Something about Hayden James: The Artist & His Story

Nov 2, 2023

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

10 min read

If you've been on the hunt for music that doesn't just play but resonates, capturing both the essence of a moment and the pulse of a generation, then your search might just be over. Enter Hayden James, a name that's not merely a blip in the vast world of electro-pop house but a force, a vibe, an entire mood. With a single track, "Something About You," he not only captured the essence of an Australian summer but also garnered global attention, amassing over 212 million streams since its 2014 release. His iconic track isn't just a song; it's a timeless work of art that always leaves you thinking about how mental the track is.

Hailing from the vibrant landscapes of Sydney, James' music is a masterclass in blending the familiar with the groundbreaking. His talent and special touch to any note he comes across has landed him multiple Platinum-certified hits, sold-out global tours, and collaborations with A-List names such as Katy Perry. In a genre where many risk sinking into repetitiveness, James stands tall with his ingenious layering, evocative basslines, and those subtle shifts in synths that make all the difference. Dive in with us as we explore the world of Hayden James, the artist whose every note feels like a revelation.

How do you believe your sound and production style have evolved since your first hit "Permission to Love" to your recent album "Lifted"?

I believe it's about the time I've spent writing music. I've certainly evolved my production techniques over time. However, my writing style hasn't changed much because it's the core of who I am as an artist. Deep down, from songs like Permission to Love to my latest, "We Could Be Love", there's a consistent feel.

They might not sound identical in terms of production, but they resonate with my signature because of how I write and convey emotion in my music. Speaking of production, there's no doubt it has evolved. It's been 10 years since Permission to Love, and there have been numerous advancements in production techniques and music-writing methods. Yet, I believe I've remained true to my original sound.

Can you share a specific moment or experience from your tours that has deeply inspired a track or an album?

I don't really work like that, to be honest. It's not about an event on the road or a specific show leading to a song. What does happen, though, is when I have music I want to test. If I play it at a show, that gives me an immediate feeling. It's like instant feedback.

You can tell right away if something is great or not, whether it's by playing it for people on a dance floor, at an after-party, in a hotel room, or even at an airport. I think playing your music in various surroundings is beneficial.

Can you share an interesting or unexpected story from one of your collaborations with other artists?

One of my favorite collaborations on the Lifted album was with ElderBrook and Cassian for "On Your Own." The three of us have written music together, and for other people. Cassian has even helped me with some mixing in the past. We've worked together for a long time, but we'd never released something as a trio. So, getting into the studio to create "On Your Own" was a special moment.

I had sent Alex (Elderbrook) the basic music for the song about two years before its release. It was just chords, a drum beat, and a loop. He crafted the vocals, from the verse to the chorus, and it felt so right that I kept it on my desktop. One day, I played some demos for Cassian, and a few days later, he introduced the prominent lead line you hear in the song, especially during the build-up.

We spent a few hours in the studio refining it, and that was that. It was truly an inspirational moment to work with people I've collaborated with on other projects. It felt really good.

What has been the most challenging aspect of maintaining a career in the electronic music industry, and how have you navigated it?

It's a crazy industry, and I guess you just have to stay true to yourself. But you also have to evolve, which is a bit of a juxtaposition. You need to understand the power of social media and its importance. It used to be all about music, but now, I don't think that's the case.

Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are incredible tools to speak to your fans and put yourself out there. I'm still learning every day. It's difficult to put yourself out there in that way. I know many artists wish it was always about just writing music and being in a room by themselves.

But that's not the case these days. You have to stay true to yourself, and if you're going to pursue this, you need to use these platforms to let people know you're out there and what you're doing. There are many new and exciting ways to promote yourself, and that's a challenge. I don't love it, but it's the world we live in.

Without giving too much away, can you tease any themes or inspirations behind the new music you’re planning to release soon?

One thing I believe my first two albums did well was tell a story. I used various methods to achieve that, from songwriting to production and song style. Everything is emotive and melodic, with many beautiful harmonic elements. It's also varied; there's a lot packed in there. For the next batch of music, as I start to write another album, I want to focus on one idea and one specific feeling.

It's like I'm intentionally pigeonholing myself. I aim to create a distinct moment. I want to explore the concept of capturing a specific moment in time, perhaps a club experience. Everything will be more dance-oriented, faster, and a bit more aggressive and exciting, as opposed to being chill. While it will still have my signature songwriting touch, it will lean more towards club vibes.

How do you think your Australian roots have influenced your music in an industry that is heavily impacted by European and American trends?

Interesting question. I think everyone sees that the industry is heavily impacted by European trends, not American ones. European trends hit America, and then America adapts to them. Australia has its own thing, but European trends, especially from the UK, eventually come to the states and go big, which is great.

Being an Australian, growing up by the beach and having a positive, outdoor lifestyle has impacted my musical taste. It influences what I like. But I also draw a lot of inspiration from bigger UK artists like the Chemical Brothers and many French artists. I'm inspired by old French disco, like Daft Punk, Alan Braxe, Fred Falke, and Phoenix. Being Australian has molded the emotional side of my music, but trend-wise, I think it all comes from Europe and the UK.

How has the evolution of music production technology influenced your creative process over the years?

Yes and no. While there are many tools and methods available for writing music nowadays, including various loops you can purchase, at the end of the day, my approach remains simple. When I sit in front of a computer to write music, I don't rely on technology. Instead, I pull up a piano patch or use my piano at home to compose. I believe no amount of production can guarantee a hit; it's all about the emotion and feeling. So, for me, there isn't a specific tool that changes everything. It's more about capturing a particular feeling.

Can you share a behind-the-scenes aspect of your music production that fans might be surprised to learn?

Yeah, I always tell people this when they react with, “whoah, what??” I've sung in nearly every song I've ever released. For instance, the lead vocal in “Permission to Love” is me. I also sing on Embrace, “Lay Down”, “Something About You”, and “Just a Lover”. That entire first EP is me. I don't have my catalog in front of me, but I've done lots of backing vocals for most of them as well. I love that, and I'm planning to explore it again. I haven't done it in a long time, but I'm looking to delve into it for the next album and batch of music.

How do you want to be remembered in the music industry, and what impact do you hope your music has on future generations of artists?

Oh, that sounds like I'm retiring. It sounds like I'm dying [laughs]. I'd love to be remembered for being consistent and never really following trends, like, 'Oh, that's really cool right now,' because everything changes all the time. I think it's super important to stay true to your artist project and who you are.

If you start writing stuff that's just on trend and you become famous or successful from it, I don't think it'd be that great. You wouldn't love what you're doing. So, I think it's important to be remembered for having songs with a consistent vibe. That's what I'd love.

With the increasing focus on sustainability, how do you ensure that your tours and shows are environmentally friendly?

I mean, I think sustainability is obviously really important. For big artists, say, like Taylor Swift, who tour around the world and probably fly in their own planes, the impact is significant. On my personal rider, I try to avoid single-use plastics. That's kind of all I can do right now.

Being in an industry with a lot of waste, especially at music festivals, is a concern, but it's getting better. Big festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury are working with artists to promote sustainability in the touring industry. I think we're heading in the right direction. There are things we could be doing better, but from my standpoint, I don't feel I have a huge carbon footprint.

Outside of music and touring, what activities do you engage in to relax and recharge, and how do these activities feed back into your creative process?

My favorite thing is being a dad. It's absolutely my favorite thing in the world. While it's not always relaxing and recharging, it's the most rewarding and truly the best job. I love cooking and I cook for my kids every day. I recently got a pizza oven, and if you follow me on Instagram, you'll see I've started making pizzas, though they aren't perfect yet. I need to get some lessons.

Besides cooking, I enjoy bike riding and spending time with my family, especially since I travel so much. I also love traveling with the family when I'm back home. Being in Sydney, we live just a few minutes from the beach, so I try to get in the ocean every day, regardless of the weather. So, in summary, cooking, bike riding, and spending time in the ocean are my go-to activities.

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