His lyrics stir up images of crowded nights in the city, but remain audibly pastoral. His full-bodied crooner emits wisdom similar to the styles of Fleet Foxes and Elliott Smith. His tranquil vocals, poised lyrics, and softly strummed mandolin age him well beyond his nineteen years. At such a young age, Hayes Peebles already has made quite an imprint on his musical journey, sparking praise in Paper Magazine
's Most Beautiful People list, and becoming somewhat of a muse for Hedi Slimane by the time he was fifteen.
His newest tracks, "Monsters," "Iowa," and "Now" are calm and collected, yet his lyrics such as, "saw some wolves on 96th street, got down on all fours, ripped my clothes off, now I find that I've been running wild, someone pick me up I've had enough" are gut-wrenchingly poignant. Greenwich Village-raised Peebles' has decided to continue his education at Tufts University, so we caught up with him to discuss his musical influences, his future plans, and how he has musically adapted to his new location.
What inspires your music?
For the most part I'm inspired by relatively everyday things, the things that I deal with frequently that leave a mark, I guess. A lot of the time I probably end up using music as a form of communication. A song is an amazing way to say things you could never say in plain language and I think that's part of what inspires me to write, to help myself figure out just what it is I may be thinking or feeling, or what the general 'we' may think or feel. This all sounds incredibly cheesy, but for me, playing and writing music is like speaking a really beautiful language that everyone understands.
You don't sound cheesy at all! Are there any bands you've been following lately?
Just off the top of my head, I think Laura Marling's new record is amazing. I've never done a great job of keeping up with new music though, so I don't have much by way of new groups or releases to talk about. Lately I've been listening to a ton of Simon & Garfunkel.
When you were making these tracks was there anyone you were listening to that inspired the songs?
It's funny how easy it is for influences to sneak into a recording, it's usually not until a week or two after I've finished a tune that I start to hear pieces of what I've been listening to. Both "Now" and "Iowa" sound more like pop songs than any of my other songs, I think, which may have something to do with all the Simon & Garfunkel, but I can't put a finger on it. "Monsters" is a song I wrote about three and a half years ago, I remember at that time I was listening to a lot of Elliott Smith.
Do you feel like your music style has changed due to a change in location?
I think that leaving any place is bound to cause some changes in anyone's creative work. It's not necessarily the concept of a geographical change or even the sense of having a new home that changed my music in this way or that, but more the cultural differences and the new people; all of these things come with new ideas.
Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind these tracks do you typically write from experience?
I think almost all of the songs came from either personal experiences or from other people's experiences that made an impact on me. I draw more inspiration from the things I know or have experienced intimately than anything else. The songs definitely differ in just how closely related to real events they are, but for the most part these songs come from what I've observed, felt etc.
What's your song writing/recording process?
Some people have super interesting ways of writing music, but I tend to just start off by sitting with a guitar and trying to come up with a progression or a riff that appeals to me. Once I've got a basic outline of how the instrumental is going to sound I keep playing it through and singing along with it until I find a vocal melody that I like. After I've got an idea of how each section of the song is going to sound I mess around with the structure and maybe even arrange some parts for other instruments. The last step in the process is writing lyrics, which can take minutes or months depending on the song. As far as recording goes, I tend to work completely alone in long blocks of time, I'm not exactly sure what happens during those hours, but I usually end up with a finished product that I'm satisfied with so I can't complain too much.
You have started to incorporate some new instruments into your music, are these old talents or new things you have picked up?
Mostly new things. Last year I got some coupon filled brochure in the mail advertising an insane Christmas sale on mandolins so I thought I would try one out, not really even with the intent of incorporating it into my music. A few weeks later I wrote 'Iowa' on the mandolin and have loved it since. After 'Iowa' I put a mandolin part in 'Now' and it has become a part of the Peebles instrument family. As I pick up new things out of musical curiosity they slowly get mixed into whatever I'm working on, which is fun.
A few years back you were featured in Paper Magazine and Hedi Slimane became somewhat infatuated with you. What made you decide not to solely focus on your music career?
I was lucky to have some awesome opportunities a few years back, and I think that's a valid question. It was definitely an exciting time and I certainly thought a good deal about heading straight into music. At the end of the day though, as a sixteen year old I wasn't fully ready to take a music career head on. I still play most of the songs I wrote during that period of time, but I think I still had room to grow mentally and musically. Of course, I don't view my decision as an end of anything at all, the past few years have been important for my music and I'm happier with what I'm writing now than ever before. The most important thing to me is that I'm still writing music and have never been more ready take it as far as I can.
Are you a solo performer or do you play with a band?
I'm trying to put a band together currently, but I mostly play solo, which can be a really intense experience. I do some stuff with loop pedals to add some layering every now and then but for the most part I present the songs in their most stripped down forms.
What are your plans for this year—have you thought about making a full album?
I would love more than anything to record a full length LP. Right now I don't have the resources or time to make that happen so I'll probably continue to write as much as possible and to make demos for the songs that really stand out to me. Shows are definitely on the agenda as well, though I wouldn't be surprised if I put out a couple more recordings by the end of the year.
I don't think I'll ever be able to give a straight answer to that question, but one of many favorites is Neil Young's "Live at Massey Hall, 1971."
Keep up with Hayes Peebles at his Myspace.