Sean Hayes is sometimes referred to as San Francisco’s folk hero. He’s well respected and very much loved across the Bay Area, and the feeling is plainly evident in the audiences at his local shows. So, to close out 2011 with a big red bow, Sean gifted us with a Parlour to Parlour interview at his own private studio:
There could be no musician to end this season of Parlour to Parlour other than Sean Hayes, for nearly everyone profiled this year has either worked with him or been influenced by him.
Michael Musika has toured with Sean. Quinn DeVeaux can be heard singing backup vocals on “When We Fall In,” the opening track from 2010’s excellent Run Wolves Run. Obo Martin, fpodbpod and The Blank Tapes have all been supporting acts for shows that Sean has headlined. When I was first learning who Sean was, Ash Reiter described him to me as “the male Jolie Holland.” And Bryant Denison even wrote a song for the Beehavers with the lyric “Sean Hayes, I don’t know him too well, but from what I can tell he’s amazing.” So as you can see, there’s a lot of love for Sean Hayes in the Bay Area.
It took me a while, but sometime in 2010 I finally witnessed a Sean Hayes performance. It was at The Independent, in San Francisco’s Western Addition district, and the place was packed. Before the show even started, I was happy find out that Eric Kuhn of Silian Rail (remember Episode 3 back in 2009?) was in Sean’s band, playing keyboards and other instruments, though not drums (that job was in the hands of Ezra Lipp). And before Sean even sang a note, I understood what was going on. His very presence on the stage drew the audience closer. He had them in rapt attention just by standing there, with his strong, confident posture, tempered by an inviting gentleness and vulnerability that everyone there could relate to.
Then of course there was the music. Songs like “When We Fall In” (for which a striking video was made) and “Powerful Stuff” (which was featured last year in a Subaru commercial) became communal experiences, whether one was singing along, snapping fingers, swaying to the beat or just smiling. It was more aligned with feel of soul music than folk music, though the instrumentation and attitude were definitely in the folk tradition. It was certainly the funkiest folk music I had ever heard, and sung with the most soaring, beautiful voice that could possibly have been created for the style.
I know I am not alone in admiring Sean’s humility, musicianship, and unwavering commitment to his family and his community. Sean put all of these qualities on display in his interview, as you will plainly see.
A Note About the Performance
At the beginning of this year’s series, Matt Adams gladly played a song that I had specifically requested for his performance video in episode 26. Since then, Parlour to Parlour subjects have come prepared with specific songs they wanted to showcase. With Sean Hayes, however, we end 2011’s Parlour to Parlour performance series the way we began it – with a song I suggested.
“Stella Seed” occupies the closing slot on Sean’s Run Wolves Run album, and gives it an unforgettably haunting, spine-tingling end. In this solo rendition, with Sean accompanying himself just with a Danelectro electric guitar with a bit of tremolo, Sean demonstrates yet again just how little he really needs to make an impact. Of course, having his band only amplifies the power of his music even further, but returning to his solo roots reminds us of how special Sean is all on his own.
Sean Hayes, “Stella Seed”