Hayden's doing things his way

JANE STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

Hayden was just a nice Canadian boy from Thornhill, who made his first album in his parents' basement, when the U.S. record industry pounced.

Following his 1995 lo-fi, folk debut, Everything I Long For, the laid-back, Toronto-based singer-songwriter -- who plays before a sold-out show tomorrow night at Trinity St. Paul's -- found himself the subject of an intense bidding war down south with Geffen Records' Outpost emerging the victor.

"The whole thing was weird," says Hayden, relaxing on a couch in his management's loft-like office in the city's east end recently.

"Everything was weird. If three years ago I knew all that was going to happen I wouldn't have been able to handle it all. It was just an odd time."

Hayden also admits there was some added pressure to match the overwhelmingly positive response to Everything I Long For with his latest album, the rockier, more band-oriented, The Closer I Get, which was released on May 12. The new album was recorded in Seattle, Woodstock, N.Y., L.A., Bath, Ont., and Toronto with producers Daryl Smith (Sloan) Steve Fisk (Screaming Trees), John Hanlon (Neil Young and Scott Litt (R.E.M., Nirvana) and features Hayden playing 16 different instruments.

"Some nights when I was like home alone sitting with a guitar or in front of the piano thoughts like that entered my mind," says Hayden.

"You know like, 'Oh, there's going to be a lot of people listening to these words and thinking about them more than they should be.' There was some unrealistic expectations from me just basically due to a process of blowing me up to a certain level.

"But I think what saved me personally was to go away for a year. When Everything I Long For was released in America, I only ended up touring for three months because at that time, I didn't really want to do what I had to do to be some kind of star. I really chose to go and do what I needed to do for me and that was write songs and be at home in a bit more of a normal life again."

Needless to say Hayden -- whose real name is Paul Hayden Dresser -- is doing things his own way and at his own pace.

His current tour is the first with a full-fledged band made up of ex-Poldeo members Josh Malinsky and Mitch Roth and Change of Heart's Damon Richardson, who are all switching instruments. He has already played three private gigs at the Rivoli around the album launch in May.

"The people I'm playing with I've known for years," says Hayden.

"When I'm not touring and in the studio by myself a lot of the times I spend just at my place. My home is set up with instruments all over the place, hanging from the wall and microphones set up on the walls too. All the time, I'll just have people over and we'll just start playing instruments and sometimes recording what we do and these are guys that have been involved with that sort of atmosphere for a long time where it's just 100% about the music."

Hayden, who comes across as low-key in person, also seems to be able to put any negative reaction to The Closer I Get in perspective.

"His minor chords sound as tragic as spilt latte, but his oblique songs explain nothing," snipes Details.

SPIN appears to have it in for him even worse: "Hayden's songs are like little lost dogs --soggy and pathetically endearing, but not really worth the grief."

"SPIN and Details were the two magazines that had built me up the most," says Hayden.

"So I don't really know what to think. Those two particular reviews were particularly evil, like I actually thought for sure that at least one of them didn't even listen to the record or they listened to it once at the office while doing other things, which maybe isn't true too.

"I mean I have no problem with someone not liking my stuff, it's obviously totally valid. Anyways, it's the kind of thing I think about for a day."


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