Auriol Hays

Awareness through music

Archive for the 'My music' Category

Eleanor Rigby

“I never use to speak much when I was a kid.” No one seems to believe me – especially  school friends. “Come on Auriol, I don’t remember it that way …” In my defense, I was referring to primary school specifically. There never seemed to be enough time; enough words for all that silence. I still spend a great deal of my day alone. Socializing or networking is a necessary evil. I  have gone a week without leaving the confines of my house or speaking to anyone. My silence has landed me into a great deal of trouble also.  Now I try my best to speak my mind – without music. It is not as easy as it sounds..

 My second album, Call it Love, incorporated more silence than my debut album, Behind Closed Doors. That was deliberate tactic to induce intimacy. Truthfully, I spent a great deal of time silent; that translated into the music itself. Jazz aficionados praise the use of silence. AAJ Staff professed, “Technique in jazz is paramount, and utilizing silence is part of technique. Knowing when to play notes and fill a void or when to lay back is just as important as playing the right notes.” Pop music is infused with a plethora of  sounds that demand one’s attention. Ideal for radio but troubling for many other musicians who want to earn a living from their craft but do not fit the mould. Being neither a jazz  nor a pop musician, the process of finding a soundscape for the third album is worrying and a bit too  thought provoking for my liking. Where to go from here?
Allow me to share a funny story. I wanted to use the allegory of Plato’s cave to shape my album. “Ah, that’s awfully clever,” my one friend remarked. Hell, even I thought so! In one fell swoop I could entertain and educate. How bladdy arrogant of me! All I  needed to do was pay attention to the songs I had written. They were surprisingly upbeat and happy. Also, I wasn’t as immersed in my own silence anymore. My tendency to over-think has not subsided  (I still drive everyone insane) but I speak more now. Finding a new balance  also meant employing silence differently,  personally and professionally. Anyway, I am a singer, not a philosopher. 
A while back I let slip a small confession on Twitter. “I tend to write and record new albums when my life is in flux,”  When Call it Love was first released, a few people were rather concerned. The music was sparse, broken in places and the silences? They howled of sadness and inner trumoil. This time round the music is more universal.  The sound is bolder, less cautious and the silences are meant to arouse interest, create anticipation.  Does this mean I am a more balanced person or “together” third album round? Not a chance in hell! I am deeply flawed  and get so many things wrong, but with every song,  I want to answer the one question that will haunt me until I die, “What does this really mean?”
And on that note, there’s a  Buddist tale, known as the Flower Sermon, where Sakyamuni delivers a wordless sermon to his disciples by simply showing them a white flower. Wisdom without words. It reminds me of the Japanese proverb “He who speaks has no knowledge and he who has knowledge does not speak.” 
Why couldn’t I be born Japanese instead? It would be brilliant and I would have great hair!  Alas, I am not, so all that philosophizing will have to be evened out with a touch of practicality. Either way, I am excited and I hope that those who buy the new cd will feel the same. 
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One For the Road

Good day. My name is Auriol Hays and I am an incurable, utterly hopeless romantic. Oh I wish I wasn’t so! Life would be so much easier if I could live in black and white. However, I chose to submerge myself in every shade of grey there is. I know this is going to sound dramatic (I am a musician after all) but I dwell in those parts of myself and others where anything is possible. Where Love transcends all, where time and distance is never relevant; where simply by opening my mouth to sing I can reach out to anyone, anywhere. Man, someone should shoot me! Yipp, just load that gun or ready the deadly elixir and put me down please. At times I really do sicken myself…

If only that useless romanticism resulted in a steady flow of lovers! Can you imagine what kind of music I would write? Alas, this is not the case. Even if it was…well, it’s none of your business! However, if I look closely at my life something else emerges. At every single turn I am surrounded by people who see me, despite all my flaws, and love me nevertheless. How can I not be an incurable romantic hmm? How can I not believe in man’s inherent goodness?

The curse of being a musician is that Music  never allows me to lie to myself. I sat with a very talented blues musician a few weeks ago. ‘Play something beautiful’ I asked. He obliged and within a few minutes we had something that resembled a song. I was pleased but a bit disturbed by my lyrics. ‘ I just can’t sleep before one. Gotta read every book till it’s done. I look at the moon and sigh. So alone, so alone am I’  Curse the musical gods I thought. Yes, I am alone …and at times that burden weighs on me, but I am not lonely. I would never indulge in every man who comes my way. That would be too easy…A girl must have standards you know! I am very clear on the kind of people I allow into my life. I share sincerely when the need arises. The hope is always that those I care for know it – without fail.

So although I find it hard to sleep and am usually found on my couch with a book on my face – lonely I  am not. At peace – yes. Grounded – absolutely. Grateful for every bit of kindness that gets shown to me – you better believe it. That energy, one of deep gratitude, infuses not only my life but the music I write and sing. I am still grumpy and prefer to hide out in corners away from preying eyes…but I keep those I care for close and those I love even closer. The rest? Well, it doesn’t really matter. As long as I have people around me who I love and offer their love freely, I can deal with anything.
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Ben Harper – With You

Everyone seems to think I am a stalker. A Ben Harper stalker to be exact. The fact that I wrote a song for him on my Call It Love album (With You)  does not make me look innocent by a long shot. So allow me to explain and then you can decide whether I am guilty of those charges or not..

It all started when I saw Ben Harper live in Montruex. I was so new to his music that I  couldn’t even sing along! I stood alone at the back of the hall, the night before I was meant to take the stage,  and…cried. I cried because I felt alone. I cried because I had no idea of the life I wanted to live. A few years later when I found myself at the beach at 3am devoid of all hope and again I sobbed bitterly. Deep  within there was a void (forgive me Zakes Mda) and I had no idea if anything could fill or I heal it. In that moment of blackening despair his music, the cadence of his voice pulled from that abyss… Finally I could curl my back against the world and feel safe…

My daughter calls him The Harp and loves ripping me off. I often wondered if I could ever express how his music affected me. Alas, life took care of that when her world was torn asunder by my divorce. Suddenly this happy-go-lucky kid was transformed into a sullen, silent stranger. That is until she found solace in Green Day, Kurt Cobain and a host of rock and punk musicians. Finally, she understood. Now she sings along to The Power Of The Gospel, pulls weird faces and mockingly proclaims, “Hey Momma! This is my jam!”

The love of music is our common ground. She sketches, I read and the music plays. Just the other day she gifted me with all the Arctic Monkeys music available online. Yes, yes, it was her favorite band until I stole them. Payback for stealing my beloved Radiohead by the way. Before you ask I do make fun of her favorite musicians (it is my sacred right as her Mother).”Girly, if Shmeagol from Lord of the Rings had to start a punk band…then they would sound like Bring Me The Horizon!” Yet  often I find myself humming along to their music. When she catches me in the act she says, “I see you like Shmeagol and his gang.” And Dammit all…I do!

Back to the seriousness of music. Musicians like Ben Harper remind me why I chose to be a musician. And often I need to be reminded especially when money runs low or I have a bout of writer’s block. I sing, we sing not for fame or fantastic wealth (yes, it would be great if it came, along with tall male groupies!) I sing, we sing…because there is nothing else we would rather do. We sing because by doing so we heal ourselves. We sing because when we do so we offer the best of ourselves to those who will listen, to those who need to hear.
I will leave you with this Ben Harper quote. “Music is the last true voice of the human spirit. It can go beyond language, beyond age, and beyond color straight to the mind and heart of all people.”
So go home, kick off your shoes, make some coffee, switch off your tv, lie on your couch with a blanket, put on some great music and… listen.

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Don’t Think Twice

“Auriol, I love you… but this album is depressing! I just want to slit my wrists.” Before you ask, I was not offended. Music is personal and subjective after all. My second album Call It Love was a big departure from the pop infused-all-over-the-place, debut album Behind Closed Doors. “It’s the perfect album to listen to after Valentine’s Day” I joked. Above all, I hoped that the music would give people the kind of solace that Ben Harper’s music gave me when I needed it most.

I often wonder, in my darker moments, if I could have released a different kind of album; if it was necessary to lay myself as bare as I did. Why not release a mind-numbing album to get heads bobbing? Isn’t that what people want? A release? Jeez, my life would have been so much easier if I did. I wouldn’t have to explain, interview after interview, what sparked the album and skirt the truth to protect others.

“We must seize and celebrate the power of the Arts to shape our individual and national character,” said Ben Cameron. “And especially the youth who are subjected to a bombardment of sensations than digested experience” That is what I attempted to do with Call It Love… digested experience indeed.

Having a magical gig at the Alma Cafe with my friend and mentor Lionel Bastos, I am certain of a few things. The third album will feel different. I am not dealing with my own vulnerabilities anymore. Words such as strength, power, integrity and gun-slinging revolution come to mind. The songs are not personal. The themes are bigger, the tempos are faster and dashed with all manner of eclectic influences.

In short, I could only write the third album after getting out of my own head and heart. Have the last few years changed me? No. I am still the same tv-series addict who spends her nights listening to talk radio while reading a book. The same lady who agonizes while shopping, much to my daughter’s annoyance, even though I have a list… But circumstances have refined who I chose to be and how I express that individuality.

And I chose to be stronger, act with integrity, admit my faults when I make them, love passionately and without expectations… and in doing so will change the landscape of my life. I just hope that those listening will like what I have to share…

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I Ride At Dawn

‘Life seemed to be filled with things like the ghost orchid. Wonderful to imagine and easy to fall in love with but a little fantastic, fleeting and out of reach’ These lines come  from one of my favorite movies, Adaptation.  For a long time I felt that way about music and to a lesser degree about certain men who entered my life…

Having completed the Cape Town Jazz Fest, a few thoughts need to be shared. At times I am convinced that the circuitous path one takes to  a place or even a mind state is filled with more  unexpected adventures and epiphanies  than the destination itself. Jazz Fest was stressful. I came down with the flu and my voice suddenly became lower and deeper than it usually is. And singing, that I usually equate with absolute freedom, became an exercise in self control and heightened awareness. In fact I was so fixated on the music and where I placed my voice that I forgot anyone was listening…

Sometimes we live as though no one is listening or even cares. We are happy, free and joyfully optimistic… only to be constricted and confined on other days. And that’s the way of life. We forget so easily the magic inherent in our everyday lives so we search, hunger, demand for that elusive something more.There was a time when all I yearned for was the ability to open my mouth and sing. I forgot to clean my home, would lose track of time or even forget to bath! I was searching for that lyric, that note, that specific intonation…that would set me free; that would place my life in order. I do worry that I will always feel that hunger not only for music but in my every aspect of my life.

So I try to express myself clearly to those I love. I have often said to those I care for “You will always know how I feel because I will share it..” I do not want to live un expressed or be misunderstood or place my real desires in music because it is safer to do so. I think what I yearn for more now is not the rush of it all but balance.

I will end this blog post with few lines from the movie Adaptation and it explains how I chose to live my life.

” Point is, what’s so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There’s a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they’re designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live – how the only barometer you have is your heart “

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My daughter and I watched the movie Chasing Maverick a few days ago. We were so inspired that we made the immediate decision to become surfers. A hard task as I can barely stay above water! As the night wore on I wondered why  the stars have to align, stones be thrown and signs clearly deciphered before I allow myself to be hurtled into the seemingly treacherous waters called Change…

Everyone is scared of something. Some remain scared while others move through it. Our capacity to endure stems directly from that grand notion of Love; I am convinced of it. If not love for another, then love for something Bigger. An Ideal..that pushes us always forward, demands we offer more of ourselves – regardless of the risks. Perhaps Love is similar to attending Capoeira classes for the first time…

I will confess I am desperately, pathetically in love with Capoeira! Often I am enraptured, no, mesmerized by the rhythmic beating of the atabaque (hollow drum), the haunting sound of the berimbau, the clapping of hands…and Beleza’s voice, rising above it all like an ancient mariner imploring the Gods for safe passage. As alluring as that sounds, I do risk getting kicked in the face because I am not paying attention to what’s happening in the roda…

As I watch the seasoned players dance around each other, their muscles flexing with confident ease, I am overcome with a desire to do the same. But then I am reminded of my limitations. Capoeira has to be taken in its stride. Your body and mind trained to deflect and deliver blows skillfully. But Capoeira has taught me a greater lesson far beyond the fluidity of movement. It asks, as Love does, for awareness. Awareness of your own body, the one you dance with and the space both of you occupy.

Friends have told me that men are intimidated by my ideas of love and sensuality. But why, I wonder, would you not want to be swept aside, engulfed and consumed by Love, Lust or simply Life itself? I do this with ease and dare I say…skill in music. Slowly and steadily I invite those notions into my waking life… and who knows? Perhaps one day my daughter might stop laughing as I walk out of class, body aching and mind reeling. Perhaps soon I might leap and dance as gracefully as the seasoned players do. Daringly, with ease, assurance and a hint of danger. Yes, I hope for that day to come – where I no longer chase a maverick but become one.

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“When are you going to write a song for me?” Every musician has been asked this question and it is annoying as hell! I try to be diplomatic, “Listen here mister…I don’t know you well enough to write about you.” The truth is usually simple and ugly.  I feel nothing for these men who enter my life…and they should be grateful for that.“Auriol you are over-thinking things. You just find something nice about him and use that to write a song. After all a song regardless of who it is written for…”

Excuse me? Did you just say a song is just a song? Step away from me bucko or I will slap, beat and bite you! Music is never just music. It is fueled by emotion and at its core is Desire. I don’t simply see the man when and if I write music. I feel everything joyously, optimistically, every attribute amplified and imperfection idolized. In short I make the fatal error of falling gloriously, head over heels in love with who that man could be. Great for the audience but not so great for me…

As careful as I try to be Music does not allow for certainty. When I sit in front of my cheap keyboard I never know what will happen. Often I get bored, make tea, check my mail…And then BOOM out of nowhere words and melodies form. “Where the Hell did that come from? I didn’t mean to write that!” It’s at this moment that my daughter interrupts. “Mummy, are you talking to yourself again?”“No, Darling, I am arguing with myself…”I am a bit of coward when dealing with my own emotions. The powers that be, knowing this, force me to confront all those unexpressed desires through music. It sucks balls because there really is nowhere to run…

And this is why I stay away from the keyboard, rarely think of anyone when I sing…I am scared. Scared of what I will sing, what I will feel and what it will mean. Putting any man to music comes with great risks and I don’t know if I am ready to take anymore risks, if my heart could bear it. …or his..

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A review

I am reposting this review written by one of my favourite South African authors Zakes Mda. The album is available at all music stores nationwide..but if you are struggling to find an outlet try your closest CNA store

This is a kickass album that lovers of quality music will want to have in their collection. Auriol Hays is a versatile artist whose rendition ranges from love ballads that invoke a world when words still mattered, when lyrics were at a premium, before “baby, baby” was all we could say to express our stunted emotions, to exuberant rhythm-and-blues, right up to some smokey jazzy-blues. When she does the latter she’s really really blue and she takes you to that state of mind. It is the same voice that we have come to love: velvelty and palpable. But this is a different Auriol from that of the first album. It is the same sensual voice, but now with greater maturity. A much more defiant Auriol; yet at the same time gentle. A tinge of anger somewhere. However, this is not a mournful Auriol but a soulful one. In some numbers she is danceful too. For instance, “All Tied Up” will make even the most tired or aged of bones raise a storm on the dance floor. Or on the elliptical, exactly what “Turn Up the Music” from her previous album did for me. My most favorite, though, is the wistful “O Meu Amor”, which never fails to transport me whirling into a goose-bumpy universe. Indeed, there is something for everyone in this album

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Cloud Atlas

Would you like to know what I think of as I sit in front of my cheap keyboard about to compose? I am not merely searching for nice tune and colourful story so people can bob their heads and sing along. Ask any artist who slaves tirelessly and they will confess they feel possessed by the Muses themselves. As I clumsily clunk on the keyboard all I want is that luminous second where maddening chaos and exultation lie suspended. In that very instant, if the right chords are struck, I ask anyone who will listen “What will you choose now?” After all Art, indeed life itself, is a revolution of sorts. A series of steps and motions that threaten to unravel, unseat, upend and overthrow.

Just this afternoon a working theme for the third album emerged. A singular image materialized. That of a pair of lovers…his arms protectively encircling his paramour as the world around them passionately implodes.  I have a penchant for the dramatic, I confess. But then I am a musician and we deal in heightened emotions. With every note I sing the question remains the same, “What will they choose now? What path will they take?”

I have often intimated that how we love or fail too determines the hue and texture of our very existence. Those choices ripple, cascade….unlocking a plethora of unforeseen  scenarios and inescapable circumstances. A tad bit much again? Perhaps I write my third album in the hope that it will restore my sense of wonder and belief in love.

So I live vicariously and fleetingly experience that which I have forgotten. To be an object of desire, to know intimacy and all encompassing ecstasy? A beautiful notion indeed…But before I assault my keyboard I will leave you with the following, “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” Yes, every choice, thought, encounter has brought me to this place where I music runs rampant under my skin…

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The New CD

I am terribly excited about the new cd being released next month. I think the photographer Xtoph Heierli and designer Sedick Sassman did a wonderful job. Ierephaan styled me and my stylist Idelina never left my side. I have much to be thankful for…


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