Folk musician Sean Hayes coming to Ashland tomorrow

“Sean Hayes is a young man with an old soul.” (National Public Radio)

Sean Hayes, a folk musician from San Francisco, may not be as well known as the actor from Will & Grace with the same name, but has been making quite a name for himself in the music world for over a decade, due in no small part to his banjo plucking and his distinctive, delicate voice. Born in New York and raised in North Carolina, Hayes now calls the West Coast his home. Having self-released all of his five albums, the new one, Before We Turn To Dust, was partly influenced by his wife and their recent birth of their first child.

While living in Seattle recently, I got to hear Sean Hayes play on two different occasions in two very different settings: at a small, dingy dive bar in the hip Fremont neighborhood, and at the large and scenic Gas Works Park, at the Fat Tire Festival, put on by New Belgium Brewing. While both shows were fun, I enjoyed Sean more at the bar in Fremont; the smaller venue seemed to suit his warm, raw style. I was first turned on to Sean back in 2006, when a co-worker made me a mix CD containing one of Sean’s songs. Immediately drawn to his sound, I asked the co-worker who the artist was, but he had no idea, as the song had originally been given to him on a mix CD as well. I tried in vain to find the song online and had all but given up on learning the name of the artist when a friend traveling through town recognized Sean’s signature voice at once. I’ve been a big fan ever since.

Sean graciously answered a few questions for The Siskiyou:

Thanks for coming back to Ashland! Is there any part of our city that stands out to you?
I love pulling into Ashland. It seems like such a little oasis. We tend to hit the food co-op a couple of times.

Is there anything in particular that drew you to making music?
I used to stay home from school in fourth grade. I would get terrible head aches once I got to stay home they would go away. I would sit and learn the words to songs. But I never really sang songs till much later. It’s always there in all of us that rhythm, that desire to sing.

Are there any influences outside of music that inspire your material?
Mostly things outside music inspire me. I write about what is going on inside me and around me. I do not sit down and say I want to write a song that sounds like Otis Redding. I am influenced by the music I learn and listen to but when I write I’m inspired by events, situations, memory, beautiful and ugly things.
With the growing popularity of sites like Spotify and Rdio, how do you go about making a living as an artist? 
Day by day. Book gigs. Sell cds.  It is mystifying but I do get by.
You were born in N.Y. but wound up living in S.F., what drew you to call the West Coast home?
Romance for a woman and romance for the city. Moved to S.F. 20 years ago this New Year!
You recently had a baby with your wife (congratulations!). Does being a father influence or change your view on making a living as a musician and being on the road at times?
Yes. It will be harder to be away for all three of us.  I miss my son just thinking about being away.  He is changing so quickly. But I am excited to get out and play music every night as well!
Your voice and style have an old-timey feel. Is that something that you consciously cultivated?
No. Just is. I do not feel like I have much control over how it comes out. I am not a trained singer at all. Just like to sing.
Someone once likened your song “Politics” to “Freebird.” While that is sort of funny, what is “Politics” about?
At its core it is about petty politics and the fact that we are all part of  the same whole. Recycled breath and blood. Then the song keeps rolling into some Euripides “Bacchae” imagery.,. “she cut off your head/she don’t know you’re dead/and all the streets you ruled run red” Repression can be a mean beast.
“Rosebush Inside” was inspired in part by Moreese Bickam; what inspired you to make a song about him and his story?
Sometimes I write songs to remember an idea I do not want to forget. They are more like rants than songs. Moreese Bickam’s story and attitude inspire me to be grateful. It is easy to forget. We are all so lucky.
Sean Hayes will be playing at the Ashland Unitarian Church at 87 4th Street in Ashland.
From the website:

SEAN HAYES returns to Ashland

w/ special guest Birds of Chicago

7:00 pm Doors  |  8:00 pm Show

All ages show

Sean and band will be performing material from the brand new album, “Before We Turn to Dust,” as well as your favorites. Please visit

We’re excited to have, Birds of Chicago, a great new group made up of Allison Russell from Po’ Girl and JT Nero from JT and the Clouds start the night off.

Leave a Reply