Ray Guilleminot January 11, 2016
Illustration by N. Friesen
On a cold October afternoon over 20 years ago, I, a first-year college student, was handed a copy of Hayden (Desser)’s debut album, Everything I Long For, and was told that I really needed to listen to it. The reason, my friend told me at the time, was because his lyrics reminded her of the kind of stuff I’d been writing, that I would find someone with a voice like mine – another storyteller.
Back in ‘95, I was listening mostly to the pillars of my adolescence, like Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins, with little to no interest in expanding my musical tastes beyond the soft/loud/soft musings of the grunge era. Their songs were so personal, which attracted me to those bands in the first place.
After my last class for the day, I made my way home and, upon arriving, resigned myself to my room. I loaded the disc onto the tray, pressed Play and put on my headphones before lying down across my bed.
For the next 45 minutes or so, I disappeared.
I was told stories of love and regret, of hope and fear, and the one thing that really stood out for me was how honest and effortless they were.
There was also humour that I didn’t expect, but then again, I’d never taken the time to explore folk music. I mean, compared to what was out there, this was alternative folk. Songs like “Stem” or “Lounging” could be silly yet sweet while songs like “When This Is Over” or “In September” could be sad but strong.
These songs felt really familiar, like putting on a winter coat for the first time in months. These were places you’d visited before, but had forgotten how much you missed them.
I could have used a friend like Lorraine those days, giving cute girls my phone number because I, too, was shy to a fault.
I’d once dated a girl who thought it was harmless fun when guys she was friends with were hitting on her mercilessly despite having me as a boyfriend. Some of them didn’t bother to hold back while I was actually standing right there with her.
My brother and I shared a bunk bed when we were kids.
The parallels were endless.
Once the album ended (or rather, when I thought it had ended with the channel-changing medley), I stood up, called another friend of mine for a ride and was standing at the counter of a downtown music store with my own copy in hand within the hour.
It was love at first listen. And it’s a love that’s lasted all these years later.
I returned my friend’s copy to her the next day. I can’t remember my actual answer to her asking what I thought of it, but I do know I thanked her repeatedly for the introduction to someone who’s become one of my favourite singer-songwriters.
I still have my copy at home to this day, sitting on a shelf with the rest of Hayden’s catalog, and while I’ve accepted the widely-used practice of simply packing everything onto an iPod, nothing compares to loading the disc onto the tray, lying across the couch with my headphones on, and pressing Play.
And disappearing all over again.
Ray Guilleminot is a Winnipeg writer, music nerd and movie buff. He long ago came to terms with the fact that most non-Canadian bands think touring Canada means only playing Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.