Hayden anniversary tour a bittersweet journey to the past

What: An Evening with Hayden
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. (doors at 7)
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall (907 Pandora Ave.)
Tickets: $24.50 at Lyle’s Place (770 Yates St.) and ticketfly.com

 

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Hayden has a difficult time looking at his past. In fact, lingering issues with the angst-heavy material from his youth nearly kept the singer-songwriter from publicly celebrating his most well-known album, Everything I Long For.

He spent nearly a year mulling a 20th-anniversary tour in honour of the release, and came close to skipping the idea altogether. “I have a complex relationship with this album,” Hayden, born Paul Hayden Desser, said Tuesday from his home in Toronto.

“Over the years, it has been something I don’t listen to, but I know that it is the record that introduced me to a lot of the people who are still listening to me and care about me, so I appreciate it for that.”

When the decision was finally made to remaster the songs for an anniversary edition, the 45-year-old discovered a new way of looking at his past work, some of which he wrote and recorded in the basement of his family’s Thornhill, Ont., home. It helped to have two decades of distance between the young performer who wrote and recorded the album and the husband and father of two school-age children who would perform the songs on a tour to support the reissue.

“I wasn’t actually embarrassed about the music or the recordings,” Hayden said of the weeks he spent with co-producer João Carvalho prepping the album for reissue. “I found it pretty refreshing. There is such a simplicity and a rawness to everything. I definitely learned something from the 22-year-old version of myself.”

He launched the Everything I Long For anniversary tour with a week of shows in April, and returned to the road Sept. 21 for another round that wraps up at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall in Victoria next week.

Hayden spent the months between legs of the tour crafting a new record, his ninth, due next year. “I definitely make better use of my time now that I’m a parent,” he said. “When I have time now in the studio, I’m pretty organized. I definitely wasted a lot of time in my 20s sleeping and complaining.”

Everything I Long For, which he initially released independently, opens with Bad As They Seem, a molasses-paced ballad about a forbidden relationship. The song’s opening line (“Girl of my dreams, things are as bad as they seem”) was sung in a rich baritone, and caught the ears of fans growing tired of the grunge era. Major labels from the U.S. eventually came calling, and he was courted by the likes of Neil Young. Hayden wound up signing with a Geffen Records imprint for a reported $1 million, said to be among the biggest advances paid to an artist from that era.

That’s when his complicated relationship with the recording began, Hayden said. By the time he finished touring the album, he had been playing Everything I Long For songs in concert for almost three years.

“Not only did I have to wait another six or eight months for the album to come out in America, and by that point it had been out for two years in Canada, I had to tour it in America and around the world. Unfortunately, by the time that happened, I was already sick of it. I tried, but it was hard.”

He effectively checked out at this point, and cancelled a planned European festival tour. It would be nearly two decades before he would play any songs from the album, other than his two favourites, Stem and We Don’t Mind. “I would only play Bad As They Seem occasionally, which is interesting because it’s probably my most-known song. Give or take one or two songs I would occasionally play, I never played the rest.”

Hayden is re-mounting the album in its entirety for his concert Wednesday in Victoria. He now sees the value in playing Everything I Long For favourites like Skates, a harrowing tale about a husband mourning the wife who drowned in the river behind their house. He will not, however, play the song Bunkbed, which Hayden had removed from the album’s U.S. release in 1996.

“The two most common things that have been yelled out at my shows for the last 20 years are Bunkbed and Skates,” he said with a laugh. For reasons Hayden said he will explain in concert, he is playing Skates on these shows, but not Bunkbed.

“The whole taking Bunkbed off the album thing backfired for me. I thought people would forget about it. But it just made them want to hear it more.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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