Michigan-born singer-songwriter Hayd recently went viral on TikTok with a video of him sharing a snippet of his recent single “Closure”, with listeners around the world resonating with his raw honestly and emotional vulnerability. Ever since his 2019 debut single “Vacant Eyes”, he’s been racking up millions of streams across all platforms, with his recent track “Changes” reaching the 24 million mark. But what strikes me about Hayd, aka Hayden Hubers, is not only the intimacy he crafts in his songs, but also his sheer humility and warmth. I sat down with him earlier this month to talk about his latest song “Airplane Mode” which was released today, May 19th. Despite his sensational success over the past year, Hayd is still living in his family home in Michigan, helping with household chores and spending time with his family. As soon as I started talking with him, I understood that this is the kind of person Hayd is, someone who feels so relatable and down to earth yet carries a deep passion for music and songwriting that has propelled his success to meteoric heights.
Hi Hayden, thanks for talking to us today!
Absolutely! Thank you for having me. This is so fun; I’m just now getting used to doing all these zoom interviews
So where are you right now?
I’m in West Michigan, right on the lake in a very small quiet town by the water. It’s a very different environment from all these people I have zoom sessions with who are in LA or New York. Meanwhile I’m just over here in Michigan chilling with my parents.
Has most of the music you’ve released been written and recorded there?
All right here! Pretty much everything I’ve ever made has been right here in my bedroom, which is funny because all of the traction my music has been getting doesn’t even feel real. I’ve never even met my manager in real life, so my life feels weirdly ordinary. I’m still taking out the trash and driving my little brother to school. So it doesn’t feel real to me because I’m still just in my childhood bedroom but I also love it because I can’t really picture myself in LA or in a hustle and bustle city like that.
Yea I can imagine that’s a strange experience. Usually when you get signed to a label you’d move out to LA or go on tour and your life would dramatically change all of a sudden. Instead, a lot of the attention your music has gained has been on social media, like that initial viral TikTok where you describe “Closure” as the quintessential crying while driving song –
Haha the one I filmed in my car?
Yea! What has that online reception been like, where you’re seeing the success at a distance?
It’s crazy. Again, it just doesn’t feel real. Having a platform is a funny thing. These videos suddenly start blowing up and I’m signing to one of the top labels in the world. Suddenly I’m having Zoom writing sessions with Maroon 5 and artists I listened to growing up!
I just finished school, so I’d have a Macroeconomics lecture and then have to email my professor that I was going to miss our next class because I was writing with Maroon 5. It really seems like it’s all made up. I’m so grateful, but it still hasn’t really hit me. This has been such a change of pace, especially now that I’m done with school and I’m really doing music full time. I think it will hit me once the world starts opening up. But for now, my life hasn’t really changed.
I’ve always loved the bedroom pop ethos, which has really taken over the music industry recently. I think part of that is because learning how to record and produce has become so accessible with the internet. You learned a lot of production skills from YouTube right?
I did. YouTube is my best friend.
So when did you start getting into production and writing in general?
I always played the piano, but I really picked up songwriting back in high school. Every year there was a talent show, and I would perform an original song. My parents and friends kept telling me to get into songwriting. I was always like yea that’d be awesome, but how do I even do that?
Around my junior year I picked up production and that first summer I flew out to Boston for a couple weeks to take a couple music production and sound design classes at Berklee College of Music. That was great and I definitely learned a lot, but I just don’t like following a course. I prefer going at my own pace because that’s just how my brain works. I realized that if I wanted to learn how to make a drum sound, I could just look it up on YouTube and learn that way. I think ten years, or even five years ago, it would’ve been so much harder to do this stuff. It’s crazy how accessible it is.
Are there any other skills you taught yourself from the internet?
Mostly just other instruments. I started with piano but picked up guitar and ukulele through YouTube.
Do you tend to write on piano, since that’s your main instrument?
Yea typically for songwriting I’ll start at the piano and just find a chord progression that makes me feel something. When I play something, I’ll sit and ask myself what emotion it brings up and then I’ll start mumbling melodies.
You mentioned that your parents really encouraged your songwriting. Were they very musical too or are you the outlier in the family?
I’m definitely the outlier. Nobody in my family really does music, but my little brother will argue with you and say that he sings, which he does. But no one really plays instruments. My parents have been really supportive though. Numbers are relative, and even now I’m still a small artist, but when I first started and had like ten monthly listeners, my parents were so excited to buy me a piano and equipment. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
That’s so sweet! And it’s really interesting because I would think if your parents don’t come from a musical background, it can be hard for them to understand how to go from a smaller artist to a bigger artist, because they’ve mostly been exposed to those musicians who really made it big. That can be really scary for a lot of parents, but I’m glad that they have always believed in you.
Oh totally, and it’s been a journey too. They’ve been with me the whole time because none of us really knew how any of this worked in the music realm. We all got so excited when I hit one-thousand plays on SoundCloud, and then suddenly it was ten-thousand, and then one hundred-thousand, and suddenly I’m at a million! As I grow, I think all of our perspectives are getting bigger and we’re understanding what the process looks like. I have no idea what tomorrow looks like or even a year from now, but I love how everything has happened.
I’m also curious who you grew up listening to?
I listened to Coldplay a lot. Their melodies and sound really impacted my music. But my all-time favorite artist in Jon Bellion. I’m just trying to work my way up to where I can meet him one day. I’ve had sessions with different people in his circle, but not him, so I’m just trying to rub shoulders with him one day. I love his honest and vulnerable lyrics. Then you also have artists like Jeremy Zucker or Quinn XCII.
Funny enough, Quinn XCII is actually related to me. We share the same aunt! He’s this big artist now but he was actually a big reason I started getting into music. It was during my senior year after I’d gotten into production and we were at a family reunion together. I think everyone does this, but I had this preconceived idea of him as this huge celebrity and was making myself so nervous before seeing him. But then he shows up in Chacos and we’re just eating watermelon and playing soccer and I realized he’s just a normal guy! And if he can do it, I might as well try. Sorry, that was kind of a tangent.
Are you kidding, that’s a phenomenal anecdote!
But there are definitely a lot of artists who have shaped my sound. I take bits and pieces from all of them.
That is such an interesting experience though, where you meet an artist who you respect and realize that they’re a normal person too, whose music reflects their real life. Especially within the context of your music, which is so personal and vulnerable, how have you navigated the experience of sharing your deeply personal emotions and experiences with a broader audience? Has that been scary for you?
I think it’s easy to put people on pedestals and idolize people. I think that everybody, to an extent, has this idea of celebrities or people with a platform as above the everyday emotions of normal people. But for me, it’s so funny, because in a lot of ways I still feel like a regular guy.
I use the analogy of a translator a lot, because I feel like it’s my job to take the emotions that all humans feel and translate them into a song where people can access those feelings and relate to them. I really want to keep my music personal and vulnerable because I don’t view myself as someone who is a celebrity or has vastly different experiences than most people.
And that’s definitely what endeared a lot of people to your music. Seeing your TikToks and the way you’ve been promoting your songs, it doesn’t feel like you are focused on how your music represents you or your talent, but rather on how your music can relate to people and help them explore some of the difficult moments in their own lives. Especially in an age of people flexing on social media, it’s so refreshing to have that approach of relatability.
Oh absolutely. That’s why I feel like one of my really close friends Anson Seabra, who’s an amazing artist, makes music in kind of the same vein that resonates with a lot of people. I just remember growing up listening to the radio where there were a lot of great songs, but even though they were catchy I just couldn’t relate to them. I just realized there weren’t a lot of songs that really got at what I was feeling, but now there’s so many artists coming up who are writing really vulnerable songs that really grip people. While the flexing records and flashy stuff is fun at times, it doesn’t totally resemble how most people actually live.
You have a track that’s coming out called “Airplane Mode”, can you tell me a little about that song? Are you talking about the iPhone function?
Yea absolutely! I’m glad you got it haha. The best way to sum it up is the song is a heartfelt letter to my friends. It’s about the contrasting emotions I’ve been feeling. On one hand I’m so excited to be on this journey of music and maybe touring, which I’ve always dreamed of, but at the same time I don’t get to see my friends as much and they’re such a big part of my life. That song “Changes” which started all of this was written for them too. None of them have heard the song, so I’m super excited for them to listen to it. But yea, it’s just a reflection on the crazy past six months of my life.
Well I can imagine since they’ve gotten to see this process while you’re still in Michigan, it can be hard to reckon with the fact that eventually you will have to move on.
Yea I mean I feel like it’s inevitable that I’ll have to move to Nashville or somewhere, but I almost want to delay that because I love all of the people in my life right now so much.
Well hopefully you’ll at least get to play shows soon! Do you have a dream tour or venue you’d want to play?
I’ve talked to my manager, and because so many artists are touring in the fall it might be the move for me to tour in the Spring. But I am such a concert fiend and have always gone to my local venues and been in the audience. I think it would be so cool to be the one on stage at those places. There’s three main ones in West Michigan, like the Van Andel Arena (which is a long way down the road), but there’s also The Intersection and 20 Monroe Live which I’ve been to so many times. If I actually got to play there it would be a full circle moment.
Do you have a favorite concert you’ve ever been to?
Hands down Jon Bellion. I saw him right before the pandemic and that was crazy. He’s just a musical freak in all the best ways. There’s so much energy at his shows.
What else are you looking forward to in 2021?
I’m just excited to put out more music! I have my collection of EPs lined up. They’re all woven together. Not to get too nerdy, but the hero’s journey has always been something that’s fascinated me. In every story ever created, it follows the same pattern of a hero who realizes his fate or what he’s meant to do and has to leave or go on a journey to do what he was always meant to do. So this collection of EPs follows that narrative but in terms of my life, and I think it will be really cool to have those out.
It’s so nice that your success has just inspired you more!
Yea when you put out a song and see how it impacts people, you definitely chase that feeling again and again.
Hayd, it was so nice talking to you, and we can’t wait to hear the new single “Airplane Mode” and your other projects this year!