DJ's on Disposables | Hayden James

by Paulette Ely

What better way to celebrate the eve of your album release than laying back atop a secret West Hollywood hotel- sparkling with serenity despite its nearby sunset strip setting. As I approached Hayden to talk a bit about his project 6 years in the making, I was met with a smile reflective of such accomplishment. The Australian producer has been non-stop for a while now, supporting tours for Odesza and Rüfüs Du Sol while simultaneously creating an 11 song album embodying every emotion one may possess. The release of Between Us has shown to promote precisely who Hayden James is at his core- a soulful, summery song producer who’s experiences shape each sound. Check out our conversation below about everything Hayden James you need to know. 

Your album is 6 years in the making. How do you think the outcome of the album reflects how much time you spent on it?

It’s been nearly 6 years to the month from when my first single came out. I’ve been releasing singles really slowly- just because I’m a perfectionist- and not really understanding what I wanted to write. Then I realized what I wanted to do a couple years later, after a couple of successful singles, and I was wanting to write an album. I can’t believe it’s out. It hasn’t hit me. It’s like graduating… hence the vodka and spritz.

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

You’ve supported Odesza and Disclosure tours, what was that like for you? Were those moments defining for you, or is it maybe this album that makes you feel like you’ve made it?

More this album. That’s been amazing, and I’ve played some incredible places. In the states I had done electric forest- that was so big this year for me. I had done Coachella a couple years ago in The Do Lab. I played Lightning in a Bottle a few years ago and that was incredible. 

LIB is the best, it’s like a baby Burning Man.

Exactly. I don’t know if I could handle Burning Man, but I can handle that. I don’t want to be one of those people that travels in and out. If I’m going, I’m going one hundred percent. But anyway, I’ve played a lot of amazing places. CRSSD Fest too, that was a big one. But it’s been difficult, because I just had singles to tour off and support people off. That was just kind of hard mentally. It was like “Ugh, fuck. I only have a certain amount of songs here.” At a live show I don’t want to play other people’s music that I’ve touched. I've written a lot of the stuff on the album that I tried out by just touring and then touring with Odesza and Rufus. Now it really is like graduation as I have my own music to tour. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Why did you chose LA to be here when it all releases?

It feels like a second home, honestly. When I first started coming here a couple years ago, it didn't at all. I didn't know the people, I didn't know where to go, and it was just confusing to be honest. Especially coming from Sydney. Sydney isn't that big, and obviously living there I already knew everything, but the more time I spent here the more I realized what the vibe is. It’s definitely incredible career wise. A lot of the record was written here just from sessions of meeting people and meeting friends. I just love the mish-mash of culture here too. I used to live in the UK and it was as if everyone is thrown together in one spot. I feel like this is like that too. I think if I lived here I would live Venice way near the beach.

Do you think that “mish-mash” gives LA a different sound than what you are used to in Sydney?

Absolutely. It’s way more interesting here. Its like nothing else, everything has it’s own thing. LA definitely has its own vibe, and just the West Coast has it’s own vibe compared to the East Coast. And then London has it’s own totally different sound, and then Sydney too. You always hear about the “Australian Sound,” and it is totally like that. We lived in a different part of the world, we grow up with different vibes around us and it shows.

Would you say that LA sound is on the album, since you were here when a lot was created?
Yeah, it’s just me. It’s my DNA. It’s not an LA sound or an Australian sound. When people say what an Australian sound is, usually I’m like, “what the hell is that?” To me, an Australian sound is like LA sound in that it’s summery, pop, catchy stuff. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

You constantly travel and tour and you never seem to get a break. What do you do to keep sane? What are your traveling tricks?

It’s tough because you have to lean into it, you just have to do it at the start. Sometimes it’s not that glamorous, but when you start being able to chose festivals that you want to play and route it in different ways, you can make little holidays out of it too. My wife is an artist too- she's a painter- so we’ve been traveling together. She can do anything she wants to be doing while traveling the world as well, so we’re so lucky in that respect. We’ll do a bunch of European dates and then be like, “Let’s stay for two weeks. Why are we actually going home?” It’s been the last four or five years like that. 

Through your collaborations and with your song being remixed by Odesza and having so much relevance with those large artists, have any of those artists influenced you?

For sure, specially Odesza and Rüfüs Du Sol. I stared touring with Rufus in Australia a few years ago, and then jumping on a couple of tours with Odesza in the states here and Europe as well. It’s influenced me massively in terms of the way they not only set up their team and the way they do business- making everyone respected and happy to do their job properly, but also their live shows and seeing how they create theatre on stage and make it exciting for the audience is super important. My show is always evolving. For me, if I ever sat back and went, “that’s it- that’s the best I can do.” It’s like, “no- you always need to keep going.” I’m really excited about this tour because I’m playing the biggest places I’ve played in the states so far. It’s brand new production, obviously a new album, lots of new music, and I’ve got a lot of the feature vocalists from the new album that are going to come support me on the tour. As a fan, I’d be like, “Hell yeah, that’s the person who wrote the song with Hayden.” so I think it’s a really cool thing. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

What is the actual message of the album, and how does that reflect you as a person?

Someone said to me, “everything you write is about love and relationships, why is that?” I’m just like, “I don’t know, it’s just who I am. I’m just a love guy!” I grew up in a really nice household where my parents love each other and still love each other now. I have this DNA as being very friendly and nice and respectful to people, which I guess comes across in my music. The album itself is about all of those things encompassing. It’s not only about love, it’s about loss, it’s about hope, it’s a bit of a snapshot look at every emotion you could explore as a human being. 

So what will this year be like moving forward from the album release?

I’m just super pumped for people to hear the album to be honest. It’s been sitting in my Soundcloud private for ages, and the day is here. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback already. The title track has been through so many different changes and demos, that one took a long time to get right, and I nearly didn’t put it on the record because I wasn't sure if there was enough happening. That one I connected to the most since I had so much time with it. It’s got a shelf life of about two years. I’m pumped for that, I’m pumped to come back to the states as well to do a work tour, and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders with this album, and I’m ready to create a lot more. Now that there is more music out there, I feel more free as an artist to keep going.

Images and Interview by: Paulette Ely