Interview: Haydon Spenceley

Aug 17 2009

Louder Than The Music talks to Haydon Spenceley, a singer songwriter who released "Circles" a few years ago and is now in the middle of finishing his latest album "Heart Strings". Read more about this very talented man.

Haydon tell us a bit about yourself

Well, I'm a singer-songwriter form the UK. I've been around for a fair while in a few different projects and bands etc. Right now I'm working as a solo act, with an awesome bunch of guys who play live with me as and when! I am very blessed and happy to be able to do what I do. I recorded my debut solo album, Circles, way back in the autumn of 2007 with Harun Kotch (Replenish) producing. We kinda soft released that, making it available digitally online, and quietly selling CDs at gigs, but didn't work with any label or distribution for that record.

I am becoming more and more passionate about the need for us as musicians and artists to stand up and be counted, and not to be either "Church" musicians, or "performing" musicians, but rather to be the musicians and people that God has made us to be, and to take the gift of salvation He has given us, along with the musical gifts which we are very fortunate to have, wherever the opportunity arises.

You used to be in a band called "Freeslave" why did you decide to go solo?

To begin with, Freeslave was me, as a solo, but not wanting to use my own name (I used to think that Haydon Spenceley wasn't sparkly enough as a name!). Over time I was lucky to work with a bunch of awesome guys, who either played as temporary or full-time members of the band at different stages. In 2006, I made a full-length album called Songs for the Dying, during the recording of which it became obvious that a full band was going to be needed to pull the songs off live. I was introduced to Matt, Ben and Aaron while making the album, and we gelled really well. For about 18 months, we were a four-piece band, and did really well, being featured on Radio One, in various UK and US national music press, and touring all over the UK and Ireland, including playing to thousands in Trafalger Square, twice. The last thing we did as a band was to record a (still-unreleased, actually) single with Julian Kindred (Delirious?, Rebecca St James, Luna Halo) at the back end of 2007. That was a great time, but during the recording it became obvious that we were beginning to want different things, musically and personally. I'd already pretty much made Circles, so I decided to focus on that, and on the electronica side of things, rather than the indie rock of Freeslave. It was a good change to make, but I do miss the band dynamic. We had some great times. We all still get on though (!) and Ben and Aaron play with me live and on recordings from time to time still, so it's all good!

I like working solo because it gives me an opportunity to explore musical and lyrical ideas that might not work in a band setting. When you're working in a band, it's important that no-one gets left out of decision making, I think, and so compromise is often a key thing. I found with making Circles that it was liberating to be able to have creative control over a lot of aspects of the record that I might not otherwise have done.

Also, the songs on Circles were deliberately a bit more introspective and down-tempo than the stuff we were working on with Freelave, and it was a great opportunity to find an outlet for them.

Your debut record Circles was a fantastic piece of work, what was your inspiration behind it?

Thanks, and thanks for the kind review you gave it on here! I wanted to record a bunch of songs which were a bit more introspective, as I said earlier. I've always been a bit of funny one when it comes to writing. I love God, and am astounded by His grace and the life He has given me, but sometimes, it's just pretty tough, you know? I think sometimes in the past there's been a lack in our writing as Christian musicians to acknowledge that a lot of people we come in to contact with at live shows, or who listen to records or visit websites etc are struggling and looking for answers. And not just the (true, but) sometimes seemingly twee wisdom it's easy to offer sometimes without thinking. I wanted to try and engage with struggles honestly, particularly my own with depression, and document those. God is faithful and true, and worthy of all glory, honour and power, forever, but life isn't always a bed of roses!

Also, I wanted to do a singer-songwriter record, but which was reflective of me, as a guy who writes on synths and piano and can't play guitar!

Any plans for a follow up album?

Yes! I'm not far off finished with a new record, "Heart Strings". I think we (myself and producers Ross Gill and Harun Kotch) have two songs to go. I'm pretty excited about it (isn't every musician excited about their new record?!) as it takes what we did with Circles, and pretty much makes everything bigger and bolder. I'm much more comfortable as a writer now with the style and genre I'm working in than I was when I made Circles, and this record is shaping up to be a really good reflection of where I'm at personally and musically right now. So yeah, watch out for that sometime next year.

If you could work with anyone from the music business on your next project, who would it be and why?

Good question. The team I have around me now is really cool, and very talented. I'm pretty happy with how things are right now! I'd love to do a full-length with Julian Kindred one day, if it all came together. He's a top bloke to work with, and his music recommendations have kept me going for a fair while! Maybe one day...Gotta say though I've learnt the value and benefit of being content with where you are whilst looking forward at the same time. It's good to enjoy what we have right now.

What's your song writing process?

Stuff happens. Or it doesn't. It affects me. I write about it. Boom.

Which do you prefer playing live or recording albums?

I love recording. I love the detail that goes in to bringing a song which I wrote in my room at home on a piano up to its full potential. I'm one of those guys who listens to an album trying to find that hidden 5 second snippet of Mandolin that's been hidden on a track by a producer/mix engineer and is only audible through headphones. I love layering sounds and filling tracks with little hooks that get you humming in the shower and annoy you for days.

That said, playing live is cool too. There's nothing better than being on stage with your mates and belting out a bunch of songs, and being able to see a crowd's response.

Whats on your iPod at the moment?

Too much! I'm loving a new worship record by a guy called Cory Asbury from the US. Also loving Club of the Sons (very funky!) and a bunch of bands on Come and Live! Records (Ascend the Hill, So Long Forgotten, Ian Macintosh all have awesome stuff out right now).

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?

Right now? Easy Diver by Killswitch Engage, as long as I have a video iPod!

What does the next year hold for Haydon Spenceley?

Finish "Heart Strings" and hopefully find a label/distribution home for it, videos for a couple of the songs from it, including the title track, some serious mileage touring-wise, and a whole heap of us learning and falling more in love with Jesus. Should be fun!

'Circles' is out now on CD and Download. If you want a free download of the record, head to and tell five friends about the album. Your reward? Priceless.

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