Small Venue Heroes: Darren Hayman

Photograph of Darren Hayman
© Darren Hayman 2022

Born in Essex Darren Hayman was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist in Hefner, an indie band beloved by John Peel. Following their spilt 20 years ago Hayman has been prolific, producing around 21 albums, numerous EPs, not to mention releasing records as part of other combos such as Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee.

It may be a cliché but Darren Hayman is quintessentially British. What other country would produce someone who’d write entire albums devoted to: 17th century witch trials; outdoor swimming pools; trains; villages in England and Wales where all the troops returned home safely from the First World War; a William Morris Chants For Socialists pamphlet; as well as a trilogy of records exploring different aspects of Essex’s past, to name just a few? In a Guardian article, Hayman said he preferred being thought of as “a kind of British eccentric” to the image he had in Hefner, which he characterised as “why doesn’t that guy with the glasses get a girlfriend?”.

I get the impression that Darren Hayman doesn’t really tour as such. He occasionally strings together a few dates, especially overseas, but he tends to pop up sporadically at various small venues around the UK be they village halls or the Lexington in London. So what’s the live Darren Hayman experience like? To steal a phrase from Elvis Costello, Hayman is not just a “beloved entertainer” but an informative one as well. You should expect not just brilliant songs but the stories behind them, interspersed with some witty and self-deprecating asides in a cosy venue. One reviewer described one of his gigs as “a history lesson you could hum”, which having seen him perform a few times, seemed to me like an excellent summary. So if Darren Hayman is playing at a small venue near you; don’t delay, buy a ticket and be educated, as well as entertained.

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