Love & music: Meet the hat-happy iFest blues rocker who almost gave it all upfor his scientist wife
Amongst the crowded, closed-off downtown Houston streets of iFest, people scrambled to catch Latin fare. But nestled near City Hall, Houston staple Hadden Sayers and his band rocked out their chill blues rock just as the afternoon breeze started to pick up on Sunday.
The majority of the audience was obviously devoted fans who have known Sayers from his previous work. The Sugar Land native has been making blues music since the 1990s, but he took a big career move (and an initial step back) by relocating to Ohio to support his wife's career (she's a scientist and had the opportunity to work with a world-renowned cancer researcher in Columbus, Ohio). Eventually, he was able to recreate a band with professional recruits — drummer Tony McClung and keyboardist Dave DeWitt — and a little help from his uncle and bassist Mark Frye.
They seemed to be having a jam session, but in front of a crowd of intrigued spectators.
"I was performing as a guest guitarist for Ruthie Foster's band in Austin, another talented blues musician," Sayers tells CultureMap. "They were filming a live DVD and the president of the label liked a song that I wrote for her and that's where it started. Blue Corn Music is actually a Houston-based Sony subsidiary record label."
Hard Dollar dropped almost exactly one year ago. "We do already have a follow-up in the works," Sayers says. "All the songs are ready, but there's no title yet."
Hadden Sayers Band could be described as a cross-genre band, though if you witness one of their live sets, their blend is matched with precise instrumentation and timing that will sneak on you with crafted, smooth transitions. Sayers' roots are deep in blues and southern rock, though his recent time in Ohio greatly inspired an Americana sound.
" 'Take Me Back To Texas' — the first song off the album — was the first song that I wrote when I moved," Sayers says. "That's where the southern influence is from but since we're signed to an Americana label, Ruthie's folk and gospel contribution was the catalyst of the album. It's also about close friends who have passed away and life experiences."
Their iFest performance started off with a slamming guitar intro and a raw vocal from Sayers himself. The song was "Crush On You" and it caught the crowd by surprise. It also highlighted the talents of McClung and DeWitt. Throughout an hour-long set, Sayers repeated his pleading lyrics — but that's what the blues is all about right?
They were a joy to watch as the quartet had a respectable relationship showcased on stage and a relaxed form of performing. They seemed to be having a jam session, but in front of a crowd of intrigued spectators.
Uncle and nephew matched in their Ray-Ban Wayfarers, but Sayers stood out front and center with his signature fedora and bowling shirt.
Extended amounts of guitar solos made some songs seem like they were 10-minutes long. Sayers playfully strummed his Fender Stratocaster non-stop just like any pro, then promoted Hard Dollar shortly after, shouting out, "Heck yeah it's on vinyl!"
"Back To The Blues" the duet featuring Ruthie Foster, switched to a jazz-sounding track that was almost all instrumental halfway through. In between songs, Sayers entertained the audience with personal anecdotes and the crowd started to let loose with spontaneous slow-dancing to easy-listening "Sweet Texas Girls" and "Trippin' Down To Mexico." Frye had an impressive flute solo, while Sayers multi-tasked and helped pluck his bass. Uncle and nephew matched in their Ray-Ban Wayfarers, but Sayers stood out front and center with his signature fedora and bowling shirt.
"It's a really cool vibe here," Sayers says. "We've been coming for a long time now and it's nice to see old friends and other acts."
Sayers has an entire summer booked with tour dates. "We try to free up any time to play festivals so we are very fortunate to have a lot of upcoming shows," he says. "The tour's been going good."