Hayden Calnin has been on the Australian music scene for some time now, releasing two independent E.P's where he explored the wonders of downbeat, melancholic folk and supported the likes of Missy Higgins and The Antlers to name a few. As of recently Hayden has sourced inspiration from electronic project M83 and delved into childhood records, Fleetwood Mac being one of them, which I'm sure we can all relate to. We had an extensive chat to Hayden about new music, his upcoming tour and his dream collaboration.
So you self-produced your first two EP’s, what do you find are the positives and negatives of producing your own music rather than working with a separate producer?
A positive with working by yourself is definitely the time that you have to spend on it more than anything, there’s no outside pressure from anyone other than your own head. I guess that could also be quite a negative thing as well because, you know, collaborations and working with people stop you from getting stuck and bored with something and leaving it for days. If you’ve got a producer on your back or someone feeding you, you can really get motivated, or might even come up with something completely different, that you may never have gone into. I like working both ways because there are positives to each side.
M83, I feel, are a very powerful band when it comes to using sound to lure emotion from their listeners. What is it about M83 that you are starting draw to inspiration from?
I am a huge fan of anything progressive that kind of just rises as the song goes and then ends in a massive crescendo. That’s pretty much exactly what M83 does apart from their singles, which are pretty much just ‘bangers’. But you know, when you listen to M83 it’s pretty much like riding a wave on a surfboard, just cruising along and then hits this point where it just explodes and I just love it. It gives me the good feels. I’ll do that with my music subconsciously, just riding it, it will slowly build where it gets to a point where it’s slightly ‘angsty’ or a bit ‘yelly’. It’s like anything, you kind of draw in a lot from what you listen to.
You are a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, which is an awesome advantage for your production. What instruments do you play that we can find in your music?
I play pretty much every sound that’s in my recordings, there’s nothing really that I haven’t played. On the new record that’s coming out there’s a couple of other musos in there when my abilities kind of hit a point and I can’t do what I’m hearing in my head. But for the most part it’s all me – the guitars, pianos, keys and all the weird electronic stuff. When it comes to horns and strings, that’s out of my depth. But I’d love to learn them.
Your video clips seem to be used to add different ideals and values to your music than what your audience would originally imply to your songs when they first heard them, for example your latest single ‘White Night’. Why do you choose to put so much depth into your video clips?
I guess, I studied film at uni and I have a huge appreciation for film and the feelings and emotions that it can give you. I'm pretty much treating the video clip as making a film and the music is one half of it. So all I’m trying to do is what a filmmaker would do, like making a film and adding the music, but backwards.
Do you direct your own video clips?
Well sort of, I directed ‘For My Help’ and ‘Comatose’. But for ‘Summer’ and ‘White Nights’ I got two good friends of mine, in which I admire their work, and basically just let them create what they interpreted the songs as and I'm really happy with how it all turned out.
Do you write songs with a story in the video clip already planned, or do you create the music and then think of a story line for the video later on?
I’ll always have something in my head when I'm writing a song but that’ll never be what the video clip will be, it’ll always be different but that’s a good thing. When I collaborate with a video clip, they’ll always tell me what they are seeing, and then we’ll kind of come to a middle ground on it all but Kathleen Lee who I got to do ‘White Night’, and Josh Mckie who did ‘Summer’, they’re both absolute freaks so I just let them do their thing.
During your musical career, you’ve experienced film and sound design at university, learning multiple instruments, developing your vocals, and worked with many different bands in many genres including heavy metal. Which chapter do you think was most beneficial and that you learnt most from to get where you are now?
That’s a tough one. Touring is great, but I don’t feel like I learnt much from it other than visiting new cities and meeting new people. I would say it’s production and working with other artists that isn’t my own music. Producing lets me meet some amazing people and spend heaps of time with them, which is sort of forced at first, you know when you first start working with them, but I pick the people that I work with pretty seriously because I’ve got to make sure I get along with them and like their music. I always form friendships out of it so I love that side of it more than anything I think.
You’re touring with Harrison Storm around Sydney and Melbourne on the 9th and 15th of October, why did you choose Harrison and how did it all come about?
Harry is actually an artist that I was recording between last year and this year, and he’s a good mate and grew up in the Mornington Peninsula, which is the same place as I did. We’re pretty chummy and I couldn’t imagine anyone better than Harry because he’s a great guy and a brilliant musician and deserves to play as many shows as he can. It’ll be great having a mate on the road.
You’re playing at the Milk Factory in Brisbane on Saturday the 3rd of October, who are these ‘Special Guests’ that will be joining you?
Well we actually just today cancelled the Brisbane show, just because of an unfortunate case of events, which is a bit of a shame but we’ll be getting back to the Brisbane soon. It’s a bit of a shaky start to the tour but things sometimes come up and you can’t do anything about it. We’ve probably let a few people down, but we’ll be back.
If you could venture to any corner of the world, where would it be?
I recently watched a doco on The Congo, and it seems like a pretty interesting and dangerous place that I’d definitely be keen to check out in a few years. I’d also love to hit up Germany where my heritage is from, so I can meet family I’ve never met and find out a bit of family history. Nowhere is too far, the earth is pretty small.
Do you think you’d ever collaborate with another artist? If so, what is your dream collaboration?
I’ll totally collaborate with people down the line. My dream collaboration, if it was someone local around Melbourne, would be Liz Stringer, she’s a beautiful musician and her voice is just butter, it’s incredible. I’d love to work with her because I admire her writing and her voice so much. On an international scale, I’d probably love to work with M83 or Sigur Rós – someone who I listen to everyday would be the dream.
You can check out Hayden's brand new single and clip below for 'White Night'.