Coachella 2015: Hayden James Talks “Something About You,” His EP & Video Curse

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Australian artist/producer Hayden James has been making waves with killer club anthems like “Permission To Love,” but landed an unexpected crossover hit at home with new single “Something About You.” That brooding, multi-layered sonic adventure resulted in a US deal with Republic Records and a string of tour dates across North America. One of those just happened to be at Coachella.

I caught up with the Sydney local after his set in The Do LaB and he opened up about the evolution of “Something About You” — for example, the vocal is a mix of his own pipes and Aussie singer/songwriter George Maple — and his upcoming EP. Hayden also spoke about his terrible luck with music videos and favorite festivals around the world. Find out more below.

How did “Something About You” come to life?
I wrote it last year. I was just playing a DJ set at Splendour In The Grass and I was in a house with the RUFUS boys, and I was like, “Hey what do you guys think of this?” It was not even produced or anything yet. It was just a song with a vocal and pitched-down stuff.

Is that your voice?
It’s me. So it’s me singing all the chorus stuff and then you know George Maple?

Yes. She’s great.
She sings all the verses as well, so it’s like a blend of both of us but pitched down. I probably wrote the whole song in like two or three hours, but it took a few weeks to produce up and be where I wanted it to be structurally. It made sense to me to write a song and not a dance track. I’m way more into soulful stuff. I’m actually making a song and I can get other people to remix it into something crazy if they want.

Don’t take this the wrong way but it doesn’t sound very “Australian” to me?
Completely, absolutely. It’s more song-based than a dance track. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, with the way it sounds for sure.

Were you surprised when radio picked it up at home?
Completely, yeah. I thought that Triple J would like it but you never know. It’s always a gamble. I just wrote it for me but then commercial radio picked it up and I was like, “What?” I didn’t even pitch for it or anything. It just started happening. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

Are you going with “Something About You” in the US?
Yeah. I just got signed to Virgin in Europe and Republic here. It’s being released in the next few days here, so it will be part of an EP that’s going to come out halfway through the year and then pushing for an album early next year.

That was my next question. Is there a body of work that goes along with the single?
Yeah there is, definitely. It’s part of an EP and there’s another single that’s going to come out maybe in about another month and a half, and then another three tracks on top of that.

That explained your string of US tour dates then.
I got a lot of exposure from the song in the US. It’s funny, on the way driving from LA to Coachella, I heard the song three times on the radio. I was like, “That’s great!” It’s going well. I think it will just keep growing hopefully over the summer here.

Where’s the video? I feel like it’s long overdue.
We’re working on a video right now. I wrote the treatment with my mate who is my manager as well and we’re still working out cuts and all of that type of stuff so it’s a bit of a long process. I’m kind of cursed with videos it seems but we’ll get there eventually. Some stuff has been filmed which was not the vibe at all.

You scrapped it?
Yeah. I’m definitely taking more control of it and it will be out as soon as it can be.

Videos seem to be particularly important to dance fans.
Definitely, because otherwise you’re just looking at a SoundCloud, you know?

There are a lot of cheesy dance videos…
I completely agree with you. The first one that we did was just bad. It like a Mentos ad. I was like, “What the hell is this?” Yeah, you can absolutely get it very wrong and it’s hard to get it right, I think.

You worked with George Maple. Have you hit the studio with anyone else?
I’ve been working in the studio with quite a few vocalists but, they’re not big names, I just like their voice. I listen to a lot of different SoundCloud stuff but I do mainly my own vocals. It’s always fun to just put stuff in.

Were you nervous before your set [at Coachella]?
I was, yeah. I didn’t party last night because I played at 2:20 p.m. in The Do LaB. So much fun! It was a great vibe. Every time I mention to people that I’m playing in The Do LaB, they’re like, “Oh you’re going to love it!” A great vibe. A great installation as well. It was really great fun and the crowd was great.

Were you a little surprised that people knew your stuff?
Oh man, absolutely. To come here to the other side of the world and people sing your stuff… what the hell’s going on? It’s very cool. It blows me away, absolutely.

You mentioned Splendour earlier. How do you think Coachella compares to other festivals?
This is wild. This is one of the most beautiful festivals I’ve been to for sure. Everyone’s really nice here, great crowds. It’s really easy to get around, walk around. It’s a big place. Splendour is my favorite festival for sure but this is a really close second. I love the heat.

Did you get to see any other acts?
I saw AC/DC and they were incredible. How old are the guys? I don’t even know.

In their 60s!
Yeah. They were rocking hard. I’m really excited for Jamie xx and ODESZA playing after each other in the same tent, so that’s where I’m going to be.

What’s after Coachella?
I’m about a quarter of a way through an American tour so I started that last week just on the West Coast, went like Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, up to Vancouver, Denver, and then here and then Wednesday I’m in Austin, Texas and then I’m playing in Brooklyn on Thursday night and then I’m in Montreal on Friday, back to New York and then I do like Miami, I come to LA for a show on the 24th of April.

I do that and then I’m doing a bit of writing as well in New York with a few people and then head back to Australia and playing some festivals. I’m playing Splendour. I don’t know if that’s announced. Whatever, playing Spendour and a few other festivals later in the year and doing the Boat Party as well.

Will it be hard to go back to your normal life after this craziness?
Well everyday life for me is writing music and playing shows, so it’s all good. I just came from my Australian tour which was all sold out.

Listen to Hayden James’ “Something About You”:

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