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Interview With Folk Musician Jon Hayes

How would you describe your music to any person who may have never heard it before?

Jon: I usually bring up John Mayer when trying to explain my music to new people. His varied sounds have influenced me a lot. My music stems from deep emotions and thoughts I'm working through. I love finding profound yet simple ways of saying things that make my own heart feel like I've really struck a chord with the core idea I'm trying to convey. Recently, my style has been very soft and tender, with a clear foundation in the indie-folk genre.

Press shot for folk musician Jon Hayes.

What are your musical influences?

Jon: Like before, John Mayer is my main bedrock of influence but I've also loved and been influenced a lot by bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot, Lifehouse, Gavin Degraw, Allen Stone, and many more, I'm sure.  Any time a song connects with me I almost immediately desire to have that same texture expressed in my own music.  It doesn't happen every time obviously haha.  But, any time an artist really connects with me time and time again, I usually desire to emulate that feeling in my own creation.  Almost like getting to step into what they've done in a way that makes it mine.

What are your musical inspirations?

Jon: I'm a very emotional person.  I've come to realize that emotions are a huge part of how I think and perceive the world.  It's gotten on my wife's nerves from time to time haha.  But, with that being said, emotions often drive the song for me.  There's something I want to get out of my chest, good or bad, or some groove I've made that's reminding me of my influences and then joy hits because I'm finally making something that sounds like the artists I look up to.  Whatever it is, it usually starts off with a feeling that fills my heart and makes a space that my mind really wants to inhabit, so then I keep chasing that idea down.

If given the chance, what musician(s) would you like to collaborate with? Rather this is to either write a song or be featured on a track.

Jon: Obviously John Mayer.  But if not him, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot -I have a song that I haven't recorded yet that would sound sick with Jon featured on it. There's a singer-songwriter from the West Coast named Joel Ansett, or Bo Rhinehart formerly of NEEDTOBREATHE and now of his own project called COYROY.  John Mayer and Jon Foreman are my heroes and I think I would have amazing conversations with either of those guys.  Joel Ansett is an artist who's a good couple of steps ahead of me and is someone I'd love to get the attention of and work on a track together since I think we have some of the same sound/influences. And lastly, Bo was formerly a part of one of my favourite bands, is making music now that I love, and is someone who shares a similar internal demeanour and past with me so I feel like we would connect and write something really cool.  I'd love it if any one of these guys saw this!

What is your brand new song about?

Jon: My newest single "Between You & Me," is the title track of the album I released physically earlier this year and am about to finish releasing digitally this Fall.  It was the right move to have this be the title track because it really embodies the goal of the album: honest confession.  This song and this album is all about dropping the defensive facade I put up for a good while when I went through several huge life transitions all at the same time.  I graduated college, went through family tension, moved 1000 miles away from home, got married to my wife Aleah and started building a life with her away from everything I'd ever known, and soon after we were expecting our first child within 6 months.  It was a lot and I was having a really hard time processing it all while being in a brand new environment with people who were admittedly trying to love me, but I was hurting too much and was too fearful and spiteful to really open up.  I stayed in that spot for a good while, probably about 12-18 months.  I slowly started working through it and opening up piece by piece over time as I healed, got used to my new life, matured and just figured out myself a little more.  As I started writing in the Fall of 2019, I decided to really embrace the tender, singer-songwriter, heart-on-my-sleeve genre.  I had fought against this style out of insecurity during the first year or so of my solo project starting.  But, I was inspired by a friend's lovely, simple EP and decided to make some simple songs that fleshed out what I was feeling, and even some of the things I had been scared to say up until then.  I first wrote "Nursery Lie", the first single released from this album, and then when I wrote "Between You & Me", I knew it was the glue of everything I was realizing and wanting to say with this project.  I knew right then that it would be the title track of this album and it's served that role so well. What’s something you hope people take away from the new song(s)?

Jon: I hope that when people listen to this song they feel comforted enough that they can then go and muster up the courage to say the things they need to say.  Be humble, and try to be selfless in the end.  But first, be honest and flesh out the burdens you've been shoving down and hiding from people.  I hope the song offers a sympathetic shoulder to lean on as you grapple with your burdens and trials.

Which songs on the album were the most fun to write and which were the most challenging to write?

Jon: "Nothing to Find", which is in the middle of the album and is already out on streaming platforms now, was probably the most fun song to write.  I've often had a really easy time writing sad/sombre songs and so those feel a lot more natural for me since I've gotten more practice with them.  "Nothing to Find" was this refreshing experience where I was able to write a happy song that had touches of nostalgia while still staying focused on right now.  It didn't feel like I was forcing myself or stepping outside what I was able to do well.  It really felt like a well done "happy song".  Then, when my friend Rob Hutchitson and I recorded it at a youth camp building that was open for the day, I ended up figuring out the simple arrangement you hear on the track rather quickly.  Not much changed between the first demo session and what you hear on the final as far as arrangement goes.  "Austin, TX" which is a more southern-rock sounding track was one of the more challenging tracks to pull off.  I'm still not completely satisfied with all of the final vocal take but it embodied the song well enough I suppose.  I had to re-record it to get the tempo right and change the key too.  The mix was tricky for my mix engineer Zach to get everything to pop through all at the same time but he still did a great job.  It offers a good change of pace on the record and it wasn't overly laborious to make but it was definitely one of the one's I had to mess with the most, along with "Open Wound".

Do you have any favourite song(s) off the new album?

Jon: I think the closing song "Awhile" has been one of my favourites.  It's a really tender, simple song that's a joy to perform live and I love the fact that it's just a simple phone voice recording for the base of the song with two simple guitar tracks layered on top.  Give it a listen, it doesn't sound like a phone recording. [Laughs].

Do you have any favourite songs to perform live? It could be your own music or even a cover. Any reason why?

Jon: I love performing my song "Idols" live.  It's usually a crowd-pleaser, especially if I'm in a more intentional listening environment.  I use a looper pedal and bass octave pedal in my Line 6 Helix to build out a full band sound, it's a lot of fun.  You can check it out on YouTube with the live studio session I did with Dogtown Studio in Grand Rapids, MI.  I also love performing my song "Awhile." It's a really tender song that's usually a good follow-up to "Idols" or "Austin, TX".  As far as covers, I thoroughly enjoy getting to play "No Such Thing" by John Mayer.  It's one of my favourites from him and what got me into him to begin with.  It's such a well-written, energetic song and people always love it when I pull it out and usually tell me I sound just like him which is always cool.

If you could perform a show this very second anywhere in the world, where would it be? Is there any particular venue(s) or city/cities that comes to mind?

Jon: The first thought that came to mind might seem small but it's what I'm really focused on right now.  I would love to play a sold-out headlining show (or play the middle slot if I got to open for Coy Roy, King's Kaleidoscope, Lone Bellow, or Brother Elsey)  at Bell's Brewery right here in Kalamazoo, MI.  I've been putting together a pretty sweet show in my mind over the past few months that I'm trying to pull off next year (cough cough.. Bell's... get back to me...).  I would love to sell it out in front of Bell's booking team, Kickstand Productions -a Michigan promotional company I've started working with- and a couple of other groups so I can keep solidifying my path forward, continuing to build momentum here in SW MI and keep growing from there.

What do you currently have planned for the remainder of the year?

Jon: So far, the rest of the year looks like playing a couple of shows/gigs each month and then trying to possibly do a small Christmas EP and some Christmas shows.  I'll get to fly out to the Northeast in the first week of December to play a house concert in Massachusetts and possibly return to my old Bible College to play a show or play in NYC for the first time.  Either way, it will be a cool weekend!

Thanks for the time today, Jon. Is there anything else you may want to add before you go? Jon: First off, if you want to listen to my album in its entirety, it will be available for streaming on Thursday, October 25, 2023.  You can go to to access it.  Give it a listen and reach out to me on Instagram if there's a song that sticks with you.  If you really enjoy my music and want to support me in the most direct way possible, consider hosting a house concert!  If you're someone who enjoys hosting, then it's really quite easy!  You get at least 20 of your people out to your home/backyard (friends, family, coworkers, neighbors), provide some light snacks, I provide the music and the equipment, and your friends all give a donation to support me and my family and we have an amazing listening style concert right there in your home.  My supporters and fans have really loved doing these so if it sounds like something you'd like, reach out to me at my website:

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