Guest post from AWAL
Resumes have never been a hallmark of the artist life (if only because managers have the one-sheets covered). For sessions players, music directors and background singers, however, track record means everything. Hayden Maringer’s and Sean Michael Murray’s read like a laundry list of successes—NCAA March Madness theme song, Demi Lovato music director, J Lo guitarist, a lead role in Rent and Green Day’s American Idiot production. They watched, firsthand, major operations take shape and massive stars spread their gospel. Lots of lessons merged to create a game plan when the two multi-talents came together.
Last year, with the guidance of former group member Josh Devine (One Direction), Evaride formed and quickly took flight. “Heartless,” their debut release, scored over three-million streams in no time. The pop rock follow-up, “What’s It All For?” dug deeper into the anxieties a life of creation can bring. Their next single, set to drop next week, showcases both earworm choruses and a northward moral compass: Maringer and Murray want to prove that building momentum without risking body and mind is more than a shot in the dark, that anything can happen when smart work meets hard work. Get to know the band breaking stigma with big hooks and everyday hustle.
First off, appreciate you both for taking time to dig into these questions. Each of you has experience contributing to major projects and witnessed them flourish firsthand. When you think back, what's a concrete lesson you walked away with that have applied to Evaride?
Hayden: Working in the industry for a long time and playing for many artists, I was able to see a roadmap that most artists never experience. I was part of their journey through their careers, which all were at different levels. I was there with Bebe Rexha playing in a small bar for 12 people trying to get a station to play her single. I was there when Jennifer Lopez played at the Billboard Music Awards and American Idol. I was able to be a part of the hard work and see what it really takes to make it in today’s industry.
Sean: One concrete lesson is to be professional at all times. It's not pretty when someone makes something personal or takes something personally when it's meant to be handled professionally. The business is too small to burn any bridges and at the end of the day it is called the "music business.” Always keep your head held high and allow your talent and character to rise above.
Relatedly, you have probably each seen the high highs and the low lows that can come with global success. “What’s It All For?” tackles a question that’s easy to gloss over during the day-to-day grind. Have you guys reached mutual clarity about the answer to that question?
Hayden: I think every single person at some point wonders, “What’s It All For?” It truly is the million-dollar question and one I don’t think we will get answered in our lifetime. Or maybe the answer is in front of us this whole time. I will say without family, friends, and love I’d definitely wonder what’s it all for.
Sean: As far as the answer to "What's It All For," I don't think we will ever have real clarity until we move on to another life or meet the man above to get the answers we truly seek. But what I can tell you is there is mutual clarity on living life to the fullest, not taking yourself so seriously all the time, enjoying friends and family and experiencing and creating moments that people will remember, that will last a lifetime.
Just two songs in and it’s already clear narrative drives your pop structure, your swelling rock moments. What stories, either personal or generational, do you hope to bring more visibility to? Some of your music subtly grapples with mental health, anxiety.
Hayden: Our music definitely explores mental health, life, love, and we really try to write each song with a clear message and meaning. At the same time we have some new songs we are writing that are feel-good and fun songs. Our goal with every song we release is for it to truly captivate someone and be therapeutic in any way. Music is the best form of therapy.
Sean: Being in this industry, and I'm sure many other industries too, the pressures we face being in the public eye, the pressure to always be better than your last song, that’s tough. We feel we've barely skimmed the surface, but look at the greats. Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley, Whitney Houston, Chester Bennington, Michael Jackson and Prince to name a few… The list goes on and on. It's a real crisis the world deals with, not just America. Mental health and anxiety are real issues and one of our many goals is to make people more aware of the situation and not be afraid to face it or hide from it. Too many people keep it bubbled up inside until it's too late. Other than mental health and anxiety, part of our message is to truly reach everyone and maybe help them know we all go through tough times and that they aren't alone. Life isn't an easy thing.
Was a band of your own always the end goal? You each were able to make money and have memories helping other artists realize their vision, putting in the reps to one day do your own thing. Those industry backchannels can be a bit foggy from the outside looking in—what would you say to artists and musicians hoping to break into the music direction and sessions scenes?
Hayden: For me, a band was always the goal. I always wanted to be the lead guitarist of a band and play my guitar to fans who genuinely love what I’m doing. I truly believe everything is meant for a reason and this band came together very organically and at the perfect time in my life. Music direction, being a session musician for so long, it gave me the insight, drive, and the knowledge to do it myself. Now instead of putting together artists’ shows, I’m putting in the work on our own. I’m writing for my own purpose. For artists and musicians looking to start getting in the session scene I always say the same thing: Go out and play! Anywhere and everywhere. That’s what I did.
Sean: The number one thing I will say is that great music and great songs will always rise above. Persistency is a HUGE plus and the ones who put in the smart work will be the ones who see the success. (It's not always about working hard but working smart and having a vision and a plan of how to get there, a roadmap per se.)
A special show feels like magic to the audience, and is magic, but lots of gears are spinning to display that magic in public. What has to go right before your set starts for the set to go well?
Hayden: I think of every show like an ocean. It moves, changes, and each wave is never the exact same. I think out of hundreds and hundreds of shows I’ve had, maybe there were two where I said, “Wow that was a perfect show,” but then the drummer goes, “Really? That was rough for me.” For me I have to be in a mentally clear head space before I get on stage for me to have a good show. It's when I'm rushed where I get anxiety and just try to get through the show and go through the motions.
Sean: I think grounding yourself is key to a great performance. Making sure you are aware of not only yourself but the other members in your band and truly paying attention to audience reaction. It's important to have and build a relationship with your audience from the moment the lights dim in the house and the music starts. Every show and every audience is different. Being able to stay on your feet and interact with them accordingly is key to a successful performance. Whether it's a room of 10 people or 20,000 people.
We all have an artist (or 15) that nurtured our love for music. Thinking back to your favorite music moments as a fan, who has left a mark on you? What benchmarks are you aiming for and how is your surrounding team helping you get there?
Hayden: For me it was older rock bands where guitar was king. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and a ton more. A benchmark for me was my dad playing “Eruption” by Eddie Van Halen in his car when I was like six years old. It completely changed my life. Since then music has completely changed and as such I have a ton of new bands I really enjoy. Bands like Imagine Dragons, 21 Pilots, Panic, Fall Out Boy, All Time Low, etc. As for our benchmarks we really just want to make the best music we can. Our team is always saying, “It’s all about the songs,” and they are right!
Sean: There are definitely particular artists who have inspired me in different ways and continue to help shape my own artistry. Green Day, Linkin Park, Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic, Maroon 5 and more. They’ve impacted everything from live performance to song structure to lyrics, and also creating memorable moments both live on stage and musically. As far as benchmarks go, we take it one song at a time. We see where we want to go, but at the end of the day it all comes down to a great song and something people can really relate to.
Dynamic is everything for a band to find success and then sustain it. What do you each love and admire about one another, and what have you grown to love?
Hayden: Sean is one of the most determined and focused people I know. He lives, breathes, and sleeps Evaride. Not only that but he is an insane singer and writer. I enjoy writing music with him and creating something that people seem to really enjoy.
Sean: I really admire the hard work and dedication that Hayden brings to the table. There a lot of aspects I'm not skilled in that he can take the reins on such as programming, lighting and building a show. He also has skills from a business standpoint, whereas my strengths lie mainly in the songwriting and melodies and crafting of a song, but we each have our strengths and weaknesses. And I can say for myself I'm always trying to strengthen my weaknesses, cause at the end of the day as a band, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
How have you guys pushed each other to better yourselves and explore new ground, both on “Warrior” and the forthcoming debut EP?
Hayden: We really have been exploring with new production and writing as much as we can. We want this EP to be the best it can be so we are constantly working and pushing each other to bring the best we can from another.
Sean: Accountability is the biggest thing. But also putting in the work outside of rehearsals and in the studio is where we are constantly building our crafts still. Continuing to practice and strengthen guitar chops and vocal techniques and even challenging ourselves to go home and come in the next day with three to five brand new song ideas and or concepts has helped the acceleration of everything. Artistry never ends or is fully defined. It's a constant development, learning and growing process that never ends. I'll say this, If I'm not learning I'm not growing and I never want to stop that till the day I die.