Ugly Gets Intimate with:: Jay William Henderson

I met Jay about a year ago, at one of my favorite places, Alchemy Coffee. By that point, I had listened to his first album about a million times, so casually meeting him turned into an embarrassed fan-girl moment where my palms got sweaty and I thought, “oh my god, it’s really you!”

After meeting him in person, I realized that Jay is one of the nicest guys around. He is also quite a handsome fellow, which makes all of the ladies weak in the knees (myself included). 

Looking beyond his friendly personality and dapper appearance, Jay is a very talented musician and songwriter. His first album, “The Sun Will Burn Our Eyes,” changed the way I felt about solo musicians. It means a lot when people will pay good money to watch one guy sing his heart out, and Jay has been gathering a dedicated following lately.

Whether it was the serene plucking of the guitar or the fact that Jay William Henderson has some serious vocal pipes, I’m not sure. But the combination displayed during All of Your Demons shot chills down my spine.

With Jay living in Nashville, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him to be featured in one of these articles. As nice as ever, he excitedly agreed and the fan girl in me swooned once again. I was dying to hear more about his new album and his plans for the future.

So here we are, sipping on some beverages at the only place it felt right: Alchemy Coffee


UM// You just had an album release this last Friday, July 18th, at Velour. Tell me about the process for this album. What did you want to do with this one that you didn’t do with your last album? 

JAY// I didn’t want to do it like the last record. That record was really produced and fine-tuned. With this newer one, I just wanted to capture what happened and be like, okay, this is what it is,” and be done with it. I spent the whole writing process in the desert for over a year and a half.  Then in Nashville, we recorded the whole album in three days. 

UM// Speaking of Nashville, how is it living out there again?

JAY// It's been great! There are always so many good shows. People respect music in a different way and there's a kind of reverence around it. It's beautiful and it seems to only happen in Nashville. 

UM// Are there parts of living in Salt Lake City that you miss?

 JAY// Of course, I love Salt Lake! It was my home for a long, long time. I actually really miss the culinary scene out here. But, the one thing I miss the most, is the desert. I can’t stay away for too long. I have to come back. 

UM// How is it being a solo musician compared to being in a band, like “Band of Annuals”?

JAY// Easier in some ways and harder in other ways. It’s more lucrative for me. It’s easier to sustain myself on the road playing solo because I don’t have to pay a band.

It’s definitely easier in that regard, but it’s harder to get people’s attention. In small cities or in bars, it’s difficult when you’re just a solo guy quietly sitting in the corner of the room. (Laughing)

It also makes it harder when I do want to play with a band. Like the CD release just a few days ago, we had no rehearsals. Everyone was amazing, the fact that they could all show up and play after 7-8 months of not playing together. It wasn’t shaky, it was a blast. I just get really stressed out about those things. (Laughing)

UM// So what pushed you to become a solo artist?

JAY// Circumstance.

Band of Annuals was touring so much. I was in debt, I wasn’t living anywhere, and I was really unhealthy and tired. I told them I needed a break and we all just went our own ways.

I’d still been writing a lot and I was sitting on these songs. I had so many people pushing me. My friends, Phil and Scott, approached me at some weird house show and told me to make the record. They gave me the money to do it. It was beautiful.

UM// Thank god for those dudes. (Laughing) I love that record.

JAY// Yeah! I love it too. It’s not how I normally do records, obviously, but it was so much fun.

UM// So, personally, what bands or artists influence your writing the most?

JAY// There are too many artists to name and it’s always changing. I’m on a weird country/blues kick right now. Like all of that 1920’s blues stuff, there’s something really magical about it. It’s sloppy and soulful; I love it.

UM// Who would you say is your favorite local band, in Salt Lake City, right now?

JAY//  I’ve been so out of the loop lately. I will always love The Devil Whale. I have a strong tie to those guys. I have to say that Ryan Tanner, who actually just moved to Nashville too, is incredible. We just did his record out there. We also just did The Souvenirs record too. I’m not sure when they plan to release it, but it is so good.

UM// So, you’ve toured a lot. Whether it was with a band, or by yourself, you’ve been on the road quite a bit. What is one of the craziest things that has happened?

JAY// It all depends on how you choose to define “crazy.” (Laughing)

One of the most memorable shows I’ve had was in Atlanta. We were on our way to the show and our van broke down on the side of the road. One of my band mates’ parents were going to be at the show, so we had to make it somehow. We rented two pick-up trucks, threw all of our gear in the back, and started driving as fast as we could. Then, it started pouring rain all over everything. (Laughing) We had to pull off and sit underneath an awning at a gas station and wait for a minute. We finally just had to pray the gear would be okay and drive as fast as we could.

Everything ended up being okay. We barely got there on time to set up and play. Those little things are always memorable. It felt pretty intense at the time.

UM// What are your plans for the future? What’s up next?

JAY// I’m going about this album differently than I normally do. I’m doing lots of house shows instead of venues. They are more intimate, people are more excited to be there, people buy more stuff, you can actually charge a ticket price, and the experience is better for me.

UM// Ugly wants to know what a typical Friday night looks like for Jay William Henderson?

JAY// If I could be camping, obviously, I’d be doing that. If I’m in the city and there’s a good show, I’ll be at that. If not, I’d probably just be sitting around home with a good meal and a whiskey. I’m simple. I’m a man of simple pleasures and needs, I suppose.

Words and photos by Elaine Sayer (@laneysayer)
Photo editing by Spencer Sayer (@thenorthvalley)