Jonny Hayes

Jonny Hayes

Shailla Shailla
4 minute read

Jonny Hayes is a contemplative songwriter from Hout Bay, Cape Town. Intimate, melody-driven live recordings are archetypal of his unhurried approach to writing; ensuring emotion without embellishment in his music.

Jonny Hayes picked up his first instrument just shy of four years ago (then 2018), while studying at university. The singles ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ and ‘Bathe’ from his debut album ‘Daybreak’ (2021) found him featured on Apple Music’s New Music Daily & New In Alternative playlists, Spotify’s SAlt editorial playlist as well as both of the popular YouTube music blogs Wave of Good Noise and IndieVibes. His music has developed a small underground following and has garnered well over 100,000 listens on all streaming platforms.

There wasn't much of a musical background in his family. While Jonny's mother played violin in a theatre orchestra, this rarely permeated the home. His older brother took singing lessons and taught himself guitar, but this was never an interest to Jonny as he journeyed through high school. "My parents made sure there was always an upright piano in the home," Jonny reflects. "Neither of them played it, although I think they always had the piano in the lounge in the hopes that one of us kids would take to it and learn."

'I Remember Where Light Goes' (2023) turns a darker corner for the South-African artist, with the upcoming album plotting an unrelenting, beautiful struggle between hope and disappointment, love and loneliness; not to mention electric and acoustic instruments, running rife throughout the record. Many have lauded the project as a quiet union of The Paper Kites and the unsung Prospekt's March - EP from Chris Martin's Coldplay.

The journey of songwriting began for Jonny Hayes in December 2018 when he decided to place a couple of phone voice memo recordings on Soundcloud as he navigated a new-found passion by way of some kind friends. Never set on self-promotion, these songs soon found a handful of listeners from all over the world as he reflected on upbringing, hope and what it means to be human. “I didn’t tell anyone the songs were online,” he thinks back. “I fell in love with crafting the songs themselves.” Throughout 2019, Jonny continued to upload a voice memo per month to Soundcloud.

During the lockdown months of 2020, Jonny Hayes wrote, recorded, produced and mixed a 5-track debut EP, titled ‘Memories’. Each song has a raw, textured undertone - with the main vocal and guitar being recorded with the same single mic in one single take. This seemed to be the most natural progression from recording with voice notes.

His debut album 'Daybreak' was released on the 10th of September 2021 - in the South African springtime. "For my first record, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to tell one cohesive story, rather than merely putting a bunch of songs together," Jonny says. "It is an attempt to get at the longing of the human spirit and the humanity of faith. It is about growing up in a specific place and the idea of surrender."

Tips to fellow artists:

Here are a couple of things that resonate with me on the topic. First; if you have the ability to write songs, then write. Acknowledge that, if you are just starting out, your songs might not be that good. Grow into the craft of songwriting and go on a journey of discovery. Second; leave your ego at the door. Music has a beautiful power to communicate and it should never become a means to boost your image. Songs are gifts. Once they are released into the world, they should be freely offered up. Don’t use your songs or your music to boost yourself. Offer it as a gift. Third; I believe all true, beautiful and good ideas are either uncovered or discovered. Ever since I was young, I have sensed that ideas come from somewhere. You might have heard the expression, ‘The answer just hit me!’ Even the Greek mathematician Archimedes cried, ‘Eureka! I have found it!’ Only what is beyond us has the capacity to hit us by surprise. All of my greatest thoughts and moments of inspiration have come along hand-in-hand with a deep feeling of discovery. We don’t create from nothing. We don’t create from ‘scratch’. All true, beautiful and good ideas come from someplace else. They hit us.

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