Behind the piano: John Hayes

Behind the piano: John Hayes

I have previously posted about the release Eight for a wish by the American composer John Hayes. And he is also mentioned in as one of the favorite piano artists by both Philip Daniel and Philip G Anderson. That would make anyone curious, right?! So now it’s time to get to know John a bit better!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from Lakeville, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis. Now I live and work in Minneapolis. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I have been playing the piano since I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t remember the exact age but it has been quite some time! I play a number of different synthesizers as well.I also play the saxophone,  however, that has not made it into any recordings…yet 🙂

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
My parents made me play haha! It seemed to be just a part of everyday life growing up, come home from school, homework, then the piano. Surprisingly, I was not fond of playing the piano around this  time. I would have much rather been outside playing baseball or running around with friends.

How long have you been making piano music?
I have been writing my own little tunes and melodies since I was about 11 or 12, however, it wasn’t until about a year ago I released anything. I think it took a good amount of time and a certain amount of courage to finally be ready to share my music. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I don’t know if it was one specific moment. As my lessons growing up intensified and teachers became more and more strict, I became less interested in traditional training. During practice time, I would  be trying to come up with my own tunes or trying to recreate a melody I had heard from a movie I had seen the night before. I eventually dropped out of formal lessons and really spent some time away  from the piano for a couple years. It wasn’t until I picked things back up, about 7-8 years ago that I really started to enjoy the piano and realizing I could write songs for myself. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
It really changes quite frequently! Right now I have been listening to a lot Francois Couturier and Valentin Silvestrov. 

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
Nothing specific. It is usually my own music nowadays. If I am writing, I usually start with a melody that I have been working on. Things begin to develop over time and if I am still excited about it, that is  how I usually know I am on to something.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
In order to make something great, all the rules need to be broken. (I’m not taking credit for that quote, it sounds like something someone else has said before by some snooty painter haha) But really, I  think knowing the rules is the first important thing and something that gets overlooked. From there you can begin to experiment and consciously step outside them. This is usually when you find  your best work. 

How do you record your music?
I have my own studio, “Emerson Studio” that I record out of. 

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Instrument libraries can be great. Before I was able to buy my own piano that was all I used. The thing with samples and libraries though is that there are an INFINITE number of them. So many  choices can lead to decision paralysis. One day you like the sound of this library, the next day a new one comes out and you have to try that one. There is no real commitment since everything can just  be changed with one click. I like the idea of really committing to your sound and then developing it which is hard to do with a sample. Real instruments have their own personalities as well that sample  libraries just don’t have. Trying to learn how to capture those personalities in recordings or bring them to life in performances is something that I really connect with. 

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
That is a great question! It is hard to know where they come from really. Some days music just comes out of you and you feel like a genius, some days you feel like you need someone to explain to you  where middle C is. I have a quote next to my piano from Rick Rubin that reads: “Being a great artist means practicing being in touch with the information already inside you.” That really sums it up for  me. I think my songs come from when I am able to identify that I am connecting with something I am playing and being able to work with those emotions that are coming out on the piano. 

Anything else you want to share? 
I hope you are staying warm up there in Sweden! 

Thanks John! Winter never really came to my part of Sweden this time, so I am grateful!

For more information and updates by John, please check out these links:
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