Coming Up: Christy Hays
Country and folk/rock singer and songwriter Christy Hays has been called “Lucinda Williams in a Carhartt jacket” as well as “the most underappreciated singer-songwriter in Austin”, who’s starting to earn national recognition. She has released two full-length albums and two EP’s since 2009, and is coming out with her excellent new studio album, River Swimmer, on April 27 via Nine Mile Records.
TIDAL invited Christy Hays for a chat about the album and how her music is like a Pecan Tree, a late bloomer with the sweetest fruit. And a little bit nuts.
Make sure to give the album a listen, and also check out Christy Hays’ excellent playlist populated with songwriters she loves.
Congratulations with your brand new album. What do we get and what’s it about?
Thank you! The album is a retrospect of the last ten years I’ve spent as a musician, it’s also stories of the regular person, people’s lives and vivid imagery that lives in my imagination surrounding their stories. The release date is April 27th and it’s available online and in vinyl and CD format.
How will you compare River Swimmer with your previous albums?
River Swimmer was much more thought out, curated and deliberate than any of my other albums. When I began working on the songs a year and a half ago I was writing for an album rather than writing for just the song. I took my time, chose my producer wisely and for the first time was able to translate the sounds in my head to the actual album. It was a freeing experience.
What can you share about the writing process?
My writing process is not disciplined like some. I don’t write daily, I don’t journal. I write when I feel inspired to do so. Most of this album was written in my Butte, MT home. In the last few years this house has become my writing sanctuary. I can really unplug and focus in this house. The energy is fantastic for creativity. Most of the album was written in November of 2016. It’s getting pretty cold and dark in Montana this time of the year and I created a practice for the first time surrounding writing, a daily ritual until I was satisfied with the songs.
Did you have a clear idea on how River Swimmer would turn out when you first started writing these songs?
I can’t really say that I did. I wanted to create something that was textural and dynamic. Once the songs were done and I compiled a demo for my producer it became more clear to me how I wanted the album to sound. When I described the vibe to Dexter [producer Dexter Green], a little spacey, song centric, electric but not too rocking, he instantly understood. We were on the same page from the get go. We used Aaron Lee Tasjan on guitar for the album and he brought so much creativity and space to the songs that it was easy going from there.
What inspired you the most in the making of the album?
I was inspired most by my sense of independence and freedom going into the project. I felt like for the first time I was trusting my self, trusting my talent and honoring my vision. I wasn’t relying on others to tell me what to do or to tell me how to make my songs sound good. I knew how they should sound and I made them that way.
Can you share some more about the recording process and working in the studio?
The recording process and the level of talent I was working with in the studio was mind blowing. We recorded in a house in Madison, TN. The players had not beat the songs to death before we went in the studio. I would sit in the living room and play the songs two or three times on my guitar and the guys would jam along with me. Then we’d take our spots throughout the house and record them. It really was that simple. There was not too many overdubs or vocal retakes. It was pretty magical and took only four days.
What music inspired you the most growing up?
I listened to a lot of country, seventies rock in my young years and when I became a teenager I discovered singer-songwriters. I remember subscribing to No Depression in high school and that’s where I learned about Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris… The list is long. Female songwriters were especially intriguing to me. I grew up in a really small town and everything got to us two years late in the rural Midwest. Kathleen Edwards was a benchmark in making River Swimmer. Her songs and production have always been really inspiring to me.
Which albums or books inspired you the most in the making of this album and why?
This album is named after Jim Harrison’s novel River Swimmer. He’s one of my all time favorite authors. I’m obsessed with the American west; it’s history and landscape. A lot of the feeling in my songs is directly inspired from those vistas. Harrison wrote mainly about characters in the west and northern forests. River Swimmer was kind of this trippy novel he did in his later years. A bit out of the ordinary but I loved it. For some reason the two became on in my mind, so they sure a name.
What would be your preferred setting to ultimately enjoy River Swimmer?
A vinyl record, playing loud, on your couch. Stoned or not stoned, up to you.
And finally, if your music was a tree what would it be?
My music is a Pecan Tree, a late bloomer with the sweetest fruit, a little bit nuts.
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