Review Fix chats with Hawk’s David Hawkins, who details his origin in music, creative process and goals for the future.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
David Hawkins: I’ve always been a huge music fan ever since I was a kid. My dad was a trumpet player when he was younger and his dad was a stand-up bass player and bandleader, and they would play shows all around Indiana. That was before I came along, but it’s in my blood for sure. When I was a kid, my big brother had this mod orange turntable from Sears and we would spend hours listening to records. I think that kind of got me started on music. I would scour the local record stores for new finds, and when I got to college, the first thing I did was to become a DJ at the radio station. Before long I was putting on concerts of cool local bands and eventually was in charge of all the entertainment for the school, including an unforgettable epic free concert with the Violent Femmes, which was a real highlight. One of the bands I booked there evolved into Souled American, the pioneering alt-country band, and when I got to Chicago, we reconnected and I became their manager. At one point, Chris, the leader of Souled American, showed me how to play the chords on a guitar, and I started writing songs and it just snowballed from there. Around that time, I moved to a remote farmhouse in Illinois to concentrate on my art and music full time. That’s where I recorded my first solo album and formed the first iteration of Hawk, and things just have evolved from there, but that’s how I got started.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Hawkins: Like Bob Dylan put it so succinctly, “I just catch ‘em when they come.” And Neil Young likened it to fishing. They’re like gifts from the muses, or from the unconscious or something. It’s really kind of a mysterious thing; the songs literally just appear out of nowhere, usually when I’m playing guitar, sometimes even fully formed, but usually a verse or a chorus or a fragment, and I record it on my phone to catch the original idea. Then I go through and listen to all the song ideas periodically and develop the ones that resonate, fleshing them out and then start to record them. I’ll always refer back to the original idea to make sure I’m staying true to that; the original idea is sacred.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Hawkins: Inspiration can come from anywhere, books, films, a conversation, a fleeting thought; you never know what’s going to bring a song or when it will come. I just try to stay present, and like Leonard Cohen said, keep my instrument in good shape so I can receive and process the songs and share them. It may sound strange, but I feel like I’m in service, to the muses, to the songs and to you, the listeners. It’s my secret belief that it’s all very important and sacred. I honor the process and take it very seriously.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
Hawkins: Music is everything; it’s celebration, a balm and salvation. it lifts us up when we need it, soothes our wounds, and expresses things that can’t be expressed through just words or images. It’s magic.
Personally, writing songs has always been a way to work through my feelings and process my life; kind of a cross between prayer and therapy. It was a private thing for me in the beginning, and the writing part still is, but at one point early on my girlfriend gave a tape of some of my songs to a few radio stations in Chicago (including WXRT), and it became public. There’s still a feeling that the songs are private things made public, which was a little uncomfortable at first, but I’ve gotten used to it. The songs of my other band, Be, are more introverted and intimate, so that dynamic is even more apparent in those songs.
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
Hawkins: “This Is It” came to me when I was riding on Mulholland Drive. It is a celebratory song and works on multiple levels; a love story narrative, a yearning for transcendence, and a celebration of being in the moment. It can also be read as a meeting with the angel of death, which suddenly has taken on all this extra meaning right now.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2020?
Hawkins: To keep making lots of music and to keep working toward my next painting exhibition; and to help rebuild the world when it’s time. (Laughs). Ken (Stringfellow) and I have been recording steadily (he’s played on over 100 of my songs at this point), so after this release I’ll be continuing on those and preparing more new albums for release, and touring when it’s time.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Hawkins: I’ve been doing a lot of recording on songs of my other band, Be, including an amazing experience I had recording with the legendary Master Musicians Of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar, the Moroccan band who’ve recorded with the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, Paul Bowles and Ornette Coleman, among others. I travelled to their remote mountain village in Morocco, where their family have been making music continuously for over 5000 years and we recorded together. It was an incredible experience and the recordings are magical. That album will be coming out next year I believe. Right now there are 4 or 5 albums close to being finished between Hawk and Be, and a lot more coming. It’s been a very productive time, and I’m grateful for the songs and for the amazing musicians I get to play with.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Hawkins: I just want to wish everyone good health and strength in these challenging times. I know it all feels really heavy, but we’re going to get through this. In the face of all the fear and anxiety right now, let’s let love and compassion lead the way. I look forward to seeing you out on the road when this thing passes. Until then, be good to yourselves and to others.