Hayden James on his beginnings, “Just Friends”, tour + more

03 October 2018 - - - The DJ List


Hayden James has already amassed close to 25 million plays for his latest release called “Just Friends”. Known for producing some of the best summer house jams that contains his signature soulful live instrumental chops, he is on the last leg of his massive tour. His debut single “Permission to Love” garnered worldwide success. We got a chance to meet with him for the first time before his sold out performance at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco, CA.

How did you get started in music in the beginning?

When I was a kid at school I was taught piano, guitar and saxophone for eight years. My brother was into Nirvana. One day he brought home this CD and it was “All Around The World” by Daft Punk. I just couldn't get enough. I was like what is this music? From there, I love the drive and the emotion that electronic music gives me. From right then I knew this is what I wanted to do. I never thought it would be a career for me at all. It was just something that I loved. Since I was like 10 years old I always wanted to get involved in things I liked. I got some sampler packs, turntables, ended up working at different jobs like a coffee shop. I had one turntable and as a birthday preset my parents bought me the other turntable. I didn't start making music for a long time. I was DJing until I was like 22 or 23. After that I started writing music and my first song was “Permission To Love”. That's how it all started.

Describe to us your sound.

To be honest it's pop and electronic dance music that's very accessible. It's very simple. I don't cloud an idea. Every time I do something it's the most simplest form of the idea. It's usually the best idea as it's very catchy.

Who or what would you say is your biggest musical inspiration?

I love a whole lot of different music and genres. Not only am I really close friends with Odesza, RÜFÜS DU SOL, etc. I love kind of left field stuff. James Blake, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Beatles, Queen, Beach Boys, etc. Stuff that is song-based and not so dance-track based.

You’ve on a pretty massive tour. You sold out Australia and now you’re onto the USA. How has it been so far?

For the Australia tour it was my first one in two years. I actually played more in the U.S. than I do at home. Which is always by design because Australia is very small compared to the U.S. You can play a lot more here because there's a huge population. For Australia I don't want to oversaturate it and overdo the shows. I want people to really be excited when I play. That's why Sydney and Melbourne sold out in like 10 minutes. So to sell out the tour was really special because it is my home country. But then to come to San Francisco the next week and sell this place out too I was like what is going on? This is really cool. Making new friends and having people connecting to my music is truly special for me.

How are you compared to your Australian artists? What would you say the music scene is like in your homeland compared to the US?

The other Australian acts are quite different and separate from what we do actually. All those types of guys like Stafford Brothers, Timmy Trumpet, etc. are very electro and very "EDM". Congratulations to what they do but I am not in that scene at all. When I write music I'm not interested in being influenced by people now. It's more about the song writing for me. I don't want to make a sound that is now. I rather write a song that people can connect to. If a song can last for more than a year then I've done my job. It's obviously way smaller. The music scene is quite small, I can name like 15 of them and that's it. We all know each other like What So Not, Flume, Flight Facilities, Touch Sensitive, etc. Here in the U.S., there's always someone supporting or playing the next night or whatever. I've never heard of them before but they have like a huge following. There's so many off cuts of music. There's such a variety of different subgenres for house music. It's great.

Talk to us about your record “Just Friends” that’s seeing widespread success. What inspired you to produce this and how did you meet Boy Matthews?

So the instrumental I wrote by myself. A couple months before I met Boy, I wrote this song after I listened to Calvin Harris' “Slide”. That was really funky and I love that vibe. I wanted to do something like that and that's how I sort of came up with the a slower more chiller version that I might release as a B-side of “Just Friends”. I met Boy through a mutual friend in New York. We have never met before that, this was last June in a studio in 2007. We met, we hung out and that was the first song we wrote. He's so quick and amazing at what he does. His melodies are incredible. We had that song down locked in an hour. It took me another couple of months to produce it to where it is now. There was something missing and that's when I came up with the [humming] part. For me that was the hooks that I enjoyed. I love it when I just had those little ear worms that people tend to remember. Writing with Matthews was amazing and we have another one that's on the way. It's going to be on my album coming next year.

Talk to us about the music video. Where did the idea come from?

So I can't take full credit for this. I came up with the idea behind it but this guy Shawn from Red Light shot the entire thing. I got two friends who played the love interest, Jordan and Isabelle - they're amazing. It was basically about young love. That friction between friends like could this be more? That's kind of the whole thing. Just hanging out together. I just wanted people to feel that connection that everybody has felt before like I think I'm attracted to you in more than one way. That's what I wanted the music video to come through with. We shot it all in one day!

We absolutely love Volume 3 of your Mix Series called Discovery. Can we expect a Volume 4 later?

So this is all from Triple J which is an Australian radio station. It's like BBC Radio 1. It's huge. I was lucky enough to do a residency there. So I did a mix a week. So Volume 4 is slated to be the last one but I might continue because people are beginning to love it. I forget what the fourth one is called but I named them all. Discovery is new stuff half the time that I really enjoy and love. It's like my own Spotify playlist mix.

Do you have any upcoming music you can share with us about?

So November 2 I have a new song coming out. It's called “Better Together” and it's with an Australian artist that I feature as a singer - Running Touch. It's more clubby and more back like “Something About You” days. I'm playing it tonight, I just played it at my live shows. So I've played it out for about a month. Early next year it's going to be the album. I'm really pumped!

What is one thing you are currently obsessed with?

You know what I do in my down time? I just chill out and get away from being in the studio or music itself, I love cooking so much. I did a Reddit AMA yesterday and while I was doing it I was making an oxtail stew. I love cooking, that's my meditation. It tasted great but what I put into it was like seven hours of my time. I prepped it after and the Reddit AMA actually got in the way! I ate it around nine o'clock and I was like this was meant for like seven. It was tasty but I was over it.

Follow HAYDEN JAMES online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud | Spotify | Instagram | YouTube

About the Author

Caleb Lau
hayden james