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Hayward Williams grew up with a guitar in his hands, performing from an early age in cafés, bars, and eventually rock clubs throughout his home state of Wisconsin and around the Midwest. A high school 'Battle of the Bands' champion, the textbook lonely college kid making dinner dates with his guitar, Williams took the well-worn suburban route to musical accomplishment: he hit the ground running with a '64 Gibson that his mother bought at a garage sale, listened hard to everything from the Beatles to Buckley, and somewhere along the way began to write the tunes that would become his own voice.
In 2001 Williams quit school to join the award-winning Milwaukee based band Exit, named Wisconsin Band of the Year in 2004, by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. Lending bass guitar and vocals to the bands' hook-driven pop catalogue, Williams traveled the Midwest circuit and around the country with Exit, cutting his teeth as a performer and playing everywhere from the Summerfest stage in Wisconsin, to CBGBs in New York City. The regional popularity of Exit gave Hayward entrée into larger clubs even as he was honing the catalogue of songs that would propel him toward more intimate settings.
In 2002 Williams independently released Manoverboard, a solo project recorded under a pseudonym (Hayward is sneaky), which allowed him the opportunity to play solo engagements throughout the region and served as the foundation for Uphill /Downhill, Hayward Williams's 2005 debut. A Wilco-esque collision of the radio and folk idioms that combines smart hooks with deeply textured studio atmospherics, Uphill/Downhill is an impressive collection of 12 original songs that moves elegantly from heartbreak to self-examination to wonder without the self-seriousness that might ordinarily drag such wanderings down.
Hayward's live shows have been described as having "...everything you could hope for... message, melody, and hooks" (Vital Source), and feature his facile guitar and thoughtful, distinctive tenor (imagine the honeyed side of Ryan Adams, Jay Farrar's earthy grit, the playfulness of Sam Cooke). Built on a foundation of folk, blues, and soul Hayward's songs in performance display the raw intensity common to these forms, tempered by his own easy self-possession and wry charm.
In little clubs and smoky bars around the Midwest, armed with his excellent debut record Uphill/Downhill, and his aw-shucks charisma, Hayward Williams is quietly building both a following and a career the old-fashioned way, one night at a time.
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