Ward Hayden’s musical vision took him and his bandmates around the world, but he finally learned that what he wanted most was right in his backyard.
Ward Hayden and the Outliers have just released their latest album (May 5). “South Shore” is a collection of songs that celebrate the simpler pleasures in life and love, including appreciating your old hometown. In Hayden’s case, that is Scituate.
Back from yet another European tour, last month in Scandinavia, Hayden and the Outliers just played their CD release gig at Soundcheck Studios in Pembroke on a marvelous triple-bill with Aldous Collins and Like Minded Folk, and headliner Jay Psaros (who had his own album release for his new “Long Time Coming.”).
Hayden and the Outliers have a busy slate of shows coming up in the area this summer, including June 10 at the Newburyport Brewing Co. Festival, June 17 at the South Shore Arts Fest in Cohasset and June 24 at Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston, where they’ll open for their fellow South Shore country-rockers Dalton and the Sheriffs. Looking a bit further ahead, Hayden and the Outliers will be at the Marblehead Festival of Arts on July 2, perform at Bridgewater’s Music Alley series on Aug. 26, and then headline City Winery in Boston on Sept. 17.
A blend of rock and twang
The new album, their 10th overall, is a superb combination of rock-with-twang, and some of Hayden’s most concise and evocative songwriting. The title cut is an affectionate rock ode to growing up in an area where “fishing in a cranberry bog” is a treasured memory. “Crazy Love” is an intriguing and effervescent rocker about a romance as undeniable as it is unusual. The singer’s love of his difficult creative process makes “Write a Song” both a view into how songs are written, and why that personal act becomes so addicting. There’s a bit of social commentary with “Things These Days.”
But the first single, and the locally filmed video that is creating a buzz already, is “Breaking Up with My Hometown,” where Hayden examines his youthful ambitions, where he’s been, and how he has come to a new perspective. The video was shot all around Scituate, with Hayden driving a classic car to some of his favorite old (and enduring) haunts.
Hayden is always honest that his relatively new life as a husband, and father to a 2-year-old daughter, shifted his view of the whole quest to be a rock star. He’s quite content to stay close to home and just be Dad, but he is still eager to see his music and his band reach as high as their music can take them. It is just a matter of balance now, making it all work.
Scandinavia trip was eye-opening
“We had been to Scandinavia a handful of times before, but never in March and April like this time,” Hayden said. “It was just a different shade of gray the whole time. I left thinking we might see weather like New England, but it seemed much darker. People told me in January over there the sun is hardly ever out at all. We had great crowds over there, but looking ahead to a lot of regional stuff is nice. Being a father to a 2-year-old is a challenge, especially when you’re away for a couple months.”
Looking back: Rock on with Scituate's Ward Hayden and the Outliers
“They always tell you ‘Write what you know,’ and that was my approach for this album,” said Hayden. “’Hometown’ has gone over quite well here in Scituate. That song was hard for me to write, and I started it many years ago, when I was living in Somerville. At that point, I never knew I would come back, and by the time I finished it I was living here again. I always felt it was hard to leave here because my roots are here, and I think the years of travel have given me some perspective on that.”
Video was nostalgic
“With the video, we were hitting a lot of nostalgic spots around town,” Hayden said. “A lot of my high school friends have seen it, and some have said it brings a tear to their eyes. You never know for sure how something you write and record will be received, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I think, beyond the Scituate references, the song is written to bring out feelings in anyone who ever left home. That’s a pretty universal emotion, the different things you feel.”
While the band name speaks to the rarity of country-rockers from Massachusetts, Hayden always felt he could find the kind of music he liked best and became aware of musicians from the area who were also pursuing twangier styles. The first incarnation of his band – then called Girls Guns and Glory, as an ironic commentary on Western myths – was all Scituate kids. There have been several lineups since then, and the sound has evolved, but Hayden’s songwriting has always been the common thread.
Latest lineup has great chemistry
“Our original Girls Guns and Glory lineup naturally had some chemistry, simply from getting up there onstage for the first time together,” Hayden recalled. “But that lineup could not stand the test of time, as people went off to do different things. With the group we have now – (guitarist) Cody Nilsen, (drummer) Josh Kiggans and (bassist) Greg Hall – I am over the moon. I feel like we stumbled into the perfect lineup.
"It happened organically, maybe by dumb luck, but the chemistry we’ve found is very special. Especially now that we can do longer tours, I’m thrilled to see what I thought was happening in the studio, during all those long months of COVID-19, is actually happening onstage every time we play.”
The newest member of the band is Hall, a Brockton native who now gets at least a song a night to sing, both to spell Hayden and also because he’s just a terrific vocalist too.
Brockton native brought a lot to band
“Greg really was raised on country music, more than anyone I know,” Hayden said with a laugh. “I don’t think you’ll find many 30-year-old guys around here who cite George Strait as their biggest influence. We were out in Los Angeles, and needed a bassist, and our friend Ryan Hommel – who plays guitar with Amos Lee – suggested we try Greg, who was out there. He just fit immediately.
"Greg plays ‘country bass’ as I call it, with good ears and great restraint. I’m used to teaching other musicians about country music and the roots of it all, but Greg knows more than I do. He’s a unicorn we were lucky to find. And after his family left Brockton, his mom bought a horse farm, so he’s got even more country roots now.”
Proof that rock-with-twang, country-rock, Americana or whatever you call it is surging on the South Shore is that June 24 bill at Leader Bank Pavilion, where Hayden and the Outliers join Dalton & the Sheriffs.
“Dalton and the Sheriffs – my neighbors down the street!” Hayden laughed. “It is amazing the fanbase those guys have been able to build, and we are honored to join them that night.”
Panchiko, Lovejoy, Umphrey’s McGee performing locally
THURSDAY: Pianist Laszlo Gardony, one of the area’s jazz treasures, brings his quartet to The Spire Center. Colorado jamband The Runaway Grooms get down at Soundcheck Studios. British rockers Panchiko take over The Paradise Rock Club. Soulman Jesse Dee heats up The Sinclair. Popster Hayley Kiyoko at The House of Blues. Alt-rock from Utah: The Backseat Lovers headline Roadrunner. Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and his trio at The Narrows Center.
FRIDAY: The A-Beez, the soul-funk band fronted by Amy and Aaron Bellamy, warms up Soundcheck Studios. Logic raps at MGM Music Hall. British rockers Lovejoy at Royale. Comedian/actor Frank Santorelli brings his "La Familia" comedy to The Spire Center. Los Goutos roots music at Boston Harbor Distillery. Canadian grunge with Big Wreck at The Paradise Rock Club. Americana music about the outdoors when Jake Swamp and the Pine play at Brighton Music Hall. Six local rock bands, topped by Indelego, perform at The C-Note in a benefit for Seaside Animal Rescue. Hippo Campus brings funk to the season opening of Leader Bank Pavilion. Hard rock with Thrice at The House of Blues. It’s a dance party with Fancy: Queens of Country at The Sinclair. Guitar virtuoso Keller Williams at the Levitate Backyard. Might be worth a road trip to The Cabot Theater in Beverly to catch Bruce Cockburn.
SATURDAY: Draw the Line, the premier Aerosmith tribute act, with Hingham’s own Neil Byrnes, headlines The C-Note. One of New England’s best blues acts, Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones, takes over The Spire Center. Get an early start for the 1-6 p.m. outdoor show at The John Alden Sportsman’s Club featuring Boston Soul Collective and Dennis Brennan’s White Owls. Folk legend Eric Andersen at Club Passim. Jamband Umphrey’s McGee opens the season for The Cape Cod Melody Tent. Pop-punk covers when Y’all Out Boy arrives at The Paradise. Bang Yongguk – a South Korean rapper – tops the bill at Big Night Live. Country dude Walker Hayes at Leader Bank Pavilion. Folk-punk with AJJ at The Sinclair. Brown Eyed Women – a female Grateful Dead tribute – at Soundcheck Studios. Detroit rapper Peezy at Brighton Music Hall.
SUNDAY & BEYOND: Sunday night has alt-rockers Inner Wave at Brighton Music Hall; Puerto Rican rapper Eladio Carrion is at The House of Blues. Monday night, Stevey Burke lights up the Levitate Backyard. Tuesday is packed: Rock’s Charlie Puth at Leader Bank Pavilion; Mali traditional music with Tinariwen at The Sinclair; 20-year-old pop and internet star Benson Boone at Brighton Music Hall; and edgy popster Ava Max – who gave us the 2018 hit "Sweet But Psycho" – takes over The Paradise. June 8 has the sublime talents of The Wood Brothers, with Shovels and Rope opening, at Roadrunner; Trombone Shorty raises heck at The Cape Cod Melody Tent; and The Pixies rock MGM Music Hall. June 9 has bluesman Mark Hummel at The Spire Center; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler bring their comedy tour to MGM Music Hall; and Americana chanteuse Mary Gauthier is at Club Passim. June 10 is big, with Bryan Adams at the TD Garden; blues princess Shemekia Copeland at The Narrows Center; and John Mellencamp’s solo tour at The Wang Theatre.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Scituate's Ward Hayden and his band have a full schedule on tap