Some musicians have grandiose, superhero-like origin stories that spawn biographies and biopics. Ward Hayden doesn’t romanticize his journey from man to musician.
“I sort of blindly stumbled into it,” Hayden said.
Hayden’s mother frequently listened to country when he was younger, but it didn’t grab him until he discovered classic country in his 20s. He became fascinated with the genre and spent years listening to, reading about and absorbing the culture of classic country music. Playing music wasn’t something Hayden thought would become a career—he was a fan first and foremost, and he planned to make a living by other means.
“I had gone to college and I was working as a teacher,” Hayden said. “As a graduation gift, my parents bought me a guitar because they knew I loved music. As soon as I started figuring out how to play other people’s songs, I started crafting my own material. It took a little while to figure out (but) it came naturally and I think I just had a lot of stuff inside that I wanted to get out. Songs seemed like the perfect vehicle for that.”
What would eventually become Girls Guns and Glory started at the tail end of 2005. For the first few years, GGG was functionally a solo project—Hayden would invite a revolving cast of friends and musicians from throughout the Boston area to join him on stage during performances. In 2010, Hayden decided it was time to solidify the band’s lineup and get something steady together. Guitarist Chris Hersch was the first permanent member to join Hayden, and the two were joined by bassist Paul Dilly six months later. The final piece of the puzzle, J. Ellis Kiggans, took up residence behind GGG’s drum kit in 2012.
Once Hayden solidified GGG’s lineup, he recognized an opportunity to pay tribute to one of his favorite musicians—Hank Williams. Williams’ songs were some of the only country tunes to grab younger Hayden, and once older Hayden dove down the country rabbit hole, Williams was one of Hayden’s favorite artists to learn on guitar. He liked to add Hank Williams songs to his sets because he enjoyed sharing them with other people—a fan eager to share his favorite songs with an audience who’d appreciate them. Hayden wanted to take that experience to the next level.
“I proposed we put a set together of Hank’s music (and) do it January 1, the day of his passing—a day that he was scheduled to play and never got to perform,” Hayden said. “So we did it once, really had a great experience with it and now five years later we not only do it January 1, but we’ve been spreading it out around the year. I think this year we’ll do around 15 tributes to Hank all around the country.”
One of those tributes will happen as part of the F.M. Kirby Center’s Chandelier Series on July 18. This won’t be GGG’s first show in the area—they’ve previously played the River Street Jazz Cafe—but according to Hayden, it’ll be a special one.
“This is actually the only tribute to Hank we’re doing this summer,” Hayden said. “We typically do them at the end of the year, (but) we’ve been picking certain markets that we’ve wanted to bring the tribute to (and) we love playing Pennsylvania. It’s one of the first states outside of Massachusetts to champion the band. Hopefully it’s something that fans can have a great time seeing. For us, it’s special to get to bring it and share it with our fans in Pennsylvania for one night.”
According to Kirby Center Marketing Manager Anne Rodella, Chandelier Series concerts take place in the Art Deco theater’s lobby. GGG will set up under the chandelier and play to a crowd seated on benches, at cocktail tables—even on the stairs. Rodella said that removing the traditional barrier between artist and audience provides a more intimate atmosphere than the traditional stage shows on the theater’s calendar.
Hayden may have blindly stumbled into a career in music, but he has since regained his vision and footing. He may not be a country music superhero yet, but with great stage presence comes great responsibility and Hayden felt a responsibility to share his admiration for the music of Williams. GGG isn’t donning an alter ego when they take the stage for one of their annual tribute shows—they’re sharing their enthusiasm for Williams’ music, and they’ll be sharing the night away under the chandelier at the F.M. Kirby Center on July 18.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @TLArts