BWW Interview: Hayden Tee Discusses His New Album FACE TO FACE
Musical theatre leading man Hayden Tee recently starred as Miss Trunchbull in the West End production of Matilda - for which he is nominated for a BroadwayWorld UK Award! - and he's also produced new album Face To Face. It features songs from shows like Matilda, Les Misérables and 1776, and fans can catch it on tour soon.
Congratulations on the new album! What made you decide the time was right to do a musical theatre-focused record?
I have wanted to do this album for years and it has taken years to complete. When I was younger, I loved doing theatrical covers of pop songs (and still do), but my performance career is firmly musical theatre now, so I feel like an album of this material represents who I am today.
Were you inspired by any other musical theatre albums/artists?
Anthony Warlow and Philip Quast have been huge inspirations in terms of albums, stage careers and performance since I was a kid. I also adore the more recent recordings such as Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Testa, and I love creative arrangements like what Michael Starobin created for the album Have Faith with Mary Testa, or what Alex Rybek did with Liz Callaway and Anne Hampton Callaway.
Tell us about how you made your track selection - were there songs you'd always wanted to record from your past shows?
Some of the tracks are from shows and roles I've played and feel close to, and others are songs or roles I have always felt close to for some reason, whether that be musically, lyrically or an essence of a character. All of the songs are from characters who are antagonists or rebels. I am attracted to these characters because of their complexities, and as an actor I love to dramatically justify bad decisions for good reasons.
There were many that didn't make the cut, and I do wish we had a Sondheim on the album, but my musical director Nigel and I are already planning our next few projects, including our next album arranged for piano, cello and voice. It will be much more intimate - but I better not give anything else away just yet...
Could you share a few highlights from the album - which tracks are you particularly excited for people to hear?
I think "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden is a special track. John Owen-Jones, who I've shared the stage with all over the world, joined me for this number, and after knowing each other for almost 15 years I'm thrilled to have captured a moment in time with one of my favourite songs of all time.
And what was the most challenging piece to record?
The most challenging track to record was "How Glory Goes". The song is musically challenging - it was the last one I learnt and recorded (other than "Smell of Rebellion", which was a late addition), and I had been nursing my grandmother in New Zealand for six months. The song is about the afterlife and questioning mortality, so that was particularly tough. She was in my thoughts when I recorded it and she passed shortly after on my opening night of Matilda in London. That song is for her - although the entire album is for her really, she introduced me to theatre.
For people who might know you from, say, Les Mis or Matilda, do you think they might be surprised by the range on the album?
I think so - the album has a certain feel that I think is recognisable within all my work, but there are a couple of tracks in there that may be surprising. There are a couple of songs sung by roles I will never ever play and I knew this would be my only chance to perform them.
How does recording a song compare with singing it live in the show?
They are very different beasts. Both have pros and cons. Live performance is like surfing an emotion or a mood. Recording is much more fragmented and time-consuming; it involves a lot of listening to vocals tracks without the orchestra to check every detail. I hate listening to my own voice, so I find this challenging - I have to take it away and listen to it on repeat for a day till I forget it's me, and then I can critique it.
I am so grateful to my arranger and musical director Nigel Ubrihien. We've worked together for almost 18 years and I trust him completely. I will often throw a final decision to Nigel, because he can be more objective than I can.
Are you planning to do any concerts or tours linked to the album?
Yes, I am actually, I will be opening a short international tour on 8 December starting in Sydney, Australia, presented by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company at the beautiful Eternity Playhouse. I've never played this venue before and it's been on my bucket list since it was beautifully refurbished. Adelaide, Tyalgum, Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Australia will follow, before I head to New Zealand and the US in February, and then hopefully back to the UK. Watch this space!
Finally, you mentioned that the album feels "unashamedly me" - what do mean by that exactly, and are you proud to share this album with fans?
I am very proud to share this album with the world. I have successfully juggled two careers, performer and make-up artist, for 20 years now and consciously kept them separate and largely secret from each other. I felt people only trust someone to be good at one thing, and I feared I couldn't be taken seriously and excel at both in the same world.
I have proven myself in both careers enough now to allow them to exist simultaneously, playing Javert in Les Miserables on Broadway and designing the looks for multiple designers as a key make-up artist at New York Fashion Week. Both existing in unforgiving industries in an unforgiving city helped me prove to myself that the time is right to embrace all aspects of my life. Both worlds collided when I created the Inglot cosmetics colour story for the musical Pippin on Broadway, which were sold in stores globally.
The album name and cover artwork are a nod to that: the name Face To Face is a line from the song "Stars", but also references the faces created with make-up in the characters I inhabit on stage and beyond. There will be lots of visual surprises along with this album over the next few months that continue to explore both art forms together.