Sean Hayes

"Before We Turn to Dust," San Francisco based songwriter Sean Hayes' newest release was
written and recorded in the same year he became a father. You can hear the love and
struggle throughout. In one moment Hayes is singing "you may spend all your money before
you turn to dust / but you'll never spend all your love.” In the next moment, reminiscent of Bill
Withers' classic "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone," he flips it with his line "I miss her when I'm
gone/ but I've got to make my money" and goes on to intone "bring it home, bring it home,
bring it home/ to my lady and my baby."

There is something raw and down-home about this music. Simple and straightforward the
piano, guitar, drums, bass, occasional horns and back-up singing surround his warm, vibratoladen
voice that leads the way, down "side street alleys" or to "that spot with the jukebox
where we can sing your favorite tune."

Like great Country or Soul music these songs tell simple stories that also make you want to
move. "Damn, the way you walk that thing/locked in the pocket make a body ring" from the
song "Bam Bam" almost has your hips in motion from the lyrics alone.
Frazey Ford from the folk group The Be Good Tanya's joins the singing for a duet on the
album's last track, a lullaby "Innocent Spring."

Hayes is notably accompanied by veterans Andrew Borger (Tom Waits/Norah Jones) on
drums, Devin Hoff (The Nels Cline Singers, Xiu Xiu) on bass and relative new comers Ezra Lipp
(Thao + The Get Down Stay Down) on drums and multi-instrumentalist Eric Khun (Silian Rail) on
keys, drums and percussion. The record was mixed by Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs) at New and
Improved Recording in Oakland CA.

Sean Hayes was born in New York City, raised in North Carolina, and came of musical age in
San Francisco. "I remember going to sleep listening to the radio next to my bed," he says,
listening to a wide variety of music from the get-go. It was not until I went to college for a year
in east Carolina that I heard a banjo and a fiddle and bluegrass." He began to play a mix of
traditional old-time music, bluegrass, Irish music, and original songs in Asheville, NC and
Charleston, SC.

On a whim, Hayes threw some clothes and a guitar into the back of his friend's car and made
his way to San Francisco. "I spent a few years in a great little folk scene in San Francisco with
Jolie Holland being the queen bee. She is an amazing talent." Later, he would open tours for
Holland. "San Francisco has always felt like a do-it-yourself town," he says, continuing, "There’s
not a lot of music industry, but there is a lot of spirit."

Hayes cites various influences from the soul, folk, R&B, reggae, and gospel worlds, such as Otis
Redding, James Brown, Joni Mitchell, 'The Anthology of American Folk Music,' 'American
Primitive, Volumes 1 and 2' (pre-war gospel compilations), and Nina Simone. He adds, "I also
love Bob Marley and his rhythm section. I think of him as more folk than reggae."

Over the years, Hayes' songs have been re-mixed by DJ Mark Farina ("Dream Machine"),
covered by folk group The Be Good Tanya's ("A Thousand Tiny Pieces"), been featured on
HBO's "Bored to Death", and used in a TV ad campaign for Subaru ("Powerful Stuff"). He sang
a duet on Aimee Mann’s latest record and has toured with acts such as Ani DiFranco and the
Cold War Kids.

His hometown SF Weekly has raved, "Take him anywhere, play him for anyone, and the
response is always the same: People want more. They'll write down the name if they don't
know it already… an impressive treat in your pocket. Hayes' music succeeds on the tension
between warm, resonant soul and dirt-road folk, all laced with a wandering troubadour's
coo…. the danceable folk singer… Hayes gets his groove on, laying his buttery, quavering
voice over swinging drum patterns, mellifluous piano, and funky horn parts… what sets him
apart is his voice -- a wounded, wavering tone that sounds like a fragile creature, very
crushable.”

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle called him "a singular urban/backwoods sound and
vision… extraordinary… Hayes achieves… a certain intimate rapport between the performer
and audience…”

Jillette Johnson

For Jillette Johnson the journey has been as integral to her musical experience as the destination. Jillette, who began taking music lessons and penning songs as a child, has been performing live since she was 12, captivating audiences with her sultry, thoughtful piano-driven tunes. The musician, now 23, has spent the last decade cultivating her sound and defining her unique perspective. When she moved to New York City from her small town of Pound Ridge, NY at 18, Jillette was already familiar with the city and its clubs, from Sidewalk Cafe to The Bitter End to Rockwood Music Hall.

In early 2012, Jillette inked a deal with Wind-Up Records, who were drawn in by her standout track "Cameron," an inspirational number that explores the struggle of a transgendered person. The song appeared on the singer's five-track EP, Whiskey & Frosting, which came out in August 2012, a prelude to her debut album Water In A Whale, out June 25, 2013. Culled from six months worth of recording sessions at Wind-Up's New York studio, the album traces Jillette's experiences and ideas about living in the city and being young in today's society. She finished the album fall 2012, just before going out on tour, and as it turned out those weeks on the road shifted the musician's sensibilities.

"There's this funny thing that happens when you go on the road," Jillette says. "Because you're not around the people that you're normally around and you're in a different environment and you're constantly being creative and putting out things. Your voice starts to change, both literally and figuratively. I just started growing really rapidly and my perspective started changing a lot. I got back two weeks before Christmas and I knew that we had to have everything done by the first of the year. So I had six months to make the record and two weeks to change everything. A lot of artists don't get that opportunity, to be able to have the album that they made and come back and make tweaks. That's pretty rare and I got to do it."

The final album, which features the five tracks found on Whiskey & Frosting, centers on Jillette's soaring vocals and the sparse, haunting piano lines she wrote to accompany them. Produced by Peter Zizzo (Vanessa Carlton, Avril Lavigne) and Michael Mangini (Joss Stone, David Byrne), the album reveals Jillette's pensive reflections on the world around her, all of which lead to a deeper understand of self-identity. "Cameron," the disc's lead single, was written both from personal experience with someone the musician knows and from the idea of what it means to grapple with who you are. The glowing number focuses on what it means to be authentic to one's self, a universal theme.

"I do have someone in my life that's transgendered and I've learned a lot from this person," Jillette says. "But I think I actually wrote 'Cameron' more about myself and about that feeling of being alien in your own skin. It's been really awesome to play that song around the country and meet people who share stories that may have to do with being transgendered or may have to do with feeling a little bit different."

The real power comes from those songs about the musician herself, however and the rest of the album follows in tone. "When the Ship Goes Down," a hushed ballad, plays with the idea of the immortality you feel when you're young while the sultry "Bassett Hound" offers an unbalanced account of unrequited love, based on, as Jillette says, "every time I showed too many of my cards and wanted someone too much." The ethereal "Pauvre Coeur" treads similar ground, excising the anger the singer felt about a relationship that started to "devour" her. "True North," a soaring and epic number written in that urgent two-week period last winter, touches on what it means to return home, a fulcrum for the musician's ideas about her identity. "It's about coming home and accepting the failures that you endure along the way," Jillette says. "And realizing that you're gonna have a place to come home to, and that's the home inside your own head when all the other voices go away. Because they're not you so they don't care enough to stay that long. You're still going to have your own voice and that's what coming home means to me."

Jillette, who's toured with Delta Rae among others, brings her impassioned live aesthetic onto the album, infusing each number with a sense of intimacy and fervor. The songs shift from light-hearted buoyancy of "Bassett Hound" to the heavy urgency of "Cameron," showcasing a viable array of musical – and lyrical – inspiration. For Jillette, whose years of experience and practice have set her up for what's to come, the goal is to bring these songs to life for as many people as possible.

"The next year or two I think are wide open, in terms of what amazing things could happen," the singer says. "And I think it's just up to me to work hard every day and have a lot of luck. I hope to really build my live show. I can't get to hung up on what exactly will happen. It's really just about every day playing my heart out and connecting with fans over human experiences."

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Sean Hayes with Jillette Johnson

Saturday, November 9 · Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Independent

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