Meet Hayden Nicholas

hayden-bioHayden began playing guitar at the age of nine in Houston, Texas. He played in various bands through the 1960s and 1970s, taught guitar lessons for more than a decade, and built his own recording studio in 1974. After moving his studio to California in the early 1980s, Hayden returned to Houston where he met Clint Black in 1986 and made a deal to cut demos for the young singer/songwriter who was performing in local bars and looking for a record deal.

It was during this project that the two began performing and writing songs together. This songwriting collaboration became Clint’s first album, “Killin' Time.” The first single, "A Better Man" went to number one. The next four singles also went to number one, while the album rose to the top of Billboard’s Top 100 and stayed their for twenty seven weeks, selling over three million copies.

Since that time Hayden and Clint have co-written nearly 100 songs. Fourteen of their singles have been "Number Ones." Hayden has also performed on most of Clint’s numerous concert and television performances, as well as playing guitar on all of Clint’s albums. Hayden has received two CMA nominations for "Song of the Year", and over fifty songwriting awards including three "Triple Play Awards" (three number one songs in a twelve month period), as well as a Grammy nomination in 1989 for “A Better Man.”

In 2008 Hayden was awarded as an honoree for the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Other honorees include Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, to name a few.

Hayden’s first novel in print, “Ezekiel’s Choice” will be released in 2013 as he continues to perform on the new Clint Black 2013 Acoustic Tour.

Music Influences

I grew up in the 1960s and AM radio was how music connected to people in those days. Pop radio during that era exposed the world to a variety of musical styles and genres like Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Herb Albert, The Supremes, The Four Seasons, The Rolling Stones, and many others, all within the same hour on the same station, all representing practically every major musical “genre” that we know today. This created a diversity in music that listeners were exposed to . . . me included.

As the 1960s moved into the 1970s, FM radio came to life, playing music from rock acts little known to the public. Bands like Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck Group, Ten Years After, and many others were played on these stations, creating a format known as Album Rock today. As a young guitar novice, these acts shaped the early days of my playing style. Blues/Rock guitarist Johnny Winter was probably my favorite, and Billy Gibbons of the new Houston local band ZZ Top were major influences for me. I learned the Chet Atkins style through a mentor and guitar teacher in Houston name Dale Mullins. Dale owned a music school/music store/recording studio that I worked at for years. I learned many things from Dale, God rest his soul.

By 1977, I was teaching guitar lessons and working in Dale’s recording studio full time. Drummer Dick Gay and I built a 4-track and later eight-track recording studio in my parents’ garage. (Dick and I are still best of friends and continue to perform with Clint, bringing our time of playing music together to over 40 years!)  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of recording your playing and listening back to it. I believe it is the single most important teaching tool in your playing and writing.

As the 1970s came to a close and the 1980s began, music by Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers were big influences for me. Guitarists Larry Carlton, Skunk Baxter, Jay Graydon, and others helped shape my style in those days. Also, Texas songwriter/acoustic guitarists like Willis Alan Ramsey, Shake Russell, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Townes Van Zandt influenced my songwriting and guitar style. For years I played in bands and an acoustic duo with Randy Warmuth, and later with Clint Black, both who had nearly identical musical influences to my own.

Ironically, my interest in country music grew not in Texas like most people would think, but when I moved to Ventura, CA and was exposed to some truly amazing guitarists unknown to most of the public. Through them I discovered guitar music by Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, Danny Gatton, and Ray Flacke. Skaggs’ “Hwy 40 Blues” album changed my whole outlook on “country.” After several years of immersing myself in this style I met Clint and we began a collaboration that continues to this day, nearly 30 years later.

All of the styles of music mentioned (and many others) have been an influence on my style of playing and songwriting. Simply put, anyone’s playing style is the sum total of everything they’ve ever heard. I’m no exception.