As one of the most prominent names in the industry, Hayden James is beyond ready to head back to the DJ booth to entertain the masses. He is getting that opportunity on September 18th, as he marks his debut at HQ2 Nightclub. The crowd can expect plenty of James’ signature tracks, including his new single ‘Rather Be With You’. I recently sat down with this Down Under sensation to talk about his Atlantic City debut, how he curates the artists that he collaborates with, and having the time to reflect on his musical impact during the past year.
Michael Cook: When did you know that music was going to be the passion that you would be following?
Hayden James: I think it was really early on. I had played musical instruments throughout my schooling, the saxophone, guitar and I sang as well. I always knew that I wanted to be in music, but specifically in electronic music it was a bit later. I have an older brother who introduced me to the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and I think that when I was about sixteen or seventeen, it was a huge impact on me. It was like “what is this stuff?!” I started DJ’ing through university to pay rent and drink at bars, and I thought that DJ’ing would be my job. I did that for years and years before I started writing and producing my own music; which leads me to now. I honestly never thought that I would be able to make an actual living from writing and touring the world. I still haven’t had that “I’ve made it moment” but one of my songs just hit one hundred million streams on Spotify, so I am sure that I should, but in my head I haven’t just yet.
MC: What do you think it is about the electronic music scene that has helped it become so remarkably massive, with so many artists creating such innovative and unique sounds?
HJ: I think a lot of it is really people being able to do it in their homes. You don’t have to go to a big studio or have an incredible technical knowledge of synthesizers, mixing or production. It is all on YouTube for you. Someone has done it and you can watch it. I think having a laptop and having all of the programs like Logix and them being so much more intuitive now has really dropped the barrier to writing and creating music. I think it is really great because it gives a new birth to innovation as well. How incredible music is right now, but there is also a lot of crap out there (laughs). You can look at it in different ways, but I really think that it is incredible.
MC: So much of your music has a diversity to it. While it does have one distinct sound, it still has a very profound evolution. For instance, the remixes to “Between Us’ with Panama are amazing, and capture a particular time in your career. How do you choose the kind of artists that you collaborate with?
HJ: A lot of those people are friends that I have wanted to work with in the past, but there are also situations of just meeting people through my publisher. Of course, that was pre-lockdown so you could actually go and find those people. I love writing the music, but I love writing the melodies and the hook ideas for the vocals, so being able to be in the same room as someone and to be able to collaborate is super important to me. I think one thing that I always have done is that I would rather grab a beer or grab a meal and just chat as opposed to getting right into the studio. You get a vibe of the person, it is almost a first date, right? You are going to create something together so you have to feel something together, right?
MC: Your lockdown has been extremely eventful, you had a baby last year. Congratulations!
HJ: Thank you! I had a little boy, he is two and that was just before lockdown. Now we just had a little girl as well, so it has been super busy!
MC: The live entertainment industry was hit in a completely different way than so many other industries. As we emerge into the world again, do you now see how truly important what you do is to so many people?
HJ: Absolutely. I think I have listened to a lot of interviews from people as well, and it is not like we did it intentionally, but it is almost like we took it for granted before. We were traveling and doing so much, and talking about the flights and the set times. I just want to be at a place with some music and some people.
I actually haven’t had that moment yet, I am still in lockdown in Sydney. When I come over to the States, that is the first time for me. When I come to the States, I land in Los Angeles and land in Boston at 8pm, then I drop my bag in the hotel room and go straight to the club; it will be like “Oh My God“. It will be awesome.
MC: Your HQ2 gig is truly going to be one of your first since lockdown, so this is going to be like an event never seen before.
HJ: Mate, I am so pumped! I have never been more excited about something. Just to be there and play all of the music that I have wanted to play for the past eighteen months. I have new music, I have a new album that I have finished, so there will definitely be new records from me. Also new music from other DJ friends who have been putting things out the last few months; I am so jazzed. I have never been to Atlantic City, so I am really so excited! I cannot wait…
MC: Tell me about your new single ‘Rather Be With You’. The vibe is distinctly you, but it definitely has a fresh sound to it.
HJ: It won’t be on my new album, but it is definitely where I am taking my new record, It is more dance-y, more energetic. It was created in lockdown and when I was writing those drops and sounds, I would close my eyes and I was in a big club. Visually, I was trying to break through and express what it would feel like in a big club beyond what was in front of me, which was my studio. It is a nod to where I am headed. I’m always being true to myself; I try not to look at what other people are doing, I write to what I feel and it comes out more song-based stuff, but I am getting more dance-y. I kind of want more energy from me and from crowds when I tour again with this next album.
MC: You wrote on Katy Perry’s Witness album, so let’s manifest something; who else would you absolutely die to work with?
HJ: Yes, we are going to put it out there and it will come true! I would love to work with Pharrell Williams, I am a bit fan of him since I was a kid. I would love to work with Daft Punk again, since I grew up listening to them, but sadly they called it quits so that may not happen. I would love to work with the Rufus Boys, Calvin Harris (I love that big pop/dance stuff), Silk City, Mark Ronson and Diplo, that kind of vibe as well. I would love to work with Bipolar Sunshine, he did that huge track with DJ Snake. My list is a long one…
MC: When does Hayden James feel the most authentically himself?
HJ: There are two scenarios; there is me being on stage and in the middle of a set and closing my eyes for a second and saying “I LOVE this”. There is also me being me and being peaceful, and it is just being with family as well. I am just so lucky to be able to do what I do. Like we talked about before, how important is music for people in this world?-incredibly. It lifts people’s spirits, it saves peoples lives, it helps with so many things with mental health issues. I don’t take it for granted; I think it is an amazing thing for me to be able to travel the world and tour and make people happy. That makes me happy.
For tickets to Hayden James on HQ2 at Ocean Casino Resort, click here
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