Auriol Hays

Awareness through music

Archive for the 'career' Category

All the pretty visitors…

I meet the most amazing people and eat really good food.  Those are the perks of being a musician.  I could be blunt and say that my life without music was empty and staid.  The truth is not so simple however.  I have come to realize that… it had a music, a cadence and beauty of its own.  Would I change any of it you ask?  Not a chance in hell.  There have been too many memorable experiences along the way.

I remember my first corporate gig.  Oh it was horrid!  I forgot my lyrics and didn’t hit certain notes.  I remember speaking to Andre, my first producer, afterward.  “Auriol, never show that you made a mistake.  Most people won’t know or care.”  Of course he was right and wrong.  At first they didn’t.  However, when I get hired these days most people are familiar with my work.  And when I do encounter clients who aren’t, I strike a balance.   Instead of viewing these as terribly dull musical encounters  to an equally dull and lifeless crowd, I enjoy myself and view it as rehearsals and an opportunity to mess around!  The feedback is always positive. The fact is… my band and I are busy enjoying ourselves to be concerned with anyone else.  That energy is infectious I realized.

Goodness, then there’s my first live television performance!  Brace yourselves.  Just before we were about to go live the TV-host looked at me, very concerned, and said, “Can someone get her some water please?” He knew that I was on the verge of dashing out of that studio.  Sprinting!  Heck, I could have earned an Olympic medal I tell you!  And before you assume everything happened as it should -  I started singing at the wrong time!  After smiling nervously, I recovered and then proceeded to sing with my eyes shut! But at least (and I always say this to console myself) I was pitch perfect…

I think I will regale you with one more tale.  My first TV-interview took place on a Sunday morning.  This is also where I met Zakes Mda for the first time.  Did this go well you ask?  Well, yes and no.  I used the word crap about ten times, according to Nathan Ro from Lonehill Estate.  Of course I swore horrendously on live radio too… Only with the help of good friends and family have I redeemed myself.   My evil ways are a thing of the past… thank goodness.  I don’t think I can handle another call from my mother.

One of the most inspiring people I met was not some hot shot executive or a famous musician.  He worked at the Pinda Game reserve.  Barry was his name.  This man was fearless in every aspect.  He could name every flower, animal… would get up close and personal with a pride of lions.   The facts and bits of funny fiction rolled off his tongue with ease and grace.  Then he mentioned, in a nonchalant manner, that he started working in the kitchens of the game reserve.  Only there did he discover his deep love for nature.  That experience altered my perception and appreciation of animals and nature.  Understand, the only time I thought of animals was when they were on my plate, medium raw please..

How can I forget all the weddings and birthday parties?  Aside from staging shows on my own terms, weddings and parties are my favourite kind of gig.  In this instance the food is never a factor.  I will share a little secret with you.  Every time I perform to people who are in love or passionately alive, I find a dark corner with a great vantage point and I spy on them!  I pretend to read or fiddle around.  In all honesty I am observing them very carefully.  Maybe it’s the radiant optimism or the way their eyes sparkle… but every time without exception… my jaded black heart is healed – bit by bit.

Tell me, who could ask for more?

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Something new, Something old

I was recently approached by the cosmetics brand  Carrefour to write a song for their new range. This was the first time that I was asked to write music for an advert but luckily my partner in crime, Mallum, knew just what was needed and the music was accepted.  ”L’amour et le soutien que j’ai reçu de la française a été surprenant et le plus apprécié”

So here it is…the song Auriol Hays – Beside You Master

A music video off the new album CALL IT LOVE, Anima Sola. The song is called OVER MY SHOULDERS. The new album deals with the vulnerability we all feel within a relationship.

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Call It Love

This is a sneak peak of the album art. I don’t want to post too many pictures. This was taken by Christoph Heierli in Cape Town

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Muddy Waters

Many things annoy me and I have been told I can be a difficult customer. I like to believe that I have become a tad more tolerant over the years… but if I have to hear “You will learn something meaningful from this experience” one more time I will hurl something sharp and big at someone.

You always tend to hear this from people who claim to know better. You know those who have no personal experience or depth to draw from. Yes, those sanctimonious pricks who say things like, “ It does not serve me to do….” Or “I have so much more to give…” Sometimes I want to say “Bitch please! You and all your boring soap opera theatrics are headed straight for Nervous Breakdown City!”

Look, I know I am not perfect and will make mistakes like everyone else. When that happens I don’t want to be preached at, given solutions to my problems or be made to hold someone’s hand. This is what I do need; to know that I am surrounded by people who have the ability to listen. People I can trust, admire and whose loyalty I will never question. I use to think that every person on the planet would want a bit of that – but was proven wrong. Some just want money, status and a thin body to lay against. I have slowly leant to honestly not give a fook and tune them out of my life.

I can hear what you’re thinking, “Shoo, Auriol, jaded much?” And I would respond “Yes, yes and yes to infinity!” Even though I don’t believe in many things any more I will not write sad songs about confused people. I have enough of that in my own life. Anyway, Music won’t allow me to do that. I sat down to write the other day and was surprised at what presented itself to me. I ended up writing a song that was cautiously optimistic. Me? Cautiously optimistic? That was a shocker!

Maybe life isn’t that bad after all, I thought as I listened to the new song. I don’t want to be preached at. I need someone who will listen. I don’t want speeches about obligation and what is right – instead show me, with your actions, what your right looks and feels like. If pressed to choose between Love and Career, I would choose Career hands down. It was always the safest bet. Now all I want is balance.The only reason why I have a career in music is because I have mastered Balance. I didn’t just sit around and make vision boards and read metaphysical books about the inner workings of my mind and soul! I worked at it as best I can whenever I can.

So Universe, if you are listening I have a few orders I would like to place. I promise I will always try to balance them out and not get side tracked. I want a life filled with more Music, more time with my daughter, Love, enough money to take care of our needs and definitely another child. If you want to throw in a new man and some overseas trips  - that would be cool. Not a necessity though..but cool

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Over My Shoulder

When I write a new song I always send it to people who understand and know me best. Later I send it to “fans” or people who are invested in my music. And always a wonderfully strange thing happens. Instead of simply saying “I like this song” or “It does nothing for me” I get intimate peaks into their lives. When I finally got the final mix for the song Over My Shoulders, I sent it to Christopher. “The new album is driven by a central theme, the unraveling of a relationship”, I casually remarked. “I like concept albums,” he said. “It tells a story. I hope all your future works will be the same.”

Instead of thinking of future albums I wondered about my life. If it had an overarching theme or concept and if I was living up to it or not.  For so long I lived my life by default. For the last three years I felt like I was living in purgatory of sorts. Weeks would go by in a blur and I could neither control nor understand why that was. So it is rather fitting that my new album is called Anima Sola…

Music changed all that and brought greater focus to my life. Even during those times when my life felt like it was going to hell, music always kept me sane. That’s another thing I learnt. When one is in a troubling spot it is best to remain focused on what gives strength. “You are so strong” a friend once said. Strong, me? I think not. At best I never show what I feel and somehow that gets interpreted as strength. If only she knew how many times I felt overwhelmed, lonely or scared. And that’s when it struck me. I have to learn to manage my emotions and communicate that in a balanced way to those nearest to me. And that is always an easy thing to do through music. Well, easier…take away the music and I am a mess.

In light of that epiphany I have decided to do something drastic.  I will audit myself so I know where and why failed.  And that means being brutally honest – not a pleasant experience. Then I will discuss my finding with my group of advisers (very good friends) and listen to their independent take on the matter. I don’t want to be burdened by sadness or nostalgia anymore. This purgatory business is boring me and it really is time for a change…

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Well, Well, Well…

Maybe it’s because I was born under the “wrong” star sign or because I never listened to my parents but I always call things as I see them. And honestly most people are full of bulls**t. Everyone wants what they want faster than you can say please and thank you. I see this in the music industry especially. Build a brand, get that endorsement, a tv spot on a reality show and be “seen”. On the one hand it is rather sad and on the other, perhaps, a necessary evil. After all a little help here and there does make a big difference. Hell, I know of so many talented musicians who play their souls out for hours and walk away with barely enough to care for themselves let alone their families. Call me an idealist or plain naive but I firmly believe that if musicians really understood how their music affects people it would dramatically alter the way they worked and grace them with something more valuable than money or fame….reverence.

I always thought that every single person comes into this life equipped with everything they need to live a rewarding life. Granted some people struggle harder than most finding their talent…but once it is uncovered it changes the course of their lives and everyone they touch. Be it singing, cooking or flower decoration. We are all graced equally. In case you are wondering I am not drunk or under the influence of a religious cult. Well, I am not that drunk yet ….

Everyone knows how much I love Ben Harper’s music. I do get ripped off for it on a daily basis. Some call me a pervert…after all the man is not only a genius musician but delicious in so many unexpected ways. I will freely admit that I do get distracted by his beautiful face and tattoos (I am human after all). But if I put all of that aside what I value most is his ability to articulate, through music, what it means to be human. There have been days when I felt so unloved, so unworthy, ugly, ashamed…where I doubted the value of my very existence and was unable to get out of bed. Then I would listen to his music, his voice and feel the one thing I needed most – peace.

Being deeply rooted to that reverence changed the way I view music. I no longer pull up my nose in disdain when asked to sing a silly pop song. I know that for that second it allows people to feel something real, gives relief…a way through and out. I understand that it is never about me but what moves through me when I sing. That in itself is reward enough. Yes, I need to make money to get by…but that reverence has always given me more than enough when I needed it most. Brand endorsements will come if they need too but they are not necessary – neither is fame.

So I try to do my best, be as sincere as I am able to and give my all in every way I can. Whether it means singing Brenda Fassie’s Weekend Special, answering pointless emails on Facebook or wearing heels for more hours than is humanley possible. Above all I trust.. I revere… and if that comes with a cocktail or two – so much better!

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Anima Sola

“I told you…you can trust me” A man should never utter those words and expect me to believe him. If this sounds like the start of a bitter sweet song, you would be mistaken. Those words were uttered last night after the screening of Anima Sola, a movie directed by French Michel (also known as Michel Dujardin). He used a great deal of my music in his film. For a while I was convinced he knew no other musicians and therefore had no other choice but to use what was on hand!

If I had to be really honest I would state (hand on the bible) that I knew he was on to something at the first meeting. “While we work together I will pretend you are 28,” I said flippantly. A part of my brain refused to believe that one so young could be so…gifted. I am not just going on and on about this movie because my material was used or because people I know wrote and acted in it. I do have some larger point I would like to get across, so bare with me…

Over the last 2 years I have heard the strangest things. “You should try your best not to rely on people” someone in the entertainment industry once said. Now I can firmly say, “Bullocks to that!” I am a cautious, cynical Scorpio but somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention and probably while writing a song, a completely outlandish, totally unexpected thing happened. I learnt to trust myself…

“Everyone is your mirror” a teacher once told me. I hate that saying because I know it to be true. If I am distrustful of others it is not because they are inherently untrustworthy. More than anything it reflects how little faith and trust I have in myself. People like to think that the music industry is governed by the law “It’s not what you do but who you know” Again I have only one word to say “Bullocks!” At every blind corner in my career, when I had no idea what to do or where to turn to, serendipity stepped in and gifted me with something extraordinary. People. Not only were they willing to help me, they believed in my voice, my vision. It was always a perfect fit.

Strange as this may sound (or cocky depending on where you stand) I do believe that I will keep ‘running’ into people. Not because I am that talented or connected or rich or even pretty…but because I trust myself to know that music is my calling. And last night I was lucky enough to be surrounded by like minded people who, young as they seemed, trusted themselves as much as I learnt too…

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Suzie Blue

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: not everything in the music industry is fun. If it seems like I am bitching, forgive me. Some things take a little getting use to. Photo shoots are nerve wrecking. And after so many I still haven’t mastered the art of smiling on queue, ironing out my frown or posing provocatively. Corporate gigs are seldom fun because I tone everything down. I stand in one place, wear shoes and a dress and seldom speak. I have also learnt to not take offense if it seems like no one is listening. Now I don’t mind the dress and shoes bit, what kills me is the uncertainty. I never know whether I am doing a good job or not.

Nothing makes me happier than a call from Morgan or Tabitha informing me that I have work.  I love getting in a plane and being alone in a hotel room. It feels like a mini holiday. Along the way I have learnt a few about myself and my band. First things first: I should always have an extra dress and stocking on hand. At the last job my stockings ripped 20 minutes ahead of call time. If it weren’t for two very good friends who lived close by, some audience members would have been scarred for life or blinded at the very least.

This might sound outrageous and very anti – new age but here goes. Judge me later if you must. I have learnt to stop feeling grateful at every turn. Allow me to explain. When I first stepped into the music industry I was grateful for everything that came my way – even mediocre musicians and crappy gigs. I would always smile and say, “Thanks that sounds great!” I said that because I didn’t know any better. I am, for the most part, more selective and discerning now. As a musician I cannot afford not to be. After all no one knows my music better than I do…

Honestly, there is nothing better than playing a show on your own terms. In front of people who actually paid to be there….where I get so nervous and excited I can’t sleep or eat or think straight. I could never only play corporate gigs. It would kill me. So prevent my untimely death my band and I play corporate not for the client (shoo don’t tell them) – but for ourselves. As long as we can leave saying, “We played well” that’s good enough.

In the next few months I will have to fake pose for another photo shoot (arrg) when we launch the new album, Devil Woman.  I won’t make the same mistakes I did the first time round.  I have learnt to not swear on live radio, say crap seven times on Sunday morning tv or pull my face into a contorted expression when I sing the wrong note. See? You live, you learn…

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Anything Goes

My sister can shock the hell out of me! Maybe it’s because she’s the middle child or a Virgo. Honestly Sandra Bullock doesn’t stand a chance of grabbing that Oscar if my sister’s around. Before I carry on I just want to state that I love my sister – with all my heart and soul. Even though she does not look the part my beloved sister can be a drama queen of note! And here’s the scary part – I love every second of it!

I feed off those crazy emotions. I am a musician after all. At best I try to extract and distill negative emotions. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying: this is how it is, deal with it. Life isn’t always pretty and people aren’t always nice. On a good day I try to gain insight into my own condition and share it. A fellow artist and friend, Curtis Folts  remarked, “The purpose of an artist is to evoke the fullest range of emotions from people that their medium allows and to lend them the courage to see themselves in that light.”

Now that I am writing music for the Deep Hays album all the blood has been cleared and I find myself in a peculiar position. I am no longer the killer or the wounded. The polar opposite in fact – I am the lover and the beloved. And that is deeply satisfying from a songwriting point of view

I have a confession to make that will explain a great deal. I recently set up an altar in my home. Yes, I returned to my heathen ways. In it I have symbolic representations of what matters most in my life. The Gods Saraswati, Lakshmi and Ganesh are now part of my home. Before you ask I do house other religious iconography…

Part of my morning ritual involves simply sitting alone for a few minutes and focusing on those parts of my life I need help with. My mother does the same – only with her bible and lots of singing. Thanks to this ritual I am a bit more focused now. I do not allow my emotions to highjack me – that often…Once my head is cleared I start my day.

On a serious note giving into those emotions can lead to ruin. Okay, maybe I am being a bit dramatic but they definitely get you into trouble. I have to share what Curtis said to me this morning because it  resonates, “I believe that when we master our relationship with our emotions we will master our evolution.”

Back to my sister. She once convinced some people that she is a recovered heroin addict who sincerely wanted to start a daycare centre. She walked away with their phone numbers and their kids names! I love my sister but sometimes, just sometimes, she is gloriously, deliciously mad…and strangely enough that keeps me sane!

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Give Till It’s Gone

I don’t like playing games or showing off. It might seem like fun but ego tripping, inevitably, bites you in the ass. Once, a silly boy told me he thought I had no personality because I did not respond to jokes or conversation the way he was accustomed too. Reciting names and facts do nothing for me. I guess I am just not interested in appearing smart.

Self worth is a tricky thing and when you have little of it your ego takes you on all kinds of unexpected detours. Most of my life I have always waited on others to step in because thought I wasn’t good enough. When I started off in music I felt that most keenly but had people to guide me. I always knew that my musical career was about more than simply singing a tune – it enabled me to find my own voice so I could say “Dammit-all I am good enough and can do this on my own terms.”

There is greater value in being honest with yourself  first – especially when you are scared and don’t know which way to turn. That is something I learnt a few years back. I cannot afford to play games with myself or be in denial. Luckily I have family and friends who won’t put up with my crap when I can’t find that honesty! So I don’t have to be piss drunk or falling to pieces before I can own up to my feelings or what needs to change in my life.

These people keep me grounded but even they get it wrong at times. I have a friend who is one of my most trusted advisers. But something tragic happened just the other day. I came to realize that I have outgrown the need for his advice. That was an epiphany I never thought I would have. Sometimes this dude has no idea what he is talking about and it’s time I said, “Hold up mister. You are wrong …”

Aristotle was right when he said “the ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation….” I just have to learn to do something valuable with all that awareness and contemplation…

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