John Haydon turns pain into a new album

Eddie Shoebang

The new album from local musician John Haydon is more than a collection of raw and honest songs about lost love and navigating life. It’s also proof that music has the power to pull someone out of the depths of depression and pain.

Two years ago, Haydon separated from his wife and moved out of his house. Alone in an apartment, he felt “homeless” without his family.

Haydon’s outlook on life changed when he met Margaret Garrett (who was half of Somerville’s Mr Airplane Man) and they initially hatched the idea to form a band and do Everly Brother tunes.

Instead of that, Haydon and Garrett developed a relationship and that experience became the catalyst for the bulk of the songs on “Phantom Heart,” an album filled with songs about the pitfalls of relationships, the confusion of love, and the complexity of being human.

In the first song, “Blue Van,” Haydon sings, “If you never wanted to build a home with me/ It’s OK it was only my dream,” it’s easy to assume that he’s a morose kind of guy.

“Margaret and I did have a breakup during this,” admits Haydon. “But it worked out and, basically, I’m doing great. Music, especially on this album, has helped me.”

Haydon officially releases the album during a performance at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge on April 26. It’s the fifth album for the Waltham resident and, despite what some may think, it wasn’t a hard album to write.

“It was probably one of the easiest because I was forced into a situation that brought out so much emotion and soul searching,” explains Haydon. “There was limitless material to work with.”

In fact, the hard part came with performing the songs, especially when they were first written. Haydon says that the material was so close to him and raw that there were times when he would just start crying.

 But “no one wants to see a guy on stage ball his eyes out,” laughs Haydon.

He’s past that point now and says the emotion of the songs have faded into the background. Which isn’t to say that the songs don’t mean anything to Haydon anymore. He’s actually discovering new things within his songs that weren’t obvious when he was writing them.

“When I write songs, it’s from the subconscious,” explains Haydon. “Most of the time, I’m not sure what the songs mean till later. There’s a line in one of my songs about the stars in the sky, hanging in the sky and I wonder if they are ever afraid to fall. Last week I realized that I wanted to hang on to Margaret at the time.”

The title of the album, “Phantom Heart,” also garnered more meaning to Haydon in the aftermath. Initially, he picked it because it sounded cool and he liked the phantom limb aspect.

“Now the whole thing with ‘Phantom Heart’ is the idea that someone else will make you happy,” says Haydon. “And that isn’t true. You have to work through your own stuff. You have to be happy.”

During Haydon’s lonely moments after the separation, he worked through his emotions with the help of Daniel Johnston, a songwriter who suffers from bipolar disorder.

“He’s the perfect example of someone who takes his suffering and transformed it into some of the most beautiful songs ever written,” says Haydon. “Would he be able to do that if he didn’t suffer?”

Haydon covers Johnston’s “Good Morning You,” a fitting tribute for someone making music for the lonely and broken-hearted.

“I just want people to get something from my music, on a personal level,” he says. “I think it would be great if someone told me that a tune I wrote helped them get through something.”

To hear tracks from “Phantom Heart” visit