It’s crazy what can happen in a year’s time.
For College Station’s Hayden Haddock, his crazy year included releasing his first EP, gaining a national following, earning more than 64,000 streams on his newly released single, adding a full band, opening for major names in country music, and so much more.
Looking to make 2019 an even bigger year, Haddock is already preparing new music, with his first full-band show set for mid-February. Hear from Haddock about his crazy year, including releasing his first album, “First Rodeo,” which artist inspired him to pick up a guitar, what he has taken away from opening for major artists, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Hayden Haddock: Growing up, I always listened to older school stuff. George Strait, Randy Travis, Tracy Lawrence, were the main guys I listened to. Some newer school stuff that I like to listen to as well would be guys like Cody Johnson, Jon Pardi, Eric Church; the guys that keep that old school vibe going today.
PC: You picked up guitar after an Eric Church concert when you were 14? What was it about that concert experience that spoke to you so much?
HH: It was just how he performed. Eric Church plays a sweet Gibson, so I play a Gibson nowadays because of that, as soon as I was able to get my hands on one. His performance and just how he rocked out on the guitar really drew me towards it.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
HH: Honestly, I never thought I would be doing this. Even leading up to my first show, I never thought I would be pursuing this as a career. When I played that show, it was kind of just for fun; something my parents set up when we had friends and family coming out. But I guess it was after I played the first song, and everyone actually cheered, and afterwards when people would say, “Hey, you can actually sing a little bit!” I guess human instinct is you like being cheered for and having people tell you you’re good at something, so after that, I thought that if I was good at this, and I like doing it, then here we go!
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “First Rodeo” album?
HH: There was pressure on both ends. It wasn’t any kind of bad pressure, but it’s just like with everything, you don’t want someone to be expecting a bunch out of you, and then you let them down. There had been a lot of people that were waiting on my album to come out, and it took us a little while to get it out to the public. So I think with everyone waiting on it, I didn’t want it to be something that people didn’t expect from me or not think it’s good. Now that it’s out, people had a good reaction to it, so I’m happy with how it all went.
PC: “First Rodeo” is one of the standouts on the album. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
HH: “First Rodeo,” was written by a guy named Dusty Tanner. He pitched it to me, and I loved it! We actually went through- and I don’t want to say completely changed it, but it underwent a little bit of re-writing on my end, and it out great. I thought it fit well on my first album because hopefully, this won’t be my last rodeo.
PC: “She Don’t Know It Yet” has really connected with listeners so far. Can you talk about why you think that song has struck a chord with people the way it has?
HH: That song is actually the single off of the album, and went out to radio on February 1st. I think people are liking that song because everyone sings heartbreak songs and breakup songs and stuff like that, but I think that one has a little bit of a different take than most of them do. Instead of talking about just a straight-up breakup where both people call it quits, I think that song is about not knowing what to say to the other person, or they won’t listen to you, so you just get to that point where you have to get up and leave, which I think everyone at some point in their life goes through. I think it was just a different way to approach a breakup song, and it sat with people well!
PC: What do you hope people take away from listening to the “First Rodeo” album all the way through?
HH: I hope people realize that I’m trying to do by best, trying to do my part to keep that old school, traditional country sound alive. I think nowadays in country music, a lot of that is going away. There’s the group of guys like Cody Johnson that are- I don’t want to say “old” sound to make it sound dated, but that traditional country, fiddle and pedal steel, and not the whole pop-country thing. I hope people have a taste for it, I hope they realize what I was going for, and hopefully I’ll be considered one of those guys that are trying to keep real country music alive in today’s world.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on the “First Rodeo” album? If so, why is it so special to you?
HH: I think it’s a toss-up between “More Than Enough” and “Don’t Bother Calling.” With “More Than Enough,” I really like the instrumentation, I think that song has a really cool vibe. It kind of has a “rock out” vibe to it, but it also has cool pedal steel parts in there.
I like “Don’t Bother Calling” because I like the message behind the song. It’s another one of those heartbreak songs, but I think again, everyone goes through that kind of situation where you go through a breakup, and you’re trying to get over someone, but they call you when they’re lonely, and it’s just a repeating cycle. I think that’s another one of those songs that people can really relate to.
PC: You’ve achieved a great level of success in a short time, earning more than 64,000 streams on “She Don’t Know It Yet” and almost 36,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. What kind of validation does that give you at this early stage of your career?
HH: Watching these numbers grow has been awesome! I think it shows that my music is resonating with people well, and people are liking it. Hopefully there is that taste for that classic country sound. We already have new music that is going to be on its way to the public in the next couple months, I believe. We’re going to be releasing a single, and hopefully we can just keep that up. I have a full band in the picture now, and we have our first full-band show on February 9th. Hopefully things pick up, and a lot of people like to see full-bands more than they do acoustic, so hopefully, more people are going to be coming out and hearing this stuff live. Live music is a whole different experience, and we put on a fun show!
PC: As you’re writing for and recording your second project, are you feeling any pressure to achieve the same or a greater level of success than you earned with “First Rodeo”?
HH: I don’t really feel that much pressure going in to the second project. Everyone always says that your first album is almost like a “practice album,” like even though you’re releasing it, you’re still trying to figure out your sound and what people are going to like from you and what not. Now, I think we have a pretty good idea. So now, we are just going to go in there; I think we have even better songs that we’re going to get in there and record. I’m just going to stick to that classic sound, and hopefully come out with a better project! But no, I don’t feel and pressure, I think it’s going to be great. I’ve been in the studio before now, I couldn’t say that when I recorded the last one, so now I kind of know how everything works.
It’s been good getting to listen back to my album and picking out the little things, like maybe you could go up on the volume of the guitar here, go up on the bass drum here; just little things like that. I think those lessons that I’ve learned will help make the second project even better, like it should be. Every time you release a new album or single or whatever it may be, I think it should always be better than the last.
PC: You have opened for Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and Casey Donahew. What do you take away from those experiences that can help you in your own career/show?
HH: Those were awesome experiences. It’s the little things, even watching them sound check, you just see how they handle themselves, and you learn that it’s not always just screwing around on stage, you have to treat it like a business and take it seriously. It you’re wanting to make it, you have to treat it like that.
I also got to open up for Jake Worthington! I got to talk with him the most. We sat down before our show for about 45 minutes, and just talked about the whole music industry. He was just giving me pointers. All those guys have been great about knowing that I’m a young guy in this business, and the fact that I’ve only been doing this for a year, they’re all very open to talking about the pros and cons to the business. They tell me the kind of people to work with, the kind of people to avoid, and the kind of people to watch out for. The biggest thing they always said was to just have a good support system. I talked with Josh Ward for about 20 minutes, and I think he said about 10 times that 90% of the success in this business comes from having a good support system. That’s family, friends, managers, booking agents; everybody. Whoever’s behind you is who’s going to push you the furthest, because you can only push yourself so much.
PC: What are your plans for 2019?
HH: 2019 is going to be a huge year! I had a pretty big and fast-moving year in 2018, but the biggest thing is we added a band, so now we can go out and play this album full-band and show people that we can do this stuff live. We’ve got some big shows coming up. We’ve got Rodeo Austin, we’re headlining a place called Smiley’s Country Club in Waco, which is a big place where Zane Williams and a lot of those guys play. We’ve got the Wrangler 2019 National Finals Rodeo later in the year, we have a headlining show in Clovis, New Mexico and Curry County Events Center. One of the biggest things is that we’re actually going to go over to Israel and play two shows there!
*All images courtesy of Hayden Haddock and Hayden Haddock Facebook Page*