Aiden Hayward is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter and multi-instrument musician from Cambridge, MD.
Hayward started performing when he was very young, in school band, chorus, and talent shows in elementary school through high school and some in college. It has not been until the last year, however, that he started performing at open mics. When we touched on performing for an audience, Hayward said he still gets nervous when he performs. Then, “I realized that if this is what I want to do, I have to believe in myself. I told myself I really want to give people an experience. And if they are struggling, maybe I can help them as I struggle through my own nerves. Then it becomes mutually beneficial!”
So what instruments does this talented young man play, and how did he start? “I started on the drums when I was around 5.” Since then, he has picked up the guitar and bass, the piano and the organ, and is starting to learn the banjo. He recently performed an original song to the ukelele at the Dorchester Center for the Arts (Arts Center) Open Mic, explaining that he was just learning the ukelele. The night that he hosted the Art Center’s Open Mic, he also showed a facility and ease around the soundboard, which he learned from his father.
The music that Hayward has performed at Tuesday Open Mics (ongoing through April) at Arts Center surprisingly harks back to the ’60s – a great favorite with the crowd. Asked how a 20-year-old is interested in music that is 60 years old, Hayward notes that he started getting into the early Beatles while in high school. “I started digging around in vinyl shops and Good Will record bins and discovered John Denver, Jim Croce and Croce’s lead guitarist Maury Muehleisen, and James Taylor and Carole King. “ It doesn’t hurt that he can hit the harder, higher notes of early Beatles songs with apparent ease.
Asked if he has any current favorites, Hayward says that he leans toward indie players like Noah Kahan, Ocean Alley and Rex Orange City who play “lots of songs I would describe as slower, more mellow. I find their music a way of dealing with sad emotions because they also cheer you up and are uplifting. Songs like this can turn my mood around quickly! For instance, James Taylor’s music sends a message that no matter what it is, it doesn’t have to define you; you can get over it.” Hayward notes that the first time he heard Taylor sing “Fire and Rain,” it “struck a chord. I could hear emotion in the lyrics – all the things he went through – dealing with heartbreak after heartbreak, but the chorus reminds you that you can come out the other side.”
In addition to Open Mic at Dorchester Center for the Arts, Hayward can be found at Blue Ruin and Lil’ Bitta Bull where he performs in their regular karaoke sessions. He also plays at nursing homes – “I just call them and tell them I play guitar and piano, and the residents love it” – and at any other opportunities that he can find. He has played at Palm Beach Willies on Taylor Island (currently closed for the season), Old Salty’s in Fishing Creek and C Street in St. Michael’s, and at open mics in Easton, Chestertown and Cult Classic in Stevensville. MD.
Going forward, Hayward would love to play in a band and is always on the lookout for bandmates when he sings or plays out. “I prefer meeting people face-to-face rather than social media, and open mics provide that opportunity,” he says.
In looking for others to play with, Hayward says that he would like to find others whose writing and playing is based in music theory. which he picked up in 11th grade. He explained “music theory” as based in a shared language around creating music. “You can say ‘go back to the bridge,’ or talk about ‘inversions’ and everyone understands. It’s just easier when people know about music theory.”
In case you, like me, aren’t familiar with music lingo, an inversion is when a chord or interval is rearranged so that the original bottom note becomes an upper note. Britannica says, “An interval (such as c’ – f’) and its inversion (f’ – c’) are complementary; together they form an octave. A three-note chord (triad) can be inverted twice from its original, or root, position. “ Got that?
Currently, Hayward and Ceshini Simmons [ December 18, “The Cambridge Spy,” “From Italy Cambridge, the Musical Journey of Ceshini Simmons, https://cambridgespy.org/2023/12/18/from-italy-to-cambridge-the-musical-journey-of-ceshini-simmons/ ], a piano-playing singer/songwriter who also performs regularly at the Arts Center, are exploring collaborating on writing and playing. Both are equally capable at cover songs and originals, and both are largely self-taught. They both perform regularly, individually, at the Arts Center’s Open Mic, and they both express excitement over the possibility of working together.
The Dorchester Center for the Arts Open Mic night welcomes anyone interested in performing on a first-come, first-up basis, from 6pm to 9pm. Open Mics welcomes all levels of talent and cover songs as well as original music. Often players do pick ups, providing backup for the main performer. Hayward and Simmons say that Open Mics everywhere are welcoming, friendly and helpful.
Tammy Vitale has spent many years of her life regularly visiting the Eastern Shore, and moved to Cambridge in late 2023. An artist herself, she has fallen in love with all the facets of art available in Cambridge/Dorchester County, and wants the rest of the world to get to know and love the arts and artists of this area as much as she does. If you would like to share your creative passion with Vitale, send her an email: [email protected], and put “ arts/Cambridge Spy” in the subject line.