Living the Life of a Composer, Songwriter and Producer: Kevin Saunders Hayes

Vox Lumiere is a soul-pumping concert, dance, and theatrical live production that combines the power of an epic rock concert with the beauty of classic silent films. A captivating, one-of-a-kind experience where musicians, singers, and dancers perform an original score and new songs that propel you forward through a story seamlessly synchronized with the movie.”

Combine silent films telling familiar stories such as “Phantom of the Opera” and  “Peter Pan”, rock concert electricity with an innovative new vision backed by creator Kevin Saunders Hayes and prepare yourself for a firecracker experience.  Watch the video below to get a taste of the experience!

I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin at the neighborhood café Paper or Plastik where we started off our discussion about dreams.  His multifaceted career includes composing, songwriting and producing.  Vox Lumiere’s, “Voices of Light” daring show concept intrigued me into finding out the vision behind such a project and what was coming up next.

What about your dreams and journey? I know you have worn many hats in life.

We all have to wear many hats. It continues to be an interesting journey. I started from a love of music and then the journey has taken me to crazy places. I went and played with lots of bands, traveled around the world, gone to school to study music, lived in New York for years, wrote commercials and jingles for television, moved out to LA and scored films and then thought of this crazy idea for this show that has let me again travel around the world.

Trifecta of Doing Art

I get to write music and create something and people pay me to let me perform my music for them and they to seem to really enjoy it. It is a trifecta of doing art. It is not all easy but it is the trade-off. It is a blessing and incredible joy to get to do that. That is the encapsulated version but that is sort of where I am right now and I want to do more of it. It is fun to get on a plane or bus to go someplace new, meet new people and play music.

Inception of Vox Lumiere?

I was living in New York, writing jingles and scores for television and I was doing a lot of commercial paid work. I have a passion for creating my own things so I had been doing a lot of 99 seat theater or guerilla theater as we called it. We would come up with an idea with friends, write a show, find some space, cast our friends in it and find things on the street to make our set and props and do it all for no money. I was doing a lot of that and it was fun and working on as much film work as I could but there was not a lot in New York at that time.

I had this idea of what if I could write these themes for a movie and characters so instead of it being a popular song of the time that they might drop in, what if I took some of the themes that I was writing and put lyrics with them that were appropriate to the scene? My hope was that at the end of the film you would create even more emotional impact and another layer of storytelling. I thought that this was a great idea but no director in his right mind would let me do this so it was one of those ideas that I thought maybe one day.

Discovery

It took one day going to rehearsal and the need for new underwear. So I went into a store stacked to the ceiling with tons of things you don’t need looking for the cheapest underwear. I was wandering around and saw this bin of silent movies for one dollar and I stopped and stared. This idea pops up that since they are silent movies there is no dialogue, nobody owns them and all these people are dead so they can’t get mad at me. So instead of underwear I went home with 5 silent movies. After rehearsal I went home and popped one of these tapes in and I was completely mesmerized and blown away by these movies. They were perfect for what I wanted to do. So I started writing and doing it.

To Los Angeles

In the meantime things brought me to Los Angeles. I found or I felt like I had more free time to work on my own projects and didn’t feel the same pressure I felt in New York. I involved my friends like I always do and they started to ask me what we are doing because it is very cool but strange so I told them.

It begins..

What happened was that through a friend of a friend I got a call about a film festival and if I wanted to perform this silent movie show there. I did not know what he was talking about because I didn’t even think that I had a show. I was told that it won’t be paid but we would be flown out with lodging. I thought that it would be cool and asked “where is the film festival?” The answer was in Avignon, France.

I asked friends if they wanted to go to France for a week even though they would not be paid and we did rehearsals here in town. We never really done it and sure enough we went off and it worked. People really responded to it and we were at the Avignon Opera House which is spectacular and an incredible way to begin a project.

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Come Back Next Year

The head of the opera house said that was great, we loved it and what are you doing for us next year? I was thinking about the other tapes I had and thought that we could do the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I had no idea that I said exactly the right thing because the Hunchback to Parisians, there is no American equivalent in culture, is a national character that goes back hundreds of years with meaning. We went back again the next year and I got some other calls from people that had seen us there. After three or four years of having fun doing that-my lovely wife brought up that people really respond to what I do and I should think about doing something with it.

Next Part of the Journey

How could we do more of this and expand the art form?  It has been an interesting journey of wanting to do something with telling stories better and then have it open up to this whole world of opportunity. You think your life is going in one direction and then you end up somewhere else. I came out here thinking I was going to be the next John Williams in scoring films which I have done plenty of, but now I look where I am where I get to do my music. If it ends tomorrow I am so blessed and how lucky am I? I am not done yet and there is always another chapter or opportunity.

What is the next chapter?

In the past five or six years we have had a great experience and learned a lot about what works or doesn’t. Every time you get more ideas on what you could do creatively they then become possible. It is such a new and different art form and the music doesn’t follow a traditional format with the beginning, middle and end, big clap to next number. We asked if the performers can catch these cues. Creatively there is a never-ending list of possibilities to try and expanding on the art form. It is the process over and over again of thinking something is the hardest thing ever to having something be doable and exciting. We want to keep on exploring.

Show’s Potential

We think that the show has the potential of Cirque de Soleil, Stomp or Blue Man Group with a really strong concept. We already have five different shows. Like Cirque, they have amazing production values, tell stories using circus skills. Vox Lumiere is completely different but we have a theme and a way we tell stories that we can apply to different movies and shows.

Focused Approach: Building and Uniting the Tribe

Touring has introduced the show to a lot of people, but the hard part is uniting the pockets of our tribe and to create momentum and traction out of it. We want to do local shows in Los Angeles maybe once a month and build our local tribe. We would love to become that show in Los Angeles that you can’t get in to see.

When is your first LA based show?

We are looking at December and we believe we will be at a venue called the King King which is on Hollywood Blvd. We hope it will be our home and we are probably going to start with “Phantom.” It is a very cool, sexy, fun production in the space.

Beyond LA

Our next goal is to take the momentum and within 12-18 months to put the show off-Broadway. The goals are not completely egotistically driven. We think off-Broadway is the best way to introduce the most amount of people to the show and to brand it allowing us the opportunity then to branch off again to tour.

What inspires you as an artist?

That is a tough one for an artist because it is always different things. There are so many wonderful and talented artists in LA and New York. My friends are wonderfully talented artists so that serves as inspiration. I am inspired by extraordinary work. It does not matter what it is, it could be something completely not related to what you are doing. I can call and say thank you for creating something that helped me take my brain in that direction for exploration.

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Is there a special moment in your career that really sticks out to you?

I have a lot of memories that fall into different categories. Getting to perform and enjoy being a part of the audience of sitting in back of a theater-movie or performing arts. You get to hear people’s response and how they react to what you have created. It is an incredible feeling to hear the audience laugh at the same thing you thought to be funny. It is really gratifying and nice to know that you set out to tell a story and that people are appreciating it and it is affecting them. Hopefully it causes them to feel and to be inspired to do something extraordinary in whatever it is you do. You don’t have to be in the arts to go and create.

Any advice?

Safe sucks and I don’t mean that in a belligerent or ugly way. Don’t stop creating—keep on making, doing and exploring.

Being an artist is a really hard road to go down because we are compelled to do this. A lot of people don’t understand it. At the same time, we have to make a living out of it. It is two different parts of our world with creating art and then the commerce side.

Whoever hires me always gets 100% where I create what they want and need. There is what you want to create and then what people are buying that could make you money. That is what I have a hard time with. I understand being hired to do your craft, but our jobs as artists are to show people this is what is being explored where there is risk.

It is one thing if something is making you money and people are responding to it, but there is always that area to see if you are challenging your audience at all or challenging yourself? Give your absolute best. Don’t be afraid to try whatever it is because you will never try if you take the safe route. Push the envelope and have the opportunity to make something better even for your client. Don’t get discouraged. Any art form is the toughest thing to get into. Just get up and try it again.

voxlumiereThank you Kevin for being a shining inspiration! I was reminded that everyday tasks like helping someone move can be an adventure.  We are blessed to be alive in a world with so much beauty and opportunity for inspiration!

I hope you fall in love with how Vox Lumiere tells stories and become a member of their tribe! For more information visit their website by clicking here.  Find them on Facebook here!  Find some of their music here! Find more information about Kevin here.