DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
And now, we want to introduce you to a musician you might not have heard yet: Sean Hayes. And no, we're not talking about the actor from �Will & Grace.�
(Soundbite of song, �Cool Hand�)
Mr. SEAN HAYES (Singer; Songwriter): (Singing) There's no way let's be sad man. I'll get up again and again. You can dare my bloody body wherever I am
ELLIOT: That's Sean Hayes singing �Cool Hand� on his CD �Flowering Spade.� The song was inspired by the classic prison film �Cool Hand Luke.� If you can't hear it in these old-time banjo strings, Sean Hayes is a young man with an old soul. And for years, he's been building a dedicated grassroots following in the San Francisco Bay area. We recently visited with Sean Hayes in the wine cellar or the rose club in Brooklyn. He was preparing to cap off an east coast stint with what he called a secret show that evening. Just to say it's a little gathering of fans brought by word of mouth.
We're downstairs, like I said, in the wine and there are wine bottles on the walls. It's dark and light's reflecting off the bottles. There's the wooden floor above us and you can hear the people creaking around upstairs getting ready. And upstairs is where the stage is - there are only about 15 small tables and they are just right up on the stage. What kind of an environment is that for you to play it?
Mr. HAYES: That's probably more of my favorite environment to play and that's what I've come out of and played in for years and years. So many little spaces like that. Anything with red curtains and a little piano with 15 tables is going to make me feel very comfortable actually.
ELLIOT: You like to be close to the audience.
Mr. HAYES: I do and that's where I'm - my music is very intimate and it's really easy for me to - if it's right there, it makes a lot more sense. When I get in bigger places it turns into - it's more of an ambient sound of music and you're not sure as much if you're connecting with the words and stuff. But it's really obvious close up.
ELLIOT: There's a particular song on your CD that I enjoyed listening to because I can almost hear your relationship with your listeners. It's the song �Time.� And it's almost like an invitation to people. Would you play that one for us?
Mr. HAYES: Oh, I'd love to play it
(Soundbite of song �Time�)
Mr. HAYES: (Singing) Come with me awhile. Sit with me awhile. All that I have is time. Drink with me awhile. Sit with me awhile. All that I have is time. We could find ourselves a bottle. Wander the streets like rows(ph). Smile and waving all those passing by. All to me is home. Walk with me awhile. Talk with me awhile. All that I have is time. Come with me awhile. Just be awhile. All that I have is time.
We could find a willow tree and climb a branch absurd. Sing to all those down below. Wobbling like two cuckoo birds, crazy cuckoo birds. Oh, all the lasting, all the loving, all the siding, all the first things, all the trying, all the dying, all that I have is time. All that we have is time. Walk with me awhile. Talk with me awhile. Sit with me awhile. Sit to see a while. Come with me awhile. Just be awhile. All that I have is time. All that you have is time.
ELLIOT: Sean Hayes singing the song �Time� from his new CD �Flowering Spade.� It's not very often that people offer to give you all their time.
Mr. HAYES: No. That song was written at a particular moment in my life where I was in transition so much like a relationship that end and I was - it was like during Christmas and so there wasn't much going on. And basically, it was kind of staying at a friend's house. So I didn't really have a home. So when all those things were said and done, I was mostly felt like I all I did have was time.
ELLIOTT: Now, you were born here in New York but you grew up in North Carolina?
Mr. HAYES: Yeah.
ELLIOTT: Is that were you first started to play music?
Mr. HAYES: Oh yeah.
ELLIOTT: And you played banjo?
Mr. HAYES: I can fiddle around with a banjo. So there's some banjo on there and it's kind of simple and (unintelligible). It inspires it. I love old-time banjo. I think I can do a little bit of claw hammer, but if I had to sit down and play with some old-time players for real, I would be in big trouble.
ELLIOTT: What is the feeling of that sound evokes for you?
Mr. HAYES: It's social. It's music that can go on while everybody is having fun, and drinking and talking, and it's dance music. It's what people would dance to before there were DJs. It's got that�
(Soundbite of tapping)
Mr. HAYES: You know, it's like house music of a hundred years ago, and so it's - it serves all these great purposes, and people start playing it and everybody just kind of gravitate over a little bit closer. Everything gets a little lighter and happier.
ELLIOTT: You have an interesting voice, the bravado in your voice kind of evokes an old-time sound for me too, I think. Is that something that you work for or that first time that you sang a song that's the way it came out?
Mr. HAYES: No, I'd say I mean it's not something I work for consciously, but my voice is definitely gotten stronger over the years. You know, I didn't grow up singing. I started singing probably more when I was 17 or 18. So it was more a confidence in - but I've always been attracted to singers like Nina Simone - is one of my favorites. I'm sure listening to them and trying to emulate them somewhere. But I'm not very conscious - I'm not a trained singer. And sometimes my bravado just comes from the fact that I'm losing breath. And so maybe it's just my voice.
ELLIOTT: Well, let's talk about your new CD, �Flowering Spade.�
Mr. HAYES: �Flowering Spade.�
ELLIOTT: I have a copy of it here. And it's very simple CD cover. It looks like it's made from recycled cardboard. It's brown. There's a simple black design of a spade on the front. But when you opened the cover, there's this interesting definition you've given us for a sigil. Can you tell me what a sigil is?
Mr. HAYES: I didn't know what a sigil was either, and I was reading a magazine one day and it said a sigil is a magical device that you might create to get something to happen - a desired outcome. And it would be a drawing you would make or a piece of art that you might make. And it went on to describe how to create one. So I sat and drew a sigil up and endowed it with my intentions. And I ended up with what to me look like a flower spade.
ELLIOTT: What specific intention did you endow on your sigil?
Mr. HAYES: Well, I'm to sure I'm supposed to tell you according to the rules of making sigils but I'm actually not sure. So it's okay. So my endowment was to inspire people with music and with rhythm and to make people healthier, including myself, people around me. To just, you know, to inspire health and dance and movement and happiness.
ELLIOTT: So this sigil of yours, this flowering spade inspired the music after you drew it? Immediately?
Mr. HAYES: After I drew it. Yeah, I think I wrote the song either that night or the next day.
ELLIOTT: Will you play the song for us?
Mr. HAYES: I would love to play the song for you.
ELLIOTT: Thank you.
(Soundbite of song, �Flowering Spade�)
Mr. HAYES: (Singing) He has a flowering spade growing out of his chest full of magic and healing. She is a flowering spade as she grooves and she sways, you could see that she feels it. She's off to dance with the a golden boy. And he's off to sail through your wide-open ocean. She learned to sing from her siren. He learned to swim from drop in the water. Hey, there are words that will inspire. Close our eyes. There is magic inside you. Hey, hear the sparks in you mind; building strains for the trace your desires. She learned to cook from a sailor. He learned to cry in an elephant circus. She found the recipe for flying. He's growing flowers to understand dying. Rejoice. Oh, rejoice.
ELLIOTT: Sean Hayes singing the title track from his new CD �Flowering Spade.� The lyrics in that song are very, very whimsical. She learned to sing from a siren. He learned to swim from a drop in the water. It's got this magical sense to it. It's that the way that you see the world? Is that the way you see life or is that something that you can only capture in your music?
Mr. HAYES: I think I do see magic in the world, especially when I'm trying to create and when I'm trying to figure anything out I usually realize that, I mean, beyond names we don't really know anything. I mean, what's a bottle of wine? Water and grapes. What are grapes? And then, you know, a couple of steps later and you're like, we don't have any idea what anything is. So to me that's kind of magic.
ELLIOTT: Sean Hayes, thank you very much.
Mr. HAYES: Thank you so much for finding me, coming and sit with me.
ELLIOTT: Will you take us out on one more song?
Mr. HAYES: Sure I'd love to. Why don't I want to play �Onion.�
ELLIOTT: To hear a little bit more music from Sean Hayes, visit our Web site, npr.org.