Australian singer, Hazlett, opens up about his creative process, his faith in music and the anticipation surrounding his latest EP ‘Goodbye to the Valley Low.’
Hazlett, also known as Haz, burst onto the indie music scene in recent years with his honest voice and unpretentious sound and his music now resonates with over two million monthly listeners on Spotify. Despite living at opposite ends of the world, we manage to connect via Zoom. As I scramble out of bed to accommodate the time difference and our busy schedules, Haz joins me from his home in Australia.
He tells me he is home for the summer, anxiously waiting the release of his new EP. I ask him how he copes with the anticipation: "When I get really nervous or stressed, I tend to write a lot. I actually started writing this EP the weekend my last album came out...that's my coping mechanism. Then by the time my new music comes out, I usually have a bunch of new stuff that I want to get out straight away. I'm just a glutton for punishment."
When I ask Haz a little bit about himself, he tells me: "I'm very bad at talking about myself." But, as I found throughout the interview this only makes him more interesting to listen to as I start to gather an image of him not from a generic structured answer, but from bits and pieces of conversation that let his personality seep through.
Haz's journey into singing emerged from a background of poetry and crafting songs for others. Even during a hiatus from music, he discovered solace in the art of writing, assuming the role of a copywriter. Reflecting on this multifaceted aspect of his creativity, Hazlett notes, "I've always been a writer; I love writing. I just never considered myself a singer. I just kind of fell into singing. I don't like my voice personally, so, I'm glad other people do, or at least a few people do." And indeed, they do—more than two million listeners on Spotify affirming the resonance of his voice.
But, this shift wasn't without its challenges. Haz recalls a pivotal moment when, after performing his own songs in a pub, the owner vehemently instructed the manager never to hire him again. Thankfully, that was not the end of the line for Haz.
An old friend of his found a Youtube video of him singing an original song and called him saying ‘you didn't tell me you could sing, you lied to me!’ To which Hazlett answered ‘I don't really know how to sing.’ In the end, he decided to trust his friend: "He's the one who pushed me to come up to Sweden because he knew some producers. And I said no to him, three or four times. I felt like I was getting too old to do music. […] But eventually, I was like, you know what, I should give music one more chance before I settle down."
And so he did.
Haz made the move to Sweden about two years ago and uprooting his life from Australia was a leap of faith for him. In reflecting on the move, he expressed, "I think it forced me to put more energy in because, every day I'm burning through money. I saved up this much from working my last job and that is how long I had to live off. So, this is almost saying in my head: ‘this is how long I've got to make it.'"
And if his EP is anything to go by, we definitely think he has 'made it.' Goodbye to the Valley Low is a mesmerising six-track EP of delicate indie-folk, filled with personal anecdotes and highlighting the refined introspective songwriting that has garnered him a devoted following. He explains that:
"If the album was a party, then this EP is kind of when everyone has left your house and you're there by yourself. You're not sad but I wouldn't say you're jumping off the walls, still, you're just kind of sitting there contemplating. It's a bit of a mess and you're just doing a lot of processing."
Reflecting on his creative process, Haz shares that much of his songwriting draws from personal experiences. "All the stuff I was writing about was stuff I was going through,' he explains. 'I always feel bad when I say stuff that I've said a lot before because then it feels like I’m cheapening the answer, but I was anxious about the album, so I wrote this next EP. Writing about it was my way of dealing with things. It’s a weird personal therapy session."
Produced by his longtime collaborator Freddy Alexander, the EP was crafted in an off-grid cabin on the west coast of Sweden, marking Haz's return to his musical roots with a more stripped-back and raw sound. The trip also solidified his belief that the right space can be hugely important to tap into creativity and overcome writer's block, underscoring the importance of embracing creative lulls as essential pauses for artistic rejuvenation.
"I go through big spells of writer's block and I used to get so down on myself about it because I [thought] ‘I've got nothing to write about. I guess I'm done as a musician’. Everything starts revolving around that. I've kind of learned to accept that when I don't have anything to write about, I need to go recharge. I need to go fill up the tank. I've discovered this thing about spaces."
We went on to further discuss creativity and the many challenges of being a creative. Recounting a moment of awe and frustration during a Paolo Nutini concert, he describes creative jealousy as a complex emotion. "I remember the first time I saw Paolo Nutini and I was so happy, but also so pissed off at the same time that I'll never be able to sing like him or do the stuff that he does, creative jealousy feels like that."
He also recalls that stage fright used to be a significant challenge for him a few years ago, but notes a significant shift in his approach recently: rather than focusing solely on performing for others, he began to perform for himself, using the stage as a personal space to reconnect with the essence of his songs. "I think in a strange way, me doing that helps people connect with it more."
As the size of his audiences has increased, he finds himself less nervous, as the larger crowds make it more difficult to single out individuals. Reflecting on a recent hometown show, he humorously notes his initial apprehension about the intimacy of the venue; "I played a hometown show recently, where I was like, ‘oh no, it's a small show, I basically know everyone in this room."
Between his own doubts about pursuing music and the pandemic slowing down production and concerts massively, Haz was unsure about the outlook of his musical career but, "these past 12 months especially have really solidified the thought that this is the right thing to do. I'm happier doing it now, more than ever. I'm really lucky to be able to read messages and comments from people on how much the music helps them."
During his last tour, Haz was opening for some bands and he recalls some people coming up to him after the show saying that they came just for him, they stood in the first or second row and sang all the words to his songs. That was a first for Haz, "I completely fell apart on stage [...] it just fried my computer circuit in my brain and I didn’t know what to do anymore. It’s been a big year of milestones in that sense."
And it is on this lovely outlook that we left off this interview. Although Haz has been into music for so long, his journey as an artist is proof that a creative passion like music can completely and, at times, reinvent within ourselves. What started as a way to pay the bills for Haz has turned into a blossoming unexpected career as an international artist, much to the testament of embracing creativity and seeing where the music takes you. I left this interview with a sense of endearment and satisfaction from hearing Hazlett’s story and I for one, cannot wait to see how it continues.