“It’s been a natural progression that I wasn’t really aware of”, says Lou Hayter when describing her evolution into a bona fide solo artist. “I look back and see that I’ve been leading up to this point the whole time. Every single project I’ve done has fed into where I am now as a musician.”
Lou’s debut album Private Sunshine, out today via legendary label Skint, is the stellar culmination of her career path so far, one that’s seen her rise from behind the keys with Mercury Prize-nominated nu-ravers New Young Pony Club to working with Air’s Jean-Benoît Dunckel in Tomorrow’s World and becoming a major player in the DJ circuit.
Now she’s going it alone with her delectable new record. Across its majestically crafted 10 tracks, Private Sunshine really does feel like your own slice of sun-drenched escapism with its woozy, yacht rock-inspired, electro-soul vibe.
From its launch with the irresistibly hazy opener Cherry on Top, Private Sunshine’s retro-futuristic sonics see Lou, who was named one of Daily Star’s 50 Rising Stars to watch in 2021, melange her 80s influences with warm modern synth pop, as wonderfully showcased on the infectious Cold Feet, the funky electro of My Baby Just Cares For Me, and the devilishly catchy What’s a Girl to Do?.
It also features a slick reworking of Steely Dan’s Time Out Of Mind – an inclusion that fits perfectly across Private Sunshine’s smooth pop tones.
“It’s definitely evolved in a lovely way”, Lou told Daily Star when talking about Private Sunshine’s blossoming writing and recording process.
“I’m happier with it than I thought it would be. Taking that time has actually worked out for the best.
“I wanted to release it years ago but I think having had all the experience I’ve had of putting out other singles with my New Sins project and with Tomorrow’s World, the project I have with Jean-Benoît from Air, all those experiences have helped my solo record to be stronger.
"It’s worked out for the best that I’ve got to this point before releasing it.”
Private Sunshine hooks you in from the word go – a glowing statement of intent from an artist who’s ready to shake up pop in 2021 and beyond.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Lou to talk about Private Sunshine’s creation, its influences, her evolution as an artist, and the direction of her next material.
Hi Lou. How’s things? How’s the past year been for you? How’ve you navigated the pandemic as an artist?
“Initially it was complete shutdown of my brain or creativity I think. I couldn’t do much. After things levelled off a bit after the initial shock I started writing again. I’ve been writing music which has been really therapeutic actually, and nice to focus on. It gives you a nice focal point.
"I’ve had loads of work to do to set up putting this album out, which has been nice. Getting the artwork done and that kind of thing. The last six months I’ve been busy pretty much every day working on this. It’s been amazing.”
Let’s talk about your debut album Private Sunshine. What was the writing and recording process like? When did it begin?
“One of the songs I wrote in 2007, literally, and then sort of finished it in the last few years! Most of the tunes I’ve done in the last couple of years but there are some older ones on there. It’s been ages. I made it before I signed to Skint. I didn’t have someone helping me to organise it. I was working a lot DJing. I didn’t always have time to actually get in the studio."
Sonically, Private Sunshine takes you through many directions with a retro-futuristic vibe. From the woozy and irresistible opener Cherry on Top, the funky electro of My Baby Just Cares For Me, and the cool, sax-laden vibe of Telephone, what was it like seeing the record evolve and blossom into its final form?
“Really lovely. I was lucky enough to work with Dave Bascombe, who mixed it. He mixed Sowing the Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears and Peter Gabriel. It was so good having him on the record because I really admire him as a mix engineer. He gave it the sound I was looking for. That sound and finish that it needed.
"The final thing for me was when I got the test pressing of the vinyl through, it all galvanised it. Just hearing it then it hit me. I really loved it. It felt like a solid piece.”
Do you enjoy delving into various sounds and genres with your output?
“It comes naturally to me because I’m not a person that fixates to one genre in anything I do. Whether it’s when I DJ or make music. I listen to so many different types of music. It’s natural to me to draw from different things.”
Is the album what you envisioned your debut would be or has it evolved?
“It’s definitely evolved in a lovely way. I’m happier with it than I thought it would be. Taking that time has actually worked out for the best.
"I wanted to release it years ago but I think having had all the experience I’ve had of putting out other singles with my New Sins project and with Tomorrow’s World, the project I have with Jean-Benoît from Air, all those experiences have helped my solo record to be stronger.
"It’s worked out for the best that I’ve got to this point before releasing it.”
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You also included two covers, your smooth 80s pop tones version of Time Out Of Mind by Steely Dan and Brian Protheroe’s Pinball. What drove you to include these onto the album and put your stamp on them?
“It was daunting to cover Steely Dan but it just fell into place. I wouldn’t have put it out if I didn’t like it. It was very quick and within a couple of days in the studio I just really liked the vibe of it. I went with it. I wouldn’t usually set out to cover Steely Dan because the fans would think it’s sacrilegious! It just worked this time.
“That’s what I’ve been listening to so much. Ned Doheny, Steely Dan, lots of yacht rock and LA, very warm sounding music. Cherry on Top and Telephone has a lot of that in there. I wanted to bring in some of that warmth into the album of the music that makes me feel warm.”
Would you say they were main influences with the album writing process or were there other artists in there that you were consuming? Or anything personally influencing you?
“I often don’t think about too much conceptually about what I’m doing. Things just come to me. But with those tracks, certainly with Cherry on Top, I really had the idea of making a yacht rock pop song, a west coast sounding pop song.
"Even things like Snoop Dogg and stuff, I love that sound. I thought if I could combine that with a pop song it would be a really nice sound. I managed to do what I’d set out to do there.”
You were into Madonna, The Bangles, Human League, Prince when you were growing up. Have these followed you as the years have gone on?
“The music I listened to when I was literally five I still listen to with the same wonder as I did then. That has been feeding into me from a very young age. Now I listen back, all those producers, Jellybean, Shep Pettibone, and obviously Prince, I’m just obsessed with them as much now as I was then, more so actually!
“I feel really lucky that I grew up in the 80s because there was so much amazing pop music out there.”
The album has been released on iconic label Skint. How supportive are they as a label for you and your output?
“I love working with them! Damien Harris is an old friend of mine. It was quite surprising to me that he signed me. I would never have saw that coming. He’s just amazing. He’s a good mate and very supportive of me. I didn’t have that before. It’s so lovely to have someone there that helps me to realise the things I wanted to achieve. Down to mixing, artwork and vision, he’s just always there to help me.
“Like with Roisin Murphy, I really like what the label’s doing. It’s part of BMG as well. It’s a really nice combination of indie and major label at the same time.”
You mentioned Roisin Murphy there too, it must be an exciting time to be an artist with all this great music coming out?
“It really is. People said to me 'why would you release music during the pandemic?' There are no clubs open blah blah blah, but I think it’s been vital to have music coming out during this time.
"We’re all tuned into the radio and music’s been a real healing force for everyone. I think it’s been a good time to release music.”
We’ve got the next step to look forward to of live music venues opening up again. It must be something you’re really looking forward to?
“It’s nice that the actual album release date happens we’re opening back up at that point. It feels like a positive time to release the actual album.”
Tracks like Cherry on Top and My Baby Just Cares For Me has enjoyed heavy airplay on 6 Music. What does that mean to you as an artist?
“I absolutely love being on the radio! It’s one of my favourite things, especially 6 because that’s the station I listen to all day long. I’m stoked every time it’s on there to be honest. They’ve been amazingly supportive. It really means a lot.”
How can you describe your evolution as an artist? From being in New Young Pony Club, DJing, New Sins, and Tomorrow’s World to your solo career. Has what you’ve learned in these experiences shaped your solo output?
“It’s been a natural progression that I wasn’t really aware of. I look back and see that I’ve been leading up to this point the whole time. Every single project I’ve done has fed into where I am now as a musician. Doing production and writing and sonically finding my own sound. It’s all been a learning curve. It’s been a creative pathway. Vocally I’m stronger and my ability to finish a record is stronger than I was before.”
What’s the main difference between being a solo artist to working with others?
“Both sides of the coin are amazing. It’s amazing to collaborate and hear things you wouldn’t have thought of, ideas that add to your ideas, and bring new things out of you that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own.
"On the other side, you never have to compromise, which is also a nice thing. When you let go of that product, it’s 100%, undiluted you. When you’ve collaborated, there would have times where you’ve let things go because the other person wanted to go that way. It’s uncompromisingly you when you work on your own.
“I look forward to working with other people again but I’m enjoying being me right now for the first time.”
Are you already focusing on your next material?
“I’m already working on it! I’m loving it. My head is fully in album two mode. I love having that to focus on. There’s still a lot of craziness out there in the world and it gives me something to concentrate on.
“It is a bit different. The sound is surprising to me. It’s got its own sound that I wasn’t expecting to make. It’s what’s coming out of me.
“I’ve got catching up to do, so I want to get on it.”
What’s next for you, Lou? Any live shows soon?
“I hope so. We did a live stream for a festival in Mexico. It was really nice to feel what it would feel like to go live. It was really, really fun. I was surprised how fun it was. We only did four songs, so we need to work on it to get the full album ready and it would take a bit of time, but probably by the end of the summer or autumn we’ll probably do a few shows.”
Lou Hayter’s Private Sunshine is out now via Skint Records
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