HAYDEN at the Dakota (249 Ossington), Wednesday (February 20). At the Cameron House (408 Queen West), February 21, and the Rivoli (332 Queen West), February 22. All sold out.
Hayden Desser has a reputation for being a recluse, but he's trying to change that. Finding out that you've been declared dead on Wikipedia will do that to a person. However, hermit habits die hard, and he developed them early.
"I got into a pattern early on in my musical life," Desser admits over pints. "I'm not an overly social person, and when I'm in the mode of touring a record, I'm in a zone for a long time that I'm not comfortable with. So when I do my last show of a run, I not only stop playing, but my whole presence as an artist falls apart. It's not good."
After realizing that refusing to do press or tour behind your albums means few people will hear them, Desser made changes. He signed to Arts & Crafts for his new disc, Us Alone, rather than release it through his own Hardwood label. And instead of immersing himself in his favourite 70s albums for inspiration, he spent a year mostly listening to 60s singles on an old jukebox.
Us Alone is easily one of the best recordings of his career, so it's the perfect time to re-emerge from the shadows. Besides, he's in a very different place than he was back in the mid-90s when he was signed to Universal and supposed to be the next big thing in acoustic grunge.
"I was on one of the biggest labels in the world in the 90s, and when they signed me after a bidding war, my main stipulation was that I wanted 100 per cent creative freedom. I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do. So right off the top I had this weird power, and I got used to that. I was probably a major pain in the ass."
Returning to the limelight is intimidating. The fact that he booked his hometown record release shows in three small clubs indicates that he anticipated disappointment, but they've all sold out. The intimate rooms should suit his trio format, paring down the album's already minimalist folk rock arrangements.
"Not to diss any particular bands, but I'm kind of sick of seeing 20 people onstage. It's great, it works and it's exciting, but I think too many people are following that. I guess that happens to anything cool."