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Hayden Pedigo

"I have VERY sweaty hands so I have to be super picky on what strings I use. The XS series strings don't rust from my hands and are super clear and smooth to play on. They are the only acoustic strings I will use."


ABOUT Hayden Pedigo

Pedigo has lived many lives, having been homeschooled in Amarillo, Texas by his truck-stop preacher father; run for Amarillo City Council in 2019, aged 25—as documented by Jasmine Stodel’s SXSW-premiering, PBS-acquired film Kid Candidate—and struck up pen-friendships and collaborative partnerships with the likes of Terry Allen, Charles Hayward (This Heat), Werner “Zappi” Diermaier (Faust), and Tim Heidecker. A move south from Amarillo to Lubbock in 2020 put a spark to the powder keg of his creativity. “It’s even more flat, desolate, windy and dirty – like being on Mars,” Pedigo observes. “It’s pushed me to create more because there’s not really much to distract.” The move produced not only The Happiest Times and its predecessor Letting Go, but also an Internet presence that showcases a panoply of ever-more outlandish outfits and an effortless deadpan wit. Both the former and the latter helped parlay him into the fashion world, too, having walked the runway for Gucci and been photographed by Hedi Slimane.

Inspired by the tragicomedic legacy of National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney (in whose notes the line ‘These last few days are amongst the happiest I’ve ever ignored’ was found following his mysterious and untimely death), Pedigo embarked upon ‘The Happiest Times’ with a no-shit aim: to create “the best instrumental acoustic guitar album of the past twenty years.” Though canonical works of comedy and music show their influence—the mournful beauty of Nick Drake, the puckish abandon of John Fahey—Pedigo by no means places their creators on pedestals; if anything pulling them from their plinths, smashing the alabasters, pocketing some pieces, gluing others back together upside down, or leaving them floating free.

How might Fahey have played in a Midwest emo band? Pedigo posits on “Nearer, Nearer,” while the specters of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn float somewhere above “Signal of Hope” – “the most British-sounding thing I’ve ever written;” an echo in an empty church. Pedigo flits through the cycle of songs, coiling and uncoiling like the mechanism of a clockwork bird on “When It’s Clear;” rambling, a tiny speck in the landscape, on “Elsewhere.” “Then It’s Gone” stands as stark as a leafless tree, guitar spilling a somber tale in its truest voice – and nowhere more than on the title track is Pedigo’s playing more affecting: regret and optimism balanced on intimate, intricate arrangement, as carefully poised as raindrops on guitar strings.

Citing a “rigid relationship with guitar” in which he has only slices of time to adequately express himself (“I have a five minute window to do something meaningful, and if it doesn’t come within five minutes, then it goes back in the case”), Pedigo wrote each song separately, start to finish, one by one. When an album’s worth of songs had been written, he undertook an intense regime of rehearsal, playing and replaying ‘The Happiest Times’ on a loop, testing his technical ability, always striving for tighter, purer and more concise iterations.

In June 2022, Pedigo transported the limbered-up record to Pulp Arts in Gainesville, Florida, where the relentless practice paid off: he played the core acoustic compositions in track order, beginning to end, and by the evening of the first day, realized he’d essentially nailed the record in one go. After tracking the main narrative of the guitar, a studio team of producer Trayer Tryon (Hundred Waters, Moses Sumney) on synths and bass, Luke Schneider (Margo Price, Orville Peck) on pedal steel, and Robert Edmondson on electric bass and piano painted in a sunset of sound behind the acoustic parts, lighting them with a warm glow while allowing them to remain front and center of the scene.

If the rolling strings of Letting Go planted and germinated the seeds, then ‘The Happiest Times’ sees Hayden grow the flowers, admire their ruffles, and take newly sharpened scissors to the stems; turmoil and perfectionism and the gods of chaos driving the hand that holds the shears. “I want to create something very melodic, and then put it behind a barbed wire fence,” Hayden reflects. “If you’re gonna get this pretty thing, then you might get cut up trying to get to it.”

Pedigo’s particular brand of barb comes in a variety of shapes: the carousel of internet personas that prod and jest (one day a 1970s car salesman, the next perhaps a Burger King attendant or gogo-booted knight); beautiful yet uneasy technicolor album artworks that place him incongruously corpse-painted at a gas station or glowing in ultraviolet on the parking lot of a flaming Walmart; or, in the music itself, pauses which verge on the uncomfortably long while the well-mannered audience member shuffles in their seat, trying to work out whether to clap yet or not.

At their most profound, Pedigo’s spacious, pristine soundscapes communicate an essential truth about the pursuit of artistic perfection. Creating The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored was, he surmises, a process akin to “the dog chasing the mail truck – what do you do when you catch it?”




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