Hayden James Reveals the Stories and Inspirations of His Debut Album ‘Between Us’
Aussie singer-songwriter and producer Hayden James came in with a big bang, making a name for himself, and becoming a widespread sensation with just a few singles to his name. He’s toured with electronic acts Disclosure and Odesza, who are a bit outside of his realm. The influences made their way into his music, as shown on his debut album “Between Us.” It’s a record full of surefire hits, and a steady catchiness that makes it a standout.
James’ music runs the gamut stylistically, a strain of punchy pop, full of sweeping choruses, with an electronic beat that derives in part from the UK garage sound, channeled into a more general pop format, and veering into hip-hop, various strains of dance music, and epic balladry. It’s an album of pure pop in its essence, widely relatable, switching between upbeat, dancey numbers, and soaring, emotional outpurings. The songs are generally about romance, and expressed with a refreshing directness, with just enough words to capture an instinct, showing an exceptional songwriting sharpness and flourish. Beyond this, there’s a grandness of gesture in James’ voice and overall persona that commands attention in a way that makes his rapid rise no surprise.
James spoke with Entertainment Voice about the album, his music, and upcoming tour. The conversation shed light on the new songs and the personality behind them.
You have been releasing singles since 2013, along with a self-titled EP, but “Between Us” is your first album. How has the experience of finally releasing an album made an impact on you?
Yeah, it’s huge. My whole musical career has built up to this moment. It’s been really great over the last six years. I think every artist wants to build that statement, and for me that’s the album itself. I’m really excited to have the first one out.
Your single “Nowhere to Go,” featuring Naations, really packs a punch. How did the collaboration and the song come together, what was it about Naations that stood out to you, and what feeling did you register from the collaboration?
So I first heard of Naations a couple of years ago, when they started writing pop music. I actually knew Nicky from a while ago, so I was familiar with their work, and then when I heard their vocals, I just fell in love with it vocally. It’s so powerful. It just felt right. I spoke to my manager, and said I’d love to do a special with them. It would be amazing. And in May, they were in LA, and they were free, so we got together in the studio, and I’d written a demo. I’d written it a while ago, but I refreshed it, and thought it was special, and I got in the studio with them and played a few demos for them, including that one, and straight away they were like “Wow.” And we kind of had a song finished within an hour of hanging out together for the first time. And the fact they’re Austrailian, it’s really cool to collaborate with people from home. But it took me four or five months to get it where it is, production wise. I’m a perfectionist, absolutely.
“Feelin’” is another standout on the album, with an incredibly funky house music feel. Share a little about the inspiration for this song.
So this one was one of the first tracks that I wrote for the album, and I actually wrote the demo about three years ago. I started getting into dance music and this electronic scene after listening to Daft Punk’s “Discovery” album, and that played a big role in what kind of music I was into, and how I started writing things, to be honest. So feeling kind of homage, I guess, to that five, five, five feel, and just playing with harmonies, and being a little robotic with it as well.
“Better Together” has echoes of Disclosure. It taps into a certain strain of popular electronic music that strikes as slightly outside of your genre. What exactly is your design and take on this track?
This one was special for me. It’s kind of the first time I did something like that. It’s got a really simple bassline. It’s a really rhythmic, with a lot of percussion, and I used Xylophones style that you do. Instead of using hi-hats, I used a Xylophone, a more melodic, percussive element.
“Remember You” stands out from your other tracks, in a way, with its vaguely hip-hop arrangements. How did this song come together?
Yeah, this one’s a little different as well. I had a more R&B, hip-hop kind of vibe.This track turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s a bit of a sad song to me, to be honest. It’s like losing someone, but yeah, I really enjoyed producing that one.
Of all the songs on the album, which has the most significance to you?
I think “Between Us.” That was the first song that I started writing when I was making an album. It was quite a while, and there were so many different versions of that song, and it took me a while to figure out exactly what it was supposed to be like, so I’m really happy with that one. It’s my favorite one on the record.
You have toured with the likes of Disclosure and Odesza, and Odesza even remixed your infectious hit “Something About You,” What do you think about their take to your song, and it’s appeal to your sound and aesthetic at large?
Yeah, I love what they’ve done with “Something About You.” A lot of people don’t realize they actually sent me two versions. One is what you hear here, and the other one was a little more jazzy, but I really like it. They took it on a whole different level, and it’s so cool to touch stones with people in a different way.
Your music has a lot of instinctive vibrance to it, that one would expect to translate to a live setting in an enormous way. Do you agree, and how would say it’s turning out in the current live shows?
Yeah, for me, bringing this kind of record to a live environment is super cool, in terms of giving the right amount of theater, and doing the songs justice, but also making sure I give them the right amount of detail as well, in terms of the production, the lighting, stuff like that. I’m always growing and evolving, so I’m really excited to bring my show to the states this September. I’m also featuring a lot of vocalists that I wrote the songs with together, so it’s going to be really special.
You just announced your headlining tour, “Between Us,” last month. What can you tell fans to expect from the live show?
So it’s a brand new show. We’ve been working on it for about six months, and there’s just lots of new music to perform. Until now, I’ve just been touring with singles, and so it’s really cool to tour an album, and give fans so much more music.
“Between Us” is available June 14 on Apple Music.