HAYDEN at Caplansky’s (356 College), Tuesday (March 24), 9 pm at Lady Marmalade (898 Queen East), Wednesday (March 25), 7 pm and at Aunties & Uncles (74 Lippincott), March 26, 7 pm. Tickets can be won at nowtoronto.com/contests.

Clichéd as it sounds, music saved Hayden Desser.

The reclusive Toronto folk rocker has been releasing records for over 20 years, but with Hey Love, his eighth and perhaps most personal, he’s beginning to see things in a different light.

“I’d be in a bad life position if it weren’t for music,” admits the 44-year-old. “It’s my therapy, it’s my religion. That sounds very over-the-top but it’s more important than ever.”

Hayden often speaks in a sarcastic tone, seemingly wary of self-promotion. He hardly toured 2009’s The Place Where We Lived, and only on his 2013 Arts & Crafts debut, Us Alone, did he begin to open up in interviews. His off-the-cuff humour is now frequently upstaged by humility.

The song No Happy Birthday shows a frank, tender side usually hidden under the comical snark of his onstage banter. But during a recent Toronto tour stop, his explanation of the challenges he faces playing music for his non-verbal daughter left the crowd stunned.

“I’m surprising myself about how hard it is to get through certain songs,” he says.

Hey Love continually references his five-year-old daughter, born with a rare chromosome deletion. In 2014, Hayden organized the first annual Dream Serenade, a benefit at Massey Hall in support of children with developmental disabilities, whose proceeds went to the Beverley School.

It was an important event for him as a parent and a performer, but one that he approached with trepidation.

“I’ve shied away from that responsibility for a while because I don’t think I’m a good verbal spokesperson for a cause,” he says. “I deal with things through my songs and say what I want to say through my records in a very economical way.”

In the years since his daughter’s birth, though, he’s seen the bigger picture.

“I can dwell on how hard or how personal something is, or I can just play the song and tell the story. It helps me, and it can help other people. And that’s worth it.”

Win tickets to Hayden’s Diner Series here!

music@nowtoronto.com | @joshuakloke



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