“I’ve been going wild, like the river runs. And I’m afraid that this rambling has only just begun.” So sings Ward Hayden, singer/songwriter of Girls Guns and Glory, on the band’s new album Sweet Nothings (Lonesome Day, 2011). These words, found in the song “Snakeskin Belt,” are an apt introduction to the band itself. Girls Guns and Glory is a celebration of sweet and tasty, fun lovin’ and hard timin’, honky tonk music that is simultaneously casual and complex. The band combines elements of early rock ‘n’ roll, country, and rhythm & blues to deliver its own brand of American Roots music that satisfies like homemade apple pie.
Girls Guns and Glory is the brainchild of Lonesome Day recording artist Ward Hayden. Hayden formed GGG in the Winter of 2005 and within 2 weeks of the groups formation they entered Noise in the Attic Studios to begin a prolific period of recording. Releasing 3 critically acclaimed full-length albums in as many years (Fireworks & Alcohol – 2006; Pretty Little Wrecking Ball – 2007; Inverted Valentine – 2008). Hayden’s original compositions conjure the palpable ache of a crushed heart; they touch on themes of love lost and hope found, and their words alone could be published in anthologies of poetry. Hayden recalls that once he got on stage with GGG, he found he had never felt more comfortable doing anything else. Performing quickly became an addiction, and it is due in part to his efforts on and off stage that GGG is now an internationally touring band, named Independent Artist of the Year at the French Country Music Awards, and two-time winner of both the Roots Act of Year (Boston Phoenix Awards) and Americana Act of the Year (Boston Music Awards). GGG is also the only band of its genre to ever take home the top honors of Act of the Year (Boston Music Awards) and to win the legendary WBCN Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble.
Hayden, who originally hails from Scituate, MA, leads the band on Vocals and Acoustic Guitar. And after full shake up of the line up in 2009, the solidified group that helps him create their sound is a band of Pennsylvania transplants who made their way to Boston to further their musical pursuits: Chris Hersch on Electric Guitar, Michael Calabrese on Drums/Vocals, and Paul Zaz Dilley on Upright/Electric Bass. They are a well-trained group: Hersch and Calabrese went to the New England Conservatory of Music and Dilley attended Berklee College of Music. With the demands of a heavy-touring lifestyle, this is a group that cut its teeth on the road, and their resulting chemistry on stage is enjoyably electric. Hayden is quick to mention that, not only do these guys play their focal instruments with mastery, appreciation, and—on occasion—spirited abandon, each one of them is a multi-instrumentalist.
In another life, Hayden might have become a fisherman or even a marine biologist. He loves the outdoors and has a special affinity for aquatic life and for the solitude that being out on the water, alone with his thoughts, can bring. His other main interest is in collecting vintage clothes and decor. As a boy, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who was a flea market vendor. To this day, looking at the objects he has amassed in his personal collection fills him with a sense of nostalgia. It’s really no wonder that Hayden says he feels most at home surrounded by things from another era, as you get the sense listening to some of his songs that he was transported to his current residence in Cambridge, MA from another time and place where long-fringed leather jackets and white-tailed deer foot lamps were the norm.
The idea of survival, sometimes conveyed by quiet presence, at other times more in-your-face, pervades Hayden’s personal interests and his music. The ocean can be churned up and swirling on one day and calm and placid the next; but every day when you rise, it is there. Your oldest possessions may be scuffed and worn and maybe even a little worse for wear, but their mere presence asserts that they are still here. Likewise, even Hayden’s most gut-wrenching songs about heartbreak have a triumphalist flair. To any of the girls out there that this may apply to: you may have given him something to sing about, but you didn’t get him down for long.
According to Hayden, the band has just begun to scratch the surface of what they can do with their 4th full-length studio release: Sweet Nothings. Hersch stretches out on baritone guitar and Fender Six, Calabrese contributes harmony vocals and a myriad of percussive instrumentation, and Dilley rocks the mellotron. And listen for Sarah Borges (Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles) as she lends her voice to the Hayden-penned duet “1,000 Times.”
For a band that spends much of its time on the road, the up-shot is they love what they’re doing. This is a band that has John Prine sing-a-longs in their primary tour vehicle, a Ford E-350 dubbed “The Road Hawk.” For new fans looking for a conversation-starter: each of the band members has a hawk nickname, which they will probably explain to you if you ask them nicely. Hayden states, “One of the greatest joys of the road has been meeting so many people from so many different walks of life” and he credits the hospitality of GGG’s fans with helping them to get from square one to across the Atlantic Ocean. Hayden says, “Music has been our ticket to see the country and beyond. It’s largely due to the kindness of people we’ve met who’ve housed and fed us and taken us in for the night that’s enabled us to continue our pursuit of creating music and being touring musicians.”
Hayden speaks about the release of the Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Uncle Tupelo, Lemonheads) and Adam Taylor (Sarah Borges, Portugal The Man) produced Sweet Nothings as a rebirth of sorts. For him, it is a reconnection to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll for which he exhumed influences of the past including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard. The album, which has songs both quick and catchy about the simple pleasures in life and slow and sentimental about—what else?—getting your heart ripped out, chewed up, spit out, and pieced back together, is a masterful follow-up to the band’s earlier endeavors.
What would drive someone to leave the comforts of home and the stability of a 9-5 job with a steady paycheck? For Hayden and the other men of Girls Guns and Glory, it’s the pursuit of artistic expression. They hold the goal of creating something that’s at once accessible and full of depth. Who hasn’t stayed too long at the dance hoping that special someone would look their way? Who hasn’t called one last time, even though they knew it was the wrong decision? When Girls Guns and Glory takes the stage they’re there to play their hearts out and capture in song those experiences with genuine honesty and naked emotion. Give Girls Guns and Glory a listen and come see these boys when they’re out on the road. This party has started and this is your open invitation.
Girls Guns & Glory has shared bills with:
Stone Temple Pilots
Southern Culture on the Skids
The Low Anthem
The David Wax Museum
Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles
Hoots & Hellmouth
Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans
Trampled By Turtles
Bobby Bare Jr.
And many many more great artists all over the US and Europe.
Girls Guns & Glory is:
Ward Hayden—Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Paul Dilley—Electric Bass, Upright Bass
Michael Calabrese—Drum Kit, Percussion, Vocals
Chris Hersch—Electric Guitar, Banjo, Vocals