Music Online. Under the Radar
Welcome to our Sunday music section
“Notable Canadian Jewish Performers.”
By David Eisenstadt
TORONTO. November 27/22 – Eclectic best describes the creative talent of Canadian Jewish singer-songwriter, Paul Hayden Desser.
Known as Hayden, he’s “our king of folk-rock” reports Streets Of Toronto. He is also known as “the long-heralded king of downcast Canadian Indie-folk.” Brad Wheeler of the Globe & Mail called him the “Mumbling Mope of Roncesvalles”, a west end Toronto ‘hood/street where Hayden hangs.
Born February 12, 1971, to a Jewish family in Thornhill, Ontario Canada, his visual artist father Sherwin S. Desser is a retired University of Toronto parasitology professor.
For years, Hayden, a somewhat elusive and reclusive Toronto musician slipped in and out of the spotlight. He’s currently amid a nine-market provincial tour – Hayden Ontario Solo 2022 – having recently released a new single – East Coast – his first since 2015’s Hey Love.
His career kick-started in 1994 appearing “armed with only his four-track tape recorder, his unexpectedly low vocal range, and an extremely detuned guitar.” His first LP (self-released on his Hardwood Records label), Everything I Long For (in 1995), “toed the line between beautiful and horrifying, touching on simple details of human interaction as well as delving into macabre tales that still retained an oddly personal edge.” He toured Canada for a year and in 1996, that album was released worldwide by Geffen Records’ Outpost label. That year he performed at Neil Young’s Annual Bridge School Concert while contributing the title tune to the soundtrack for the Steve Buscemi film Trees Lounge.
Hayden – “Hey Love” (from Massey Hall)
In 1998 a second album The Closer I Get happened with well-known record producers. But the Outpost label was dissolved because of the commercial decline of alternative rock, leaving Hayden without international representation.
Hayden prepared 1,600 hand-written, packaged, and numbered copies of Skyscraper National Park in 2001 which led to a full commercial release.
Three more and somewhat notable albums followed – Elk Lake Serenade was released in 2004; In Field & Town in 2008 and The Place Where We Lived, in 2009. Brad Wheeler, in the Globe & Mail, reported, “he failed to support (that album) with concerts or interviews.” Validating that inaction, Hayden admitted, “I’ve made a few promotional missteps.”
He returned to live performing in 2012 and released his seventh full-length studio album in early 2013 on the Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts. Titled Us Alone, it’s a biographic work with various tracks including Almost Everything, about how the family takes precedence over art in his life. He told the Toronto Star’s Ben Rayner that “I think I realized that you need to let people know you have a record out.”
Hayden – Blurry Nights (Official Video 2013). From the album Us Alone
Another tune, Instructions, outlines what is to be done with his body upon death. In June of that year, the album was longlisted for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.
The Globe & Mail’s Robert Everett Green reported that Hayden was described as somewhat reclusive and private. The Star’s Rayner noted that “since the end of his international tour to support The Closer I Get, Hayden has often limited his active promotional appearances and undertaken only small-scale touring. Going back to 2002, he was “often jokingly referred to (by friends) to support Skyscraper National Park as the ‘Hayden’s Not Dead Tour’”, noted Green. Hayden did not promote his 2009 album The Place Where We Lived.
In early 2008, Hayden launched his fifth full-length studio recording – a musically diverse and textured production titled In Field & Town. One of the numbers on that pop album is Worthy of Your Esteem which validates his artistry, taking listeners back to his early work.
Rumours circulated that Hayden died in 2010. The Globe & Mail’s Green speculated that this may have been the result of confusion with the death of Canadian rhythm & blues article Haydain Neale who died in 2009.
Hayden has produced eight studio albums and five EPs and singles. He did some production work, notably a debut album in 2018 for his sister-in-law, singer-songwriter Lou Canon. and continues to be a featured artist at Dream Serenade, a concert supporting children with exceptional qualities and their caregivers. In 2019 he shared that 6th Annual Concert stage with the Barenaked Ladies, The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger, Donovan Woods, and July Talk, among others. Dream Concert #7 is now happening through December 3, 2022, to near-sold-out audiences.
Over three decades, Hayden has built a cult following on soulful and earnest indie rock. His recently released single East Coast, which he wrote, produced, and mixed, harkens to Leonard Cohen’s number Avalanche done for the promotion of the flick Death of A Ladies Man. Hayden is working on a new album with a planned release during 2023.♦
Credits: Photo Christie Greyerbiel; Red Chair Reviews/YouTube; Hayden Desser/YouTube
David Eisenstadt is the author of Under the Radar, 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians. He is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.
A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in our category section. Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contac