Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you, the past year has been one hell of a ride.
And while many have deemed their livelihoods non-essential, creators and musicians across Canada and beyond have continued to inspire fans — by any means necessary.
For award-winning country artist Andrew Hyatt, music is more than just a job, it’s a passion. One he’s not willing to turn his back on, no matter the odds.
Now, the celebrated singer/songwriter is changing things up and stripping them down with a three-track EP, The Wanderspace Sessions, featuring acoustic versions of “Neverland”, “Didn’t Know Me”, and “I Needed That” — giving us a new take on some fan favourites.
Recently, we hopped on a Zoom call to chat with Andrew about the new release, how he’s able to stay creative at home, and a few new job titles he’s managed to add to the ole resume.
Let’s start by talking a bit about The Wanderspace Sessions. I guess the best question to kick things off with is: What made you want to re-release these three songs acoustically and put them back out there?
It’s kind of two parts; stripped down, acoustic stuff is where I come from — that’s where I started with music, so I always like to go back there. In addition to that, I really missed the guys, and I missed the band.
Obviously, given the situation of 2020, and so far in 2021, it was nice to be in the same room once we were allowed to be when we recorded those. We were all in masks and we were staying pretty spaced out, but it was just really nice to be back with the guys and also release something visual to go with the music that’s different than just a traditional or lyric video. It’s a little more real and a little more raw, which is always nice to put out.
“Neverland” was obviously your latest single, but how did you choose “I Needed That” and “Didn’t Know Me” as the other two?
They just felt good. They felt like the right combination of three songs, and we’ve been playing them for a long time. All three had been previous singles, so it just made sense to do them. They also worked well in that environment and with being stripped down. We didn’t want to do anything that was too heavy, so we just felt like those were the right ones to slow down and make a little prettier.
As far as “Neverland” itself, what do you think is the fascination with the concept as a story — as a fairy tale? It’s been so prominent in pop culture, how do you personally connect with the idea?
It sounds cheesy to say, but to me the idea of “Neverland” is something that seems unattainable, you know what I mean? Whether it’s in a fairy tale, or it’s a place that retains innocence and joy. It’s somewhere that we’re trying to get to when we’re chasing a dream or chasing something we’re passionate about. You’re trying to hold on to something that’s pure, right? Something that you love so much. For me, this song connected because I sat well with the idea of reaching that seemingly unattainable goal.
In high school, when my guidance counselor asked what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I said, well, I’m going to be a musician. She’s like, that’s not realistic — that’s not a real job. I said, exactly I don’t want a real job, I want a job I love. I don’t want a day-to-day. I want to do something I’m passionate about. I got fired from jobs for saying I was just there until I made enough money to make a record and then I’d be going to tour.
So, that’s what “Neverland” is to me; it’s that journey of taking everybody’s no’s and proving them wrong.
As an accomplished songwriter yourself, how do you take these songs that are maybe offered up to you and really find a connection? What do you look for when you’re picking a song to record?
There has to be a moment in my life that the song takes me to. If I don’t have that, then I won’t cut the song. It really has to be something I feel I’ve gone through that I can connect with emotionally.
There’s also a side of it where if it’s the kind of song you just can’t stop singing, you’re going to take that great song. I know what I do, and I know what I don’t do, what I can’t do as a songwriter or haven’t done, so I try and pull those things from outside songs.
Every once in a while, those lines kind of blur — and that’s what “Neverland” felt like. It felt like a song that I would write on my own. So, it just felt very natural and it came from a place that was really honest.
Growing up in a smaller town and being told, you know, get a job in the mine and get a trade and do this and do that. It just felt really real.
And you did get a job in the mine.
Yeah, I did. I learned a lot of good things from there. I learned about hard work and shift work, and late nights. I liked those times, they were enjoyable. Not as enjoyable as what I do now, but they were good times.
How have you been able to keep yourself creative over the last year?
Well, I think everybody’s had their moments, right? Their highs and lows this year. But what’s kept me creative is that I put a studio in my basement, and I’ve just been really working on the fundamentals of recording. It’s something that I’ve ignored for a really long time. I’ve always focused on writing songs and then taking those almost finished ideas to a producer to piece it together. I almost missed our Zoom call today. I’ve got my guitar players downstairs playing. I’ve really been so focused on recording.
You’ve probably been asked this a million times, but dropping an EP in fall of 2020 — how was that whole process different than normal?
Ah, well, first off; I think it was probably delayed about six months. The record has been done for a while and we were hoping we’d get to be able to tour it, you know, go out and play shows — champion this record, but that didn’t
happen. So, that’s been different.
It’s a lot less busy, but I like the fact that it’s let the music speak for itself. Everybody’s been stuck at home, so people are consuming music in a stressful time, which I think helps them connect with it — so we’ve seen a lot of growth, which I was worried wasn’t going to happen or it was just going to get swept under the rug.
I really feel like “Neverland” is connecting more than any other song that I’ve had. I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel like this is probably going to be the song that goes the farthest.
A lot of people really need music right now, right?
Yeah, it’s funny. I was talking with the guys and we were reading this article yesterday that said the arts is considered the No. 1 most non-essential job. We were joking being like, yeah well, if you removed all TV or movies or music during this time, I feel like that stat would flip very quickly and people would realize how essential the arts really is. We need it now, it’s what’s getting us through these times.
You’ve also been up to something a little different this year with Copper Demon. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I’ve always had an obsession with good T-shirts and cool T-shirts and merch. Even my Andrew Hyatt merch, I always felt weird and I never felt comfortable wearing it. But I was like man, I’m putting all this effort and money into these shirts that I can never wear.
So, I had this idea at the beginning of lockdown where I started getting these designs and collecting them and just sort of started releasing them one by one — trying to build a brand.
Eventually I’d like to move away from merch completely on the artist side and just merge those two things together.
Judging from your social media, you’ve been able to spend a lot more time with your fiancé and your dogs, how great has that been? It must be a big change.
Oh, it’s awesome. You know, I’m sure Lisa’s ready to kill me some days because I’m a bit of a tornado when it comes to living in the house. But I’m getting better at picking up after myself. I’m so used to living out of a suitcase, so it’s a little easier to just throw everything in and go. But it’s been great.
Once things kick off again, it’s going to be a little weird to leave for two weeks and not see your significant other when you’re used to seeing them every day. That’s going to be tough.
Do you have any messages you want to send your fans?
I miss you, and I cannot wait to see you guys. You know, there’s an energy that just feels like it’s missing and thank you for listening and thank you for streaming and purchasing T-shirts or music. It’s honestly what’s keeping most artists going right now, so thank you.
To stay up-to-date with Andrew Hyatt at andrewhyattmusic.com
Watch the full interview on 519 Magazine’s YouTube channel now.