Q: You released your second full-length album last fall. How, if at all, did that experience influence the creation and production of “Christine Keeler”?
FAIRHAZEL: Christine Keeler was actually all recorded in 2019 when I was recording my first album! It was a song I had initially intended to fit on the first album, but it wasn’t right, and I was tired of working on it, so I left it alone and revisited it this year. I redid the vocals and mixed it with some more developed ears than I had in 2019, and I fell back in love with the song!
Q: I already find myself humming along to “Christine Keeler.” How did you create such a catchy song that is so refreshing and fun?
FAIRHAZEL: Four cups of sugar, one teaspoon of baking soda, seven cups of melody and a sprinkle of electric guitar.
Q: You’ve lived in many different places around the world. How did this affect your relationship with music?
FAIRHAZEL: Living in different places with different musical cultures exposed me to new melodies and new harmonies and new rhythms that I may have not discovered otherwise. It gave me a love of music from all over the world and I’ve been spending a lot more time recently practicing various new guitar techniques based on Congolese Soukous or whatever else I can identify in the music I listen to. In Christine Keeler, the main acoustic guitar that goes through the choruses is a kind of adaptation of a common West African chord progression. There are so many musical languages all over the world, and different relationships with melody, harmony and rhythm, that it’s a never ending well of new ideas to explore and learn from.
Q: Summarize the origin story of Fairhazel.
FAIRHAZEL: I was once Hugh Macdonald, a young British/South African man, making his way in the folk, singer-songwriter world, playing open mics and developing my songwriting, and one fine sunny day in Boston I got a call from my previous manager, Richard Walters, to tell me that Communion Records was interested in releasing two new songs of mine. My heart lept with joy as all my favourite artists were signed to Communion, Bear’s Den, Ben Howard, Lucy Rose, Michael Kiwanuka etc. It was my dream label. I had a meeting with them, and they said (exaggerated for dramatic effect), “Listen here kid, we’re going to make you a star, all you gotta do is rebrand yourself, new identity, new you, new sound, ditch Macdonald, he’s old news.” They gave me two options, either delete all I had under Hugh Macdonald and become him anew or find a new pseudonym. So, I brainstormed for days on end with my parents, trying to come up with a new name, “Canadian Shaman”, “Bad Culture”, “Honeybear”, ugh, none hit the spot. One day I was walking home, the usual route, Swiss Cottage, Goldhurst Terrace, Fairhazel Gardens. And I saw this street I had walked down a hundred times, and Fairhazel stuck out, and boom here I am.
Q: You’ve put out a consistent body of music this past year. What can we expect next from Fairhazel?
FAIRHAZEL More music, more experimentation, better videos, more collaborations, and perhaps some cool stuff I have yet to think of.
Interviewed by Sarah Scott