Piper Hayes is back with new music!
The Canadian folk singer, songwriter and social activist took some time to answer a few of my questions regarding her new album, Piper & Carson. Check out the interview below:
What inspired this album?
There are two main things that inspired this new album ‘Piper & Carson’. The first is perhaps obvious. Carson Ritcey-Thorpe, my partner in life, music, shenanigans and much, much more came into my world three years ago. We met on his dad’s farm (Thorpe’s Organic Produce), at the yearly harvest bash he hosts in Millgrove, ON (near Hamilton). There was food and music all day long with a focus on community and organic farming. I heard Carson singing and something about his way on stage spoke to me. Within a few weeks we had our first show in Hamilton, and essentially started dating at the same time. Within a year we started writing together.
Carson’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow exponentially in these last few years. He really is the best human I know, and I wanted to showcase this love.
The second main inspiration for this album was the sudden and unexpected passing of my mum, Maggie Thomson Hayes. The new album ‘Piper & Carson’ is dedicated to her. It was last year in late October that we found out she had stage IV cancer. Within five weeks of the confirmation, she passed on November 25, 2016. Watching her everyday and being part of the process of dying changed my life.
Throughout my musical career and my entire life, my mum has been my biggest champion. She came to every show, knew every lyric, she would sing at the top of her lungs, and when I’d write a new song I’d call her first. She would ask Carson and I to play ‘Save Some For Yourself,’ track 7 on the album and ‘In My Bones,’ track 11. ‘Save Some For Yourself’ is a song inspired by a friend and the high rate of depression and suicide in our society. It is a reminder to give back to oneself. ‘In My Bones’ is about ancestors. It includes stories from both sides of the family. Including the one about my grandma Shirley Hayes, who, in the 1950s, stopped the NYC mayor from continuing 5th Avenue through Washington Square Park.
This album is a compilation of songs that reflect the intentioned life Carson and I have built. We want to be a part of the change. This album was inspired by this desire, and it was inspired by mum’s exuberance, her ‘just do it’ attitude.
How do you balance being a singer, songwriter and social activist?
Balance is a tricky thing and is something I am perpetually working on. I decided when I began writing and performing music, that I wanted have intention behind my work. I had an acting teacher once who would ask the class, ‘Why should people see your work? Why should they pay for it? Why is it important?’ Her philosophy was that if you want to make a living from your art you must be able to answer these questions. I’ve thought about it ever since.
For me singing, songwriting and social activism go hand in hand, and in many ways, one in the same. I want to work towards sustainability in my life. I want to fulfill all aspects of my own expression with integrity. Integrity right now is speaking out and standing up. What is enough for me is finding all the ways in my life, big or small, that I can change and grow and heal others. ‘What can I do?’
I guess how I balance these three very important things in my life, is by making them cyclical in nature. Singer, songwriter and social activist – in many ways, one in the same.
Why should people buy your album?
Quite simply…. because it is real, and I think really good!
This collection of songs tells a story. It is a relatable album that can take us anywhere we need to go. It is an honest representation of who Carson and I are right now. It’s conscious, there’s a message and it’s relevant; it’s stripped down, no pretence, just us. And it’s magic.
Carson’s sister Leah did a drawing of us as two lil’ manatee merpeople. I liked the drawing so much, we used the caricatures for the album cover. Inside is a lyric booklet with gorgeous photos of us on the farm by my good friend and renowned Toronto photographer Lisa MacIntosh. I love when albums are a complete experience and include lyrics and messages by the artists. I want ‘Piper & Carson’ to grab people with not only the music, but also with the total artistic package.
The album was recorded live off the floor in the living room of the century-old farmhouse where Carson grew up. Toronto multi-instrumentalist Chris Bartos produced the album and played standup bass. He brought so much of himself to the table, and got us right where we needed to be. In between each track are layered nature sounds that I recorded live on the farm, and help build the narrative of the album.
I think Carson and I, along with Chris Bartos, have created a piece of art that reflects a moment in time and is yet somehow timeless. Music is powerful, and when we engage with it anything is possible.