If you’re a fan of the series Skam, the name Thomas Hayes should sound familiar. Hayes gained fame by playing the character William Magnusson, but the Norwegian-English actor departed the series before its end to pursue another career path – as a pop/dance music producer.
This move isn’t entirely unheard of. On this side of the Atlantic, Ansel Elgort – of Baby Driver and Divergent fame – tried a similar move and found some success under the moniker Ansolo before he pivoted to a pop music career. After all, if a pop singer can attempt an acting career, why not do the reverse?
The former Skam actor made his EDM debut under name HAYES. As 2019 winds down, he’s already released a couple of notable tracks. “Where I Belong,” featuring Nico & Vinz, dropped in August, gliding into the end of summer with a low-key, tropical house-meets-pop sound. Rather than be the typical dance floor banger, the lyrics for “Where I Belong” reflected HAYES’ own life experiences, both in terms of finding his place in the world and his role as an artist.
The track, to date, has been streamed on Spotify over 2 million times.
Going into November, HAYES released his follow up, the appropriately titled “Now or Never,” a collaboration with Mugisho. As he successfully transitions into being a bona fide producer, we had a chance to talk about his career and recent releases:
Your social bios read “I make melodic music.” How would you describe your sound?
Though it varies some, I think the simplest way to describe it is pop music.
On the subject of melody, single “Where I Belong” is built upon a melodic hook. What was your approach for putting together this melody?
The demo was more of a low-key ballad, and I worked with it over time and with different people, including production duo TRXD and – of course – Nico & Vinz, who all helped me restructure and rework it to the song we released in August. The song and I both developed, and it was a great process.
The lyrics, too, build upon your own experiences, being half Norwegian and half British. What inspired you to write about this?
I connected with the lyrics, perhaps more so with regards to being young and presented with some great opportunities in life, than to do with my heritage. It can be interpreted in so many ways: about love, about cultural and geographical belonging and – for me personally – about having to make choices without knowing how they will impact my life and future. I am drawn to lyrics that have some depth, so “Now or Never” appeals to that same sense of grabbing opportunities and taking risks, in every aspect of life and not just love.
Nico & Vinz are featured on this track. How did you end up working with them?
I’ve met Nico & Vinz socially and love their sound, so I was very happy that they wanted to be part of “Where I Belong”. It was a case of “my people” sending the music to “their people,” but once they were committed to the project it was all systems go. I particularly appreciate how much heart and energy they put into the song. For “Now or Never” Mugisho was already attached to the project, as he was part of the team who wrote the song, and working with him was great fun!
What’s your next move, in terms of releasing new music?
“Now or Never” was just released, but there’s more to come, and I hope to have new music out at the beginning of 2020. So, stay tuned!
You had also acted on the Norwegian series Skam. How did you make the crossover from acting to producing?
Skam in Norway was a great experience for me. And with regards to my crossing over, I’ve always been interested in music, and the success of Skam gave me plenty of opportunities. The one that appealed the most to me was the opportunity to work with music.
Do you intend to keep acting?
Yes. That’s the plan. I hope to combine the two one day, even if I am focusing on music right now.
How did you get started as a producer?
I’ve been working on the HAYES project for two years. But even before that, I would play around on Ableton and Logic, look up tutorials on YouTube, etc.
You’ve been producing tracks for a number of years now. How have your sound and approach to production evolved over this period?
I’ve experimented a lot on a variety of tracks since I started taking music seriously. I’m still evolving and will keep on doing so as I learn more, but I feel that I’ve landed on the right sound – at least for now!
Where would you like to see your dance music career go?
I hope my hard work and music will bring me out on tour and that it gives me the opportunity to work with the best in the business and to keep on having fun!