Auriol Hays is undoubtedly one of South Africa's best vocalists. She has a beautiful voice and down-to-earth persona that is always a breath of fresh air. ZAlebs caught up with Auriol for a chat to find out more about her upbringing, the themes of her music and what she has in store for the rest of the year.
Q: For those who first see you live, or listen to your music for the first time; one of the remarks that we hear constantly is "wow, what a voice!" Have you trained as a vocalist? Tell us about your upbringing and how you got into music.
Auriol Hays: My upbringing? Hmm, I am very attached to my family, my mother especially. She does the usual things parents do. She spies on me on Twitter and then asks me all kinds of questions about my "activity" haha! I have a small circle of friends and family who I annoy and harass for food!
I wish I were a trained vocalist! At best I had a three-month stint with Tina Schouw a few years back. She is an extraordinary CT based jazz singer and songwriter. I remember how she tried to reassure me that my voice was enough and above all I should have fun... I only learnt that lesson years later...
Q: 'Behind Closed Doors' was a great debut album - what is the story behind the album name?
Auriol Hays: Trust me the album name is not as salacious as it seems! Most of the album was literally recorded behind closed doors - in a bedroom or lounge. Only 3 tracks were recorded in a professional studio. Behind Closed Doors also refers to the interesting journey from obscurity to obtaining a record deal. Also, I was virtually a hermit when the album was recorded. It was literally my coming out...as not even my granny knew I could sing. It did come as a shock to some family members.
Q: Who and what are your musical influences? Which artists, past and present, do you look up to?
Auriol Hays: I love the Jazz Greats - Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughaun, Anita O' Day and Nina Simone. I am a big Radiohead and Ben Harper fan. I call Ben Harper my husband and took my stalker tendencies a step further than most when I wrote a song for him! I know how that must sound... On the flip side it is the happiest song on the album! It's called 'With You'. I know... I should see a doctor...
Q: You have worked with some great backing and session musicians. Tell us about your backing band.
Auriol Hays: My band are consummate musicians. What I love most about my band is that they can bring the house down without me! Usually they play a song by themselves. That's important as I want my audience to hear what they are capable of individually. Fabian Baartman is my pianist and the backbone of the band. He always manages to blow my mind as he is so innovative on the keys. Andre Webb is my bassist and is known to make the funniest jokes (most of which occur in some church!). Keegan Williams is the drummer and is Mr Popular as he is always talking to someone somewhere! He also happens to be the hungriest musician I have ever come across. Jokes aside, they are professional and always do more than I could ever ask..
Q: Your second album, 'Call It Love' is a very personal listen. Tell us about the themes and concept of the album.
Auriol Hays: The album follows the arc of a relationship from beginning to end. Some of the songs are deeply personal as I was in the midst of a divorce as I penned some of the songs. Music is very cathartic and helped me heal in a way no amount of therapy could. A friend once said, "Your music is perfect for the day after Valentine's!" At the end of the album (and this heralded in by the hidden track) the groundwork has been laid for something new. All of life is cyclical after all and I wanted my audience to know that they can heal from anything.
Q: If you could open for any artist, who would it be and why?
Auriol Hays: Aside from my future husband Ben Harper? I can't really say as there are so many amazing musicians out there. Anyway, I like being surprised so will just wait to see what will come my way..
Q: What are you getting up to for the rest of 2013. Do you have any tours or video releases on the cards?
Auriol Hays: I have a few music videos planned and we are touring with the Nina Simone show. We would like to bring that to Johannesburg and Durban. Then there's also the 'Call It Love' show we would like to stage.
Q: If you could offer advice for any aspiring singer who wants to follow in your footsteps, what would it be?
Auriol Hays: Simple: Don't give up.
"Music is the last true voice of the human spirit. It can go beyond language, beyond age, and beyond color straight to the mind and heart of all people." Ben Harper