Jayli and Hayden Wolf have had their ups and downs since moving from Creston to Toronto more than four years ago. But their musical careers are ascending with the release of their debut album, Phoenix, and mention in Rolling Stone magazine as one of 10 New Artists You Need to Know: November 2017.
Asked on Friday to describe their move to Toronto, Jayli responded:
“I won a songwriting competition through APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) and Big Soul Productions, and I was flown to Toronto to shoot a music video,” she said. “I asked the producer to fly Hayden and I both to Toronto with one-way tickets instead of just buying me a return flight. They didn’t mind at all! So we showed up in Toronto with two suitcases and a guitar with no clue how we were going to make it, or where we would even sleep. But after a few bumpy weeks, we found an apartment, started work, and continued chasing our dreams.”
Working together as Once a Tree, Hayden and Jayli settled into the Toronto music scene.
“Moving to Toronto has been such an amazing decision,” she continued. “We are so happy we took the leap. The people that we have connected with have inspired us, and encouraged us beyond belief. We have a beautiful creative family here now. Hayden was able to get into a program called the Remix Project, and that was totally life-changing for us. Hayden really worked on his production skills and that’s where we met the majority of our support group out here.”
Jayli, who was raised in Creston, and Hayden first connected on Facebook and they eventually met in person when he took a 13-hour Greyhound ride to Creston to help Jayli make a video featuring one of her songs. It wasn’t until he met Jayli that Hayden started to think that he too could have a future in music. He had been making videos since the age of 14 but had no experience with music videos.
“We just got a bottle of gin and got a bunch of her friends and shot a bunch of stuff,” he said in an interview with Sidewalk Hustle, an online lifestyle site. “We spent a week recording and making videos and just decided ‘let’s do this together, forever.’”
“Forever” meant marriage, and three months later they were saying their vows in front of local marriage commissioner Ann Deatherage.
Those early pre-marriage months weren’t easy. Hayden went into a downward spiral of depression and drug abuse. It nearly cost him his own life.
“I found Hayden standing at the edge of a cliff,” Jayli wrote later on her Facebook page. “I almost fell trying to stop him. There was a group of us there that night. We held Hayden down until the police showed up.”’
Two years ago, Jayli’s own struggles with depression deepened.
“Last year I was in a very dark place,” she told Sidewalk Hustle. “Not even going to lie – I was suicidal and floating, not sure if I wanted to exist. Some of the music I made during that time made it onto the album. And then we decided to face the demons and took a trip to Peru and took ayahuasca (a traditional spirit medicine). It completely changed my life.”
That change is celebrated in Once A Tree debut album’s name, Phoenix, the legendary bird that rose from the ashes.
Sadly, Jayli and Hayden will not remember 2017 only for the release of Phoenix, an 11-track CD. Earlier this year Hayden’s brother, Avery, ended his life by suicide.
Hayden’s struggle with the loss was featured in People magazine. The story became one of hope, because it helped Hayden and Jayli work with the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation’s Not Alone Campaign. With their help, KGH was able to build another in a series of facilities across the country to help Canadian youths who suffer from mental illness.
In the People story, written by Nicole Sands, Hayden was able to get his message out: “Life can become so dark, but there’s always a light and you just have to find it. Any situation that you think is a terrible one can actually turn around and become a blessing depending on how you look at it.”
Struggles or successes, there is still no place like home, Jayli says.
“I still love to come to Creston and call it home! We just got to go back in the summer and visit some of our family and friends, it was so nice to be in the valley! I never forget it’s beauty, but when I am back I am always in awe of it. We actually shot a music video on Kootenay Lake this past summer for our song called Coming Down. We had Ann and Gary Deatherage acting in it – it was very special because Ann actually married Hayden and me five years ago.“
Once a Tree will devote the coming months to working on a live set, and then will be performing and touring in 2018.
“We are also going to continue recording new tracks – we have lots of songs in the works,” Jayli said. Her early success as an actor—she was in eight episodes of the APTN series Mohawk Girls—has led to TV commercial work for the likes of McDonald’s, Subway and Ford.
“Hopefully I will pick the acting back up in the new year!” she said.
Phoenix is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other music streaming platforms. A link to Phoenix on Spotify can be found at www.onceatreemusic.com.