Evan Haywood Previews ‘Perfumed Gardens’

. July 26, 2018.
photo by Miles Larson
photo by Miles Larson

Interview: Evan Haywood

Evan Haywood is an Ann Arbor-based singer/songwriter and producer who released a mesmeric album of soundscapes in 2016, titled Ramshackles. It was a contemplative and transporting  listening experience, a patchwork of folk and Americana mingled with melodic psychedelia and ambient found sounds.

Haywood has been creating and releasing music for years, bridging the worlds of acoustic folk and hip-hop, while sharpening his sensibilities through an immersive tenure at Encore Records. He’s also been a key component of the Tree City hip-hop collective since the late 2000’s. Tree City are also working towards completion of a new album, but Haywood, meanwhile, has really been focusing more than ever on his cosmic-folk sides.

Haywood has a voice that sounds like it’s arcing its way over dreamlike horizons, drifting in from some astral plain. His guitar playing has a subtle complexity, with a meditatively rhythmic strum latticed with more intricately expressive flairs. He then layers in other vocal harmonies and imagination-stoking sounds from the natural world, creating a quiet reverie that transports the listener…..to wherever they might need to go at the time they put on those headphones.

Haywood just launched a Kickstarter Campaign for his second album, Perfumed Gardens – Here’s a preview

Talk about the specific way you approached the sound design of Ramshackles and what drew you to the certain aesthetic that it achieves….
One of my driving creative motivations is the instinctual urge to obscure the boundaries between life and art. So when I produce a song, I really want the listener to be able to live within a piece of my personal life experience. And maybe they’ll learn something—avoid a few mistakes, or enjoy a feeling they had not encountered before. My most significant artistic influences have been fearless and unashamed to be honest and vulnerable. I have followed in their footsteps, in my own way.

What’s the intent or impulse, when you create a song?
I want my music to radiate light and love through cosmic healing vibrations… and I don’t discriminate between the sounds of a harp or a jackhammer. Both have their place in the infinite spectrum of sonic textures. I am constantly recording my surroundings and subtly folding these environments into my mixes. There are very few sounds I wouldn’t consider incorporating into a composition. Through the freedom of this approach, I am able to melt and warp the edges of my songs to explore a nostalgic realm that exists outside of time, in the space of memory. In this way, I can communicate the inner soul of my existence through sound.

Talk about how your songs can be an illumination for not just your listener, but you, yourself…
When I release an album, I am offering my listeners an opportunity to live inside my memories, for as long as they like. For me, making music is a cyclical pattern of sacred rituals and creative spiritual acts—and I treat them with great respect!In this human form, I strive to embody the qualities of humility and kindness. Music is a filter though which I can sift out my ego, my rage, my fears… as I am constantly working to become a more evolved being. My songs are a space where I can really put it all on the table and express myself honestly, in the immediacy of the moment. Sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes it’s ugly… usually it’s both at the same time.

Two years on from Ramshackles, how’s your approached to the latest batch of recordings changed? How would you describe the next album?
This new LP is called “Perfumed Gardens”. It’s a love letter to all of my favorite ‘60s psych classics. The album is arranged like a compilation of tripped-out 45s—So there is a lot of stylistic variety. I was heavily inspired by delta blues, rockabilly, Motown, bubblegum pop, freak folk, country rock, Tropicalia, choral arrangements, experimental tape music, and a whole load of other influences.

Evan Haywood will perform in Ypsilanti, at Ziggy’s, on July 30 (8pm) with Hydropark and Cousin Mouth. Follow here for more info.

What can we anticipate with “Perfumed Gardens”? How does it compare to the experience of “Ramschackles?” And, what are you most excited about, in terms of the arrangements you’ve come up with for it…? 
Compared to my first album, this LP is more focused and hard-hitting… but it also has a lot of lo-fi grit in the production. I wound up orchestrating a multitude of textures from a wide variety of instruments… vibraphone, carillon, glockenspiel, pipe organ… you name it! So I pieced it all together like a jigsaw puzzle, using tape and vintage analog equipment. The result sounds like a night of listening to rare 78s with a head full of blue sunshine & the blues in your heart. I paid a lot of dues making this album… and then I let my hair down, freaked out, and surfed the waves of chaos. It’s a trippy good time and I’m proud of it!


You’re going the route of Kickstarter again to finish this album up… And, donor-support had this sort of stigma to it when musicians first started doing it about 5-10 years ago. But do you think more musicians –as well as more music fans- are coming around to appreciating its necessity? What’s it like for you, as an artist, to receive that demonstration of support?
I’m really psyched to be sharing this “Perfumed Gardens” LP via Kickstarter. I had a wonderful experience funding and releasing my first solo album, “Ramshackles” through Kickstater in 2016… and I am extremely grateful for the outpouring of support that made it all happen. To quote the great Lee “Scratch” Perry—“My fans are my family!” After exploring a lot of other options, I decided to expand upon the straightforward, transparent funding and distribution approach I developed with that project.

Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide a space for musicians and artists of all kinds to take control of their output and deliver it personally to their supporters. So it cuts out the middlemen… I think a lot of the stigma associated with donor-support platforms is based around the idea that there are supposed to be gatekeepers… record labels, publications, etc. that have the say in determining when and how people have access to art. I say that’s bullshit—I would rather offer my works directly to my fans.

It’s deeper than, just, releasing another album… You have the listener, or any listener, in mind….
I see it as a spiritual transmission, so I refuse to compromise on any aspect of quality…. it is imperative that I retain full creative control.

When I send you an album, I am offering a piece of my soul. I really take it seriously! For the past two years, my actual blood, sweat, and tears have gone into creating this music and art. In exchange for a financial contribution, I can finally share the fruits of these labors.

More than 40 people worked on “Perfumed Gardens” – from engineers and producers, to painters, poets, and musicians of all kinds… in donating to my Kickstarter campaign, you are putting money directly into the pockets of all these incredibly talented, hardworking artists, from Michigan and beyond. So this campaign is a way to release an album, but on a larger scale, it’s providing support to my community.

artwork by Michael Hutter

artwork by Michael Hutter

 

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