In a phone interview, Sean Hayden sounds OK with the reality that while most people might not know his name, they’ve probably heard at least some of the music he’s written.
The Surrey-raised composer now lives in Toronto, where he has charted a career crafting soundtracks for TV, advertising, film and other media, with 100-plus credits and counting.
Car ads, beer ads, food, even the acclaimed animated comedy Gary and his Demons – Hayden has done plenty since moving to Hogtown.
Six years ago, it seemed like a logical place to be for Hayden, after he studied music in Nelson (Selkirk College) and Boston (Berklee).
He grew up in South Surrey.
“My dad’s a pilot, so I lived in Hong Kong from age three to around seven, then moved to the Crescent Beach area, Elgin,” Hayden said in a recent phone interview. “I was supposed to go to Elgin Park (Secondary) but the music program at Semiahmoo was pretty renowned, so I went there. It was great, with (teachers) Dave Proznick and Kevin Lee, who just retired this year – so a big shout-out to Kevin!”
If Hayden’s name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because he started out playing pubs, festivals, community events and other gigs around Surrey and the rest of Metro Vancouver, in the mid- to late-2000s.
“I did the touring thing for awhile, lots of gigs and whatever I could get, and I eventually came to the conclusion that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, and making a living doing that isn’t easy,” Hayden explained.
A turning point for Hayden was “one of those weird moments in life where it felt like the universe just handed me a gift,” he said in a Q&A posted to fyimusicnews.ca.
“I asked a friend of mine how he got into composing and what he thought I should do to pursue the same avenue. His suggestion was to find another composer who needed assistance. I balked; I was living in Vancouver at the time and thought, ‘How on earth am I going to find someone who needs my help?’
“The next day, I went on Craigslist and found an ad that said something like, ‘Busy composer needs help.’ I couldn’t believe it; it felt like a Twilight Zone moment! So I emailed the guy, he responded and we started working together.”
In Toronto, Hayden landed an in-house producer position at Eggplant, a collective of producers and musicians, before venturing out on his own.
Now 32, Hayden’s IMDb profile is a lengthy one, from Red Bull Signature Series to Beverly Hills Nannies on the TV side of business. His ad-campaign clients have included Nissan, The Keg, Interac, Ford, Gatorade, Budweiser, Tim Hortons, President’s Choice and many more.
“It’s pretty common that people ask what I do and I tell them, I’ll give a few examples and the rection is sometimes, ‘Oh, you did that? I’ve heard that,’ Hayden said.
“It’s much more solitary work now,” he added, “but I do work with directors and agencies, and there’s a lot of correspondence all the time.”
One memorable clip he worked on is a three-minute Cisco ad that features Peter Dinklage, of Game of Thrones and Elf fame.
“I’m proud of that one because I didn’t compromise anything and did more or less exactly what I wanted to do,” he says in the Q&A on fyimusicnews.ca. “Fortunate for me, the client was ecstatic, and they completely bought into the concept I had presented to them. Often though the proud feeling you get for these things isn’t until well after the gigs. Additionally, a lot of the musical works I’m most proud of have yet to see the light of day, but there’s always the hope they will appear on some project someday.”
Looking ahead, Hayden said he’s currently working on a new project that includes “a lot of nature music.
“I can’t tell you what it’s for, for confidentiality reasons,” he said, “but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Posted below is a Q&A with Sean Hayden published in the Surrey Now newspaper in November 2009:
Berklee-schooled Hayden embraces DMB sound
Singer-songwriter Sean Hayden lives in White Rock and recently released his debut self-titled EP.
What brought you to Boston to record your EP?
“I went to ‘Beantown’ after getting a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. Originally, I had no intentions of recording an album, but after a very intense year or so of music and school, it seemed fitting to stay put and keep the momentum going – the EP is what resulted.”
Was it cool to be in the studio where Aerosmith and John Mayer recorded before you?
“It was, but it never really hit me until I moved back to Canada. Berklee and Mix One Studios have a huge pool of talented musicians at any given time. You could find big-named cats everywhere; half the time it wasn’t even unusual to find them sitting beside you in class! You become immune to the whole rock-star thing quite quickly. Once I got back, though, I had time to realize how lucky I am to have had such an opportunity.”
Do you get tired of comparisons to Dave Matthews, musically speaking?
“Nah. He’s definitely an influence, so it’s no surprise that people compare me to him. I don’t get tired of it — DMB is an amazing group made up of very talented musicians; to be put in comparisons to them is a compliment!”
What was the first CD you ever bought with your own cash?
“I think it was Nirvana, Bleach. My mom didn’t condone listening to Nirvana at the time — I was only 8 or 9 years old — so I had to hide the CD in my desk and listen to it on low volume whenever I got the chance.”
And the most recent?
“Bryan Adams, Unplugged. I needed some new road music and found the CD in a bargain bin. I have no idea what it was doing there, because it’s awesome!”
What was the first concert you ever saw?
“My parents like to tell the story of when they saw Jeff Healey in Ottawa at the Rainbow Room — I was still in the womb, but that concert was enough to keep me dancing in there for three days straight! I guess you can say that was my first concert.”
And the most recent?
“Testament at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.”
Finish this sentence: Given the chance, I’d love to have a backing band consisting of….
“Carter Beauford, Richard Bona, Herbie Hancock, Steve Marcus and Ron Burgundy on ‘yazz’ flute.”
And this: I’d rather have a train roll over my toes than listen to…
“Kenny G and Cher. The only thing worse would be a duet! Or would two wrongs make a right?”
Where are you gigging next?
“You can get all the details on my website, seanhayden.net.”