Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 09th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Don't Think, Just Play

musicf seanhayesInspiration comes natural to folk-soul strummer Sean Hayes

Looking back, Sean Hayes says he worked on the title track of his latest album, Before We Turn To Dust, for about eight years.
The lyric, "You may spend all of your money before you turn to dust, but you will never spend all of your love," had been bouncing around in his head for close to a decade, the singer-songwriter says. It would crop up in his mind from time to time, but Hayes never really knew what the line meant until his first son was born.

"I don't think I could have ever figured out that line unless I had a child," Hayes says. These days, the father of two knows exactly what his younger self was attempting to express. The love he feels for his family is unlike anything he's ever experienced.
"It's massive," he says of the impact his boys have had on his life. Hayes has always written songs about personal experiences. He says he thinks of himself as a documentarian—constantly searching for inspiration within and in the stories of those around him.

Through his soul-searching, Hayes has found that he has a knack for soul music, which he blends with his equally strong passion for folk. Hayes crafts warm, acoustic guitar-driven songs that feel as loose and as free-spirited as they are spiritual. His voice is smooth and tender, with a hint of whiskey and cigarette grit. Think a more ragged version of Dave Matthews from the early days, or a much less glossy John Mayer—with all the charm and none of the frat-boy smarm.

You can almost hear the pick-scratch marks and unvarnished wood of Hayes' guitar on tracks like "Garden" and "When We Fall In," from Before We Turn To Dust. You can feel the years and the hard lessons learned in Hayes' crooning-croaking delivery. And you might be able to catch a glint of kind-hearted wisdom in his cool stare, scruffy beard and wild hair when he plays Moe's Alley on April 26.

Hayes' music feels genuine and easy, even as it is decidedly roughly hewn. And considering how he describes the way he was "pulled into" music, it seems as if Hayes becoming a musician was less of an active pursuit and more of an eventuality.

"I never felt like a music kid," he says of his early years figuring out chords on the guitar and piano. The technical side of music never appealed to him.

That explains why he describes hearing a fellow college student in his dorm playing the banjo, fiddle and mandolin as a "pivotal" moment in his life. "I think it opened my mind up a little bit," he recalls. It must have done something. Shortly thereafter, Hayes says he gave up on college and started playing traditional Irish music for a spell.

"I don't know what the true, deepest meaning of it is, but I'm still really attracted to traditional music and primitive melodies," Hayes says. "It's just this primal thing that gets me going. There's usually an urge to dance and move people in a lot of that music."

When Hayes puts it this way, suddenly soul and folk don't seem like such strange bedfellows. After all, they are both music for the people by the people—created to have a good time and let it all out. It's certainly hard not to tap a toe when listening to Before We Turn To Dust. And that's the way Hayes likes it. He doesn't want his fans to think too hard about his tunes—he certainly doesn't think too hard about writing them. He just starts playing what he feels in his gut. It just so happens that what he feels most often is the motivation to play "four on the floor, move the couch out of the way, dance all night kind of music."  


Sean Hayes plays at 9 p.m. Friday, April 26 at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18/adv, $22/door. For more information, call

Comments (2)Add Comment
Sean rocks and I roll.
written by graham, April 25, 2013
I have seen Sean Hayes many times in concert and he always moves his audience ... every time.
written by Evan Hamilton, April 25, 2013
Just FYI, "Garden" and "When We Fall In" are from his last album, "Run Wolves Run", not "Before We Turn to Dust".

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 9

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist