Ambient Multi-Instrumentalist and Producer John Hayes Shares New Album, ‘Beautifully Lost Mind’
November 11, 2022 BY George Chammas
Today, Denver-based multi-instrumentalist and producer John Hayes is proud to share his expansive new record, Beautifully Lost Mind, via Nettwerk. The ten-song odyssey explores the depths of sanity through subtle ambient soundscapes, muted pianos, and layers of synthesizers.
Hayes expands upon the album’s concept:
“The main theme for Beautifully Lost Mind is quite simply, the idea of losing your mind. We have this general idea of when someone says ‘they’ve lost their mind’ that they are insane or have gone crazy in a negative way. In this case though, the concept is more centered on being at peace with your mind and your thoughts and flowing with them. The idea of being lost in your thoughts but also, having and awareness of that ‘lost’ feeling and being at peace with it. A lot of the ideas and songs on this album were written during the peak of lockdowns and I could certainly feel this ‘lostness.’ Instead of trying to fight that feeling though, I just sort of accepted it. There is something really beautiful about that surrender. When we stop trying to fight our thoughts and need to be grounded to reality, it can open the doors to a lot of new ideas and be quite a beautiful thing.”
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John Hayes is a multitalented composer and producer originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. With a childhood spent playing classical piano and a unique understanding of production, he makes rich, beautifully minimal ambient and neoclassical music recalling the icy environment he grew up in and conveying a spectrum of profound emotion. He is now preparing to release his fifth studio album Beautifully Lost Mind, a work of finely tuned piano music inspired by the solitude of lockdown.
While growing up in Minneapolis John was exposed to Chopin and Beethoven thanks to his parents’ love for classical music. When he was old enough, they took him to see the local orchestra, where John was transfixed by the experience of listening to a complete symphony. He learned piano from an early age, sitting through lessons every day after school, but he was less interested in rehearsing the same standards over and over than he was in working out theme songs he heard on TV, from films like Lord of the Rings. He would often draw the ire of his teachers. Eventually he quit lessons and began teaching himself.
When he was old enough John discovered Sum41, Linkin Park and later hip-hop acts like MF DOOM and Gang Starr. He spent much of his teen years producing hip-hop beats for aspiring rappers from his college. Among his most crucial influences are Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon — who comes from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi from John. The way both these artists could convey emotion while also experimenting with form was a major inspiration for John, who would later explore a similar approach in his own work.
After graduating, John lost his best friend to cancer when he was just 23. Having made music as a hobby his entire life, John suddenly felt a renewed urge to pursue a career in music, writing compositions as a way of processing his grief. It was a difficult time, leaving John with a feeling of abandonment and melancholy that still finds its way into his music today.
Until then he had never thought about releasing his own music, partly because he assumed there was no market for modern classical like he was making. Then one day he discovered Nils Frahm, a likeminded pianist and experimental composer from Germany. A world of possibility opened up, giving John all the encouragement he needed to record his first release.
His debut album By the Woods arrived in 2018, followed by The Last Best Place in 2020. Two collaborative albums came next, the electronically minded Borealis with Maxy Dutcher and the gorgeously spacious Du Nord with Elskavon. Through collaborations and solo work John established a truly unique sound influenced as much by ambient musicians like Brian Eno as it was by the sparsely populated landscapes of Minnesota. Before lockdown John was employed as Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport’s resident pianist, reinstating a connection between airports and ambient music that dates back to Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports.
Though he’s now based in Denver, John recorded Beautifully Lost Mind in Minneapolis, while the pandemic had much of the world stuck inside. As he began writing, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, prompting protests around the world. Isolated and surrounded by a planet in turmoil, John learned to appreciate the strange beauty of his own mental instability, which eventually gave his new album its name. It came out as some of his most emotionally fraught music to date, a work of tense piano and meticulous production that captures a unique perspective on the world into which it was born.
1. Beautifully Lost Mind
4. Almost Amen
5. Sweet Solitude
7. Human One
8. I Feel At Home Here
9. View Theory