We find calm within contrast and amidst extremes. Standing over six feet and three inches tall, Hayden Calnin projects a powerful physical presence underscored by his delicate and dynamic mosaic of folk eloquence, electronic alchemy, alternative spirit, and palpable vulnerability. The singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist both embodies and explores universal contrasts on his 2020 Soon Forever EP [NETTWERK].
“I guess you could say I’m a quiet, friendly giant who goes to the beach and creates music every day,” he smiles. “I’m always thinking of paradoxes like Soon Forever. Even though something is coming up and you know it’s going to happen, it can feel like you’re waiting forever. That’s the feeling. In a lot of ways, I’m just a humble creature making weird sad songs.” Those songs continue to connect…
A trio of EPS and the two-LP series—Cut Love, Pt. 1 and Cut Love, Pt. 2—endeared him to a growing international fan base. 2019’s A Life You Would Choose EP elevated him to further critical acclaim. In addition to praise from Earmilk, Clash, and more, Atwood Magazine asserted, “Nothing compares to the volatile tranquility of a fully fleshed-out Hayden Calnin song,” and Magnetic Magazine observed, “The entire EP feels dreamy and is easily packaged into a neat project. It is for the days that are turning colder and nights spent huddled up indoors.” Not to mention, the lead single “Warm With You” gathered 1.7 million Spotify streams to date, bringing his total stream tally past the 30-million mark by 2020.
Expanding his influence, Hayden’s catalog could be heard in popular television shows such as Suits, The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, The 100, and So You Think You Can Dance USA as well as the UK trailer for Academy® Award-nominated favorite Room. Gigging tirelessly, he also shared the stage with Matt Corby, Tom Odell, and The Antlers, to name a few. At the same time, he established himself as a sought- after producer, working with the likes of Didirri, Harrison Storm, Riley Pearce, Woodlock, and NYCK, among others. Hayden has also composed special works for Australia Independent Feature Film, The Pretend One.
Over a ten-month period, he architected the framework for Soon Forever. For the first time, he allowed the sound to dictate his path thematically. “I was very focused on getting the music right before even thinking about what to say or how to express it, which is a bit backwards for me,” he affirms. “It was an interesting way of writing. On the last EP, I very much had a story to tell. On Soon Forever, the music tells the story. It invokes a feeling and reminds
me of an experience I’m writing about. It had to do with the change of location, becoming a bit relaxed, and having a more time on my hands.”
Settling into the “beautiful salty little coastal town” of Shoreham two hours south of Melbourne, he embraced the carefree ease of the new world around him. For years, Hayden wrote at night, often working until the wee hours of 2AM or 3AM. He reversed his schedule, penning songs and producing throughout the morning and afternoon. The switch afforded him space during the day to enrich his life in myriad ways. Living a stone’s throw from the beach, he went running and skimboarding everyday. Enjoying the outdoors as much as possible, he furthered an interest in 35mm photography as he captured these lush surroundings. Simultaneously, he studied outside inspirations such as philosopher Alan Watts and scientist Brian Greene in addition to listening to film scores by the likes of Jóhann Jóhannson and more.
“Things move slower down here and give me room to just breathe and take each day as a new one—away from the city routine that I was caught in,” he admits. “Living where I am definitely influenced the EP as a whole, both musically and lyrically. I’d often find myself sitting down on the beach, watching the waves and the surfers, and letting my mind just draft. That’s when all of the lyrics and ideas start flowing. Once they do, I rush home and put them all into my studio,” he smiles. That vibe translates into the sonic fabric of Soon Forever. Absorbing the natural beauty around him, he crafted the soundscape from upright and grand piano as well as off-kilter synths and immersive textures in order to “make it feel more pretty than sad.”
“Unfortunate Love” [feat. Harrison Storm] evinces his evolution. Sparse piano echoes alongside live drums and soft strumming as viola upholds his falsetto-spiked chant. “Rather than talking about myself, I wrote a song about Harrison,” he says. “It felt good to tell someone else’s story. It’s a bit of a lyrical crossfire. He came out of this big relationship and felt lost, empty, and weak. Before Harrison moved in, his ex-girlfriend had actually lived in my house. I heard about their relationship from her perspective too. She left, and he moved in. So, I had both of them living with me at one point, and I was able to reflect on each side.”
Driven by pump organ and baritone electric guitar, “As I Exit, I Exit” [Parts I & II] highlights his vibrant vocal delivery above cinematic production. “It was the first song written in this batch after I’d moved down the coast,” he recalls. “I found myself missing a lot of people and certain individuals in particular. It was really cool to strip things back and let the vocals come out at the front.”
“Mountain Steps” embarks on a slow and steady ascent towards a hypnotic hook. “It’s about climbing up a hill, getting to the top, being okay with the challenges, and moving on,” he states.
Then, there’s “We Can Take Our Time.” A mélange of guitar, synths, piano, Djembe, and traditional shakers, he taps into a timeless spirit with a gorgeous cameo from Alana Wilkinson. “It might be my most poppy song to date,” he states. “Lyrically and vocally, it was fun. There’s a nice energy to it.”
In the end, Hayden enables a release for audiences by simply being himself. “If you’re having a tense day and you listen to me, I hope you come out of the experience more relaxed,” he leaves off. “My music is meant to be a bit therapeutic and chill. Hopefully, it allows you to feel calm too—even for just a moment.”