use some of my music. It's always so awkward to watch it back, but it is also pretty gratifying and rewarding to know that people can connect to my music in that way.
XII. Now, this last one isn't exactly about you or your music... but I'm still dying to ask it: have you heard Kendrick Lamar's sprawling critically-acclaimed untitled unmastered. yet? If so, what were your initial opinions of it, Hayden?
YES!!!!! AND HOLY F___ING SH*T!!!! (excuse my language) It blew my mind. I've only spun it a few times through so I'm, still getting to know the songs, but it is pretty incredible.
Thanks so much for the Q+A, mate; appreciate it heaps!