Welcome to the very first New Sampshire band interview! For those of you that don't know what this column is about, here's a brief synopsis: every few months, I crawl out of my apartment in Newmarket, New Hampshire and go see a cool show or do something fun, and then I write about it. This time was great, because I didn't even have to leave my apartment.
Acoustic storyteller CHRISTINE HAYWARD has been active for over half a decade, but just released her first full-length album, Going to Somewhere, a little over a month ago. The last time I saw her, she was armed with only a ukulele and her soft, chirping voice. That was 2008. Now, she's back with harmonies, percussion, and ten songs scrapbooking stories and events that would otherwise be lost in the swirling black hole of history. Christine came over to my apartment and talked with me about the new album.
New Sampshire: Christine Hayward. Hi, how are you?Christine Hayward: Peachy.
Is this your first full-length?
How’s it feel?
Feels good. I recorded it two years ago.
What took you so long to put it out?
I stopped doing everything I cared about for about two years, then I stopped and got back into it.
What’s your recording process? This is a much bigger effort than your last release.
My friend Ben Rogers runs Loud Sun Studio and he and Eric Gagne, who’s in Redwing Blackbird, were just like, you need to put an album out… like, c’mon. So we worked something out. I’m not really into recording because I hate separating my singing and my playing at the same time because it always feels a little bit off, but I got through it as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
You’re usually a solo piece, but who else is contributing to the extra parts on this record?
Eric Gagne sings and I’m pretty sure he did some of the percussion too. A lot of the extras were made afterwards or during that two-year span when I wasn’t really around, but I had gave them a few ideas of what I had envisioned, so I know that he does vocals and Ben Rogers did the organs.
So did you write those extra parts or did you write them together?
They actually came in and did a lot of them without me there. I just said ‘go for it and send it to me and I’ll figure it out,’ because at that point I had no idea what to do because I was so used to playing by myself and not having anyone accompany me at all, and I had no idea what the possibilities could be.
How do you think adding extra atmosphere to your music has worked out for you?
I think it definitely filled it out and made it sound way more finished than if it had just been me and the uke. Now, the more I hear a couple of the songs, the more I’m hearing extra parts for it. It’s been a learning experience.
It says on your page that the songs are a collection of stories about people you know.Yeah, stories of my life, the people in it, how I feel about it, so everything that I’ve written is true to my life.
How have these experiences been important to you, and why did you decide you wanted to write about them specifically?
Well, the album wasn’t necessarily written as an album, more of a collection of songs, but it was more of a release and more of me sharing myself with others and connecting to total strangers, because I’m not really good at talking to people in real life.
What is the song “Running” about?
It’s mostly about defense mechanisms, like what people do when they’re stressed and how they react to things. They’re about specific people and different experiences that I share with them. “Defense mechanism” is not the term that I’m looking for. It’s just their go-to escape.
What about "Mullenys?"
"Mullenys" is my mother’s maiden name. It’s about her parents’ love story and how they eloped and my grandmother died when my mother was six, so it’s just a story about everything happening. Eventually my grandfather passed away in the end, so it’s about how they reunited, and how the love story came full circle.
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That sounds very sweet and charming, but the song sounds eerie and dark.
It sounds like that to a lot of people. I think that’s a theme with this record. It’s either a sweet theme with a dark sound or a dark theme with a more lighthearted sound and I think I do that because I don’t want to be too much; I’m kind of censoring myself a little bit.
The opener to the album, “Grave Song,” moves at a very churning rhythm, especially with the percussion, making it almost a marching cadence. Is this how you view the way people approach life, as a slow march to death? Am I reading into this too much?
A little bit, but I’m only saying that because I’ve been gone for so long that I haven’t really thought too much about these things on a realistic level. When I wrote it, it was a very different thing and I can’t quite remember where I was at that point. But that was something I did notice when I heard the final cuts, that it was very different than the rest of the album. When I’m listening to music, I like songs with driving percussion, even if it’s simple music.
What have you been listening to recently, casually on your iPod or Spotify, or YouTube?
I’ve been listening to a lot of A$AP Rocky. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, a lot of electronic music. A lot of Rubblebucket, and LCD Soundsystem.
When did you move to Kittery?
So you’re technically no longer a New Hampshire Act…
It’s basically Portsmouth.
You used to live in Keene. What’s different about Kittery/Southern NH?
There’s a lot more live music, and there’s much more variety. Right now, there’s only one venue left in Keene, which is the Starving Artist, and they’re great, but I miss the variety and seeing new people, and I had been there for four years, so I just needed to get out of there.
Last question, this one should be easy: what’s your favorite place in New Hampshire?
Like, a very specific place, or a town?
It can be anything.
Anything? And that’s supposed to be an easy question?
It’s easy because you don’t have to explain why.
Um… I really love driving through Chester, just getting lost. The roads are super long and windy and you can go at least 45mph. Very beautiful.
Stream Going to Somewhere right here and catch her at Radio on June 21st! Hoepfully you won't have to wait as long for another New Sampshire post. I'm out of school for the summer, so expect to see a lot more of me on On The Download! [Editor's note: we'll see about that.]