Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Andrew Hyatt started out performing in Christian rock bands before he released his first EP, ‘Never Back Down’ in 2015, winning attention for his mix of country and rock influences.
Since then he’s released a further six EPs – most recently 2022’s ‘Four Good Years’, which was nominated for the Canadian Country Music Awards Album of the Year earlier this month – as well as his 2017 debut full-length album, ‘Iron and Ashes’. He’s also toured alongside artists including Dallas Smith, Dean Brody and Tim Hicks, and last year took home the CCMA Rising Star Award after being nominated in 2021.
I recently caught up with Andrew to talk about the EP and award nomination, his current Canadian country radio single ‘Still Somethin”, plans for the rest of 2023, how he approaches his songwriting and more.
For those who may not have heard your music before, how would you describe your sound and your influences?
Yeah, I mean, influence wise, I grew up playing everything from Christian rock to punk rock. I was kind of all over the map there. Wherever there was music in my hometown, that’s kind of what I gravitated towards. The live show – I mean, we play country music, but we tend to lean a little more rock. And then there’s kind of a duality in what I do where every time I release a full band record, I also release a stripped down sort of Americana record. And then we put them out as like an A side and B side on vinyls. And those are really just all the songs that I’ve written that don’t have a home at country radio or at country playlists. But they’re near and dear to my heart. So that’s kind of it. It’s a little bit of both. Yeah, we like to get sweaty on stage. And then we like to get sad with acoustic guitars [laughs]. It’s kind of both things.
That idea of the double records is really interesting – was there anything in particular that led you to take that approach?
Yeah, so I think how that started was when I was in my late teens, early 20s, I had been in the same band for years. And all of those guys, we grew up in a very Christian kind of sphere, all of us growing up. And all of those guys got married at like 19 and 20 – there was five of us in a band, and four out of the five, me being the fifth did not get married [laughs]. So I had kind of switched from playing in a rock band to playing just with an acoustic guitar. And I started making those records. And that first record that I made, actually is what got me a record deal, my first country record deal.
And then, I just kind of fell in love with the songs that connected the most with people. We put a song out called ‘She Ain’t You’ years ago. And that song, it was kind of the reason why I have a career today, and it was the first time I had released anything that was super stripped down. And to this day, I think it’s still one of my most frequently streamed songs. It sits in the top five streamed songs for me, across the board. So I saw that connection. And I was like, “Well, that’s what I naturally do on my own”. Like, if I’m left to my own devices, what comes out is that. So yeah, just talking with my now label 604 Records, I just said, “Hey, there’s this thing, I feel like I have two sides of the same coin. And I would like to chase both of those.”
Do you find that taking that approach brings out certain elements of the songs in the different versions?
Yeah, I mean, sometimes I prefer the stripped down versions. A lot of times, we’re recording totally separate songs. But the last single that we put out was a song called ‘Four Good Years’. And I love the full band version, it slays. But then we put out an acoustic live performance of it, and I actually prefer it. And I think part of that is just because I sang that song so many times before we did the acoustic version, whereas before we did the full band version, I might have sung it 30 times. Whereas by the time we get around a year later to doing the other one, I’d sang it a thousand times. So sometimes there’s just a little bit more connection to the song or emotive energy.
I also wanted to ask you about ‘Still Somethin” which has just gone to country radio in Canada – can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yeah, so this song was a pitch actually. And, when it came in, it’s Morgan Wallen and Mitchell Tenpenny, and Andy Albert, I believe. There’s a lot of great writers on this record. And I heard it, and I loved it right away. I was like, “The energy is everything I love about music”. It just really felt nostalgic to me. I feel in my life, whether it was literally sitting there for the first time getting a tape player for Christmas and then sitting up for hours by the radio waiting for your favourite songs to make those, I feel like maybe I’m the last generation of that. And then, you know, driving around in a car with a girl that you are head over heels for in high school, you just got your licence, it’s kind of your first little taste of freedom. There’s all of the soundtrack moments in my life and this song really speaks to that nostalgia for me. And then I love what we did with it, we took it and we kind of made it our own and it rips live. Like it’s so fun, big drums, big guitars, big gang vocals, and people responded to it live. So we decided we were going to make a go of making it a single.
You’ve released several EPs now as well as an album – how do you find the process of narrowing down what songs you want to include when you’re putting new music out?
Yeah, I think it really depends on the project. This project was especially hard for me. I was coming out of two years of vocal problem, and I had just had vocal surgery. So not only had I not I been writing much, because I was so focused on rebuilding my voice when we started recording that record but also, I just wasn’t sure what my voice was going to do, because it didn’t feel like my own at the time. So ‘Four Good Years’, that song, once I decided – that was the first song I was like, “this is going to be on the record”. And it kind of set the pace, it set the tone for everything else. Everything else just kind of fell into place after that, because once you kind of have that anchor crack, you go, “Okay, well, this is the vibe, this is the tone of the record, this is what I want to chase. And if this is going to be the first song, everything else has to be as good or better than this song”. And I feel like we did a really good job on the record, covering all of our bases, getting different feels. Song to song [it] sounds fairly unique, which is a nice thing.
And then the other thing that was a little bit more difficult about picking songs for this record and making this record was because I had just had vocal surgery, I built a studio in my basement, and I cut all the vocals at home on this record, because I didn’t want to be having anxiety attacks while paying however many hundreds of dollars an hour for studio space and an engineer. So it was a bit more of a learning process on this record. And I’m super grateful for it because it also allowed me to sing. I could sing for 45 minutes, and then listen back and walk away, come back, punch whatever I wanted, make sure that I felt really good about all the vocal takes. And it really comes across in this record.
Was there anything else you learned from making this record that you’ll take forward into other projects in the future?
Yeah, I mean, I think more than anything, at the time, I kind of looked at all these songs and I was like, “I don’t know, if they have a home at radio, I don’t know if radio is going to love these songs. I don’t know if streaming is going to love the songs, but I love them.” And I kind of took a shot on this record just making exactly the record that I wanted. And it seems to be paying off in terms of response from the fans. This record, actually, as of yesterday, which blows my mind, was nominated for Album of the Year in Canadian country music, which is a huge honour for me. I still haven’t quite processed it because I’ve been out here working and then also sick, so I’ve been sleeping all day and then out all night.
But yeah, I just think it’s been a valuable lesson in doing what you do until what you do becomes relevant, and eventually that’ll be recognised, or at least you hope it will be instead of chasing. You know, sometimes in the music industry, there’s a lot of outside voices saying, “Well, this is what’s hot right now, we need to do this,” or “it needs to be more like this or more like this”. It’s like, “I don’t want to do that. I just want to make music that I want to make.” And if that’s relevant, great. And if not, then well, at least I’m gonna die on my own terms. You know what I mean?
I was going to ask you about the CCMA nominations – congratulations by the way! Obviously it’s still very fresh, but what was your reaction when you found out?
It’s kind of funny. Yesterday, because I got so sick a couple days ago – it hit me, I’ve been going for four months straight and just have not been sleeping or eating properly because I’ve been on the road. And I had my phone on Do Not Disturb because I was sleeping in and then I just forgot it. So like I woke up, I made breakfast, I’m like hanging out. Just kind of taking it really slow. And then I went to get in the shower, started the shower. And then I went to turn music on my phone and I saw I had like 36 missed messages and calls. And the first thing I did was I called my producer back, who I just saw I had missed a call from him. And everybody was flying out yesterday because they were all here in Calgary, and he goes “oh man”. He’s like “man, did you hear the news?” And my brain instantly goes to bad because everybody’s been flying. So then I’m panicking. I’m just like, “oh God, is everybody okay?” And he’s like, “no, no, it’s good news”. I was like, “what is it man?” Like, “oh, you’ve been nominated for Album of the Year”. And I was like, “That is insane to me”.
You know, it’s a huge, huge honour because also it’s a panel. It’s a panel vote. So it’s not like the voting system where every label gets votes based on the amount of employees they have, which can make it hard to tell what’s authentic or not, not that I’m taking away from anybody or anything. But it’s really nice when it’s a panel of peers plus other things that decide it. So, so yeah, just it feels awesome. And I’m very excited about it.
Fingers crossed! You’ve mentioned touring and being on the road – how’s that been going? Are there any songs you’re particularly enjoying playing live at the moment?
Yeah, I mean, ”Four Good Years’ has been awesome. ‘Still Somethin”s been awesome. We have a song called ‘Nights This Long’ that’s been killing. We got a record – we’ve actually got two records sitting in the can right now. And I’ve got a song called ‘All For One’ that’s kind of a more stripped down song. That song has just been… I’ve never seen such a natural connection from people. It’s been overwhelming. So really looking forward to putting that out once we get ‘Still Somethin” off the ground and just let it do its thing at radio. We’re going to release the acoustic song. And yeah, I just feel like I’m in a good place where I just am head down, working, doing what I love doing. And other than that I got to start listening to my body a little bit more when it says it’s time to sleep and it’s time for water and a little less whiskey [laughs]. But other than that, you know, that’s a cycle that I’m sure not everyone has figured out, myself included.
I also wanted to ask you a bit about your approach to songwriting. Do you have a typical way that you write or does it vary depending on what you’re doing?
I think there’s a couple of different different approaches for me. I’m not great at writing about nothing. Like some writers can just sit down, they can pick a topic, and they can build this story in their own mind, and they can make these beautiful songs out of nothing, which I think comes with a lot of co-writing. For me, I really love to write from a place that I’ve been. It’s like if I can put myself back in that moment, which is a catch 22 because sometimes I will bury myself, I’ll make sure that I hit rock bottom so that I can write songs. So I’m learning not to do that as much. But yeah, I think that’s probably my process, just go as hard as I can until I until I have close to a breakdown [chuckles], and then in that darkness, I tend to find the music that I want to write because it makes me sit still for a minute and really focus on what I do. So yeah, I’m trying to work out a better process [laughs] and I’m doing therapy and all that stuff to just make sure that I’m taking care of myself. But as it stands right now, that’s sort of where I find music.
What’s still on the bucket list for you in terms of places you’d want to play, people you’d want to work with and so on?
Yeah, so I feel like Canada wise, I’ve kind of knocked off [laughs]. It’s weird, I was talking to my management team. and we’re setting a new round of goals, because most of my favourite venues in Canada and the biggest ones that I’ve wanted to play, I’ve now played them. I’ve played with a lot of my heroes in Canada, which is great. Now I kind of would like to move into the States and into the UK. It would be nice. I’ve had a little bit of love in the UK, but it’d be great to get out there and do that and see what happens. I know Canadian country is thriving over there right now – Tyler Joe Miller, Jess Moskaluke, Gord Bamford, all those guys doing really well. So yeah
What does the rest of this year look like for you? I know you’ve got some festival dates coming up – are those going to be the main focus and then looking towards releasing new music>
Yeah. So I’m finishing up a record, basically the next two months I’m on the road between studio time and a sprinkled date here and there. And then I’m also just really focusing on writing right now. My goal now is to just get ready for the next record. We’ve got six songs in the can. So we’re going to need a bunch more sooner than later. So I really just want to have a plethora of songs written so that I can pick the best and go from there. So it’s just like cutting vocals. I’m kind of trying to figure out a publishing deal right now. So just kind of chasing that a little more on the business side. I’ve been directing music videos for a bit as well – that’s kind of like a little side passion project of mine. Anything to do with like, video and photography is something that feeds my soul. Yhe more music becomes a job, the more that that stuff becomes kind of my joy. Yes. So that’s kind of it. You know, I thought at one point that I was going to have a pretty chill summer, but I have not stopped. So it’s always the way, that I go, “Oh, it’d be nice to have a little bit of downtime and see my family and whatnot” and you know, I haven’t seen anybody [laughs].
Can you tell us about the new music yet? Is it going to be similar to ‘Four Good Years’ or has it evolved on from that project?
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So the big difference is this record, ‘Four Good Years’, we had cut remotely, just because of the way that things were at that time. You know, we had cut everything in separate rooms, like nobody was ever together at the same time, it was just all sent back and forth. Whereas this next record that’s coming out, we all got together in a studio, and we cut it live off the floor, which is the way that I love to do it. I prefer to do it that way, just because I like being part of that energy. So yeah, I’m excited for that. It has a bit of a different vibe, and some great, great players on it. You know, there’s nothing better than sitting with a bunch of absolute weapons in a studio and just listening to them take an acoustic track that I have a s***ty vocal and a s***ty guitar on [laughs] just to get the idea down, them listen to it, and then that song come to life. So I’m really excited about that.
Lastly – I know this is super hard for a songwriter, but what song do you wish you could have written.
Oh. There are so many of those. But I would say right now… that’s a good question. I think my go to would be ‘Like Jesus Does by Eric Church. I think that’s such a beautiful, beautiful thing, especially with my background. You know, I’m not exactly the the example of how I grew up anymore. But I love that analogy of she loves me like Jesus does, because what a great way to describe an all encompassing love, right, if you grew up that way, so when I heard that line, I was like, “Man, what a way to say it.”
Andrew Hyatt’s latest EP, ‘Four Good Years’, is out now on 604 Records.