Feature Interview: Hawksley Workman

– by Wendy Morley –

It’s not often I gush over a performer, but I admit I did do a little gushing with Hawksley Workman when I spoke to him for this interview. He’s one of those performers who caught me and drew me into his world on first listen. Enigmatic, incredibly prolific and just plain fun, especially live, Hawksley has a body of work that many twice his age would envy, and he’s soon coming out with a new on March 1, 2019.

Called Median Age Wasteland, the album isan exploration of love and memories. Childlike images of winter and school portables give way to a lover’s proclamation of staying awake and staying the course. The profound decision of love meets the feeling of love. I have a unique perspective on the world that comes from the person I think I am and the person I actually am, and I wanted to explore the latter. There’s a lot of looking back on more innocent times.”

Here’s the video for his first single, “Lazy,” and links to Soundcloud and Spotify.

Wendy Morley: I love this, from your site: “Hawksley Workman is many things to many people in many places, but primarily, he’s a student of the human psyche; an artist in the purest sense of the word, constantly finding fresh and interesting ways to frame and share the world – the people we are and the things we encounter. It’s a virtually bottomless well of ideas for a man with virtually endless imagination and creative outlets.” Would you say that you create from an instinctual place or a thoughtful place, and has this changed at all throughout your life? 

Hawksley Workman: I’d say both in changing measures. My creative drive is mostly gut-centric. But I’m a human watcher and the little stumbles and collections of broken parts keeps me interested. I really do see music as something my cells make. For me, if I think too long with anything I usually start making things worse.

WM: You were in the wilderness and now you are in Montreal, is that correct? I’m a wilderness + city girl myself, with a cabin near Algonquin and a place downtown Toronto. Do you have these two worlds, or have you given up one for the other? How do these different environments inform your music? And your musical career? 

HW: I’ll always have the wild in me because that’s my upbringing. I’ve never felt more comfortable with one over the other. And I’m always so disappointed when politicians seek to create divisions between country and city folk. Growing up, my dad always took us to Toronto a few times a year to go to Sam’s on Yonge St, and drum shops. In the 80s we were told to be afraid of skinheads taking our Doc Martens. 

A still from Hawksley Workman’s video for recently released song “Battlefords,” with words that demonstrate “a lot of looking back on more innocent times,” which is how he describes his new album.

Montreal is wonderful. As cities go, it’s a special one. When you live on the road you get comfortable with feeling alien …  I find comfort and home quite easily no matter where I am.  

WM: You’ve published a children’s book and a book of poetry/prose based on a possibly imaginary love affair, I believe? Do you have more books on the horizon? Is the literary space one you’re interested in entering again? 

HW: There’s been talk of trying to write something new, but honestly, I’m feeling so connected to writing songs and performing at the moment that that’s become a singular focus. I’ve got a couple of theater projects on the cook, but as far as another book of some kind, nothing on the horizon.

WM: You are both an extraordinary performer and an incredible creator. Which do you see yourself more as? Can one exist without the other, for you?

HW: Well, thanks! I’ve actually been giving this some thought lately. I honestly feel that over my 20 years of doing this, I’ve given both aspects a lot of attention and have allowed myself to grow on both fronts too.  

photo: B Sittler

WM: In addition to creating your own music (and other things), you produce. Does this satisfy your need for creativity in a different way? Do you think producing other people’s music results in new dimensions in your own music? 

HW: Recording is a process that has more in common with film making (especially these days) The more practice you get [doing] it, the more reliable your systems of creation become. I think in the early days as a producer, I was just excited to play drums on people’s songs in the studio. These days, I hear more depth and nuance in vocal performances and little details in intention and intensity that I might have one time missed.

WM: You have been working with Mounties, and now you have a new solo album just launching. I certainly think of you as more a solo artist. How do you think working with a band affects your creative process, both with them and once you’re back to doing your own thing? Or does it?  

HW: Mounties is a very relaxed creative partnership. I think we’ve all enjoyed the spotlight enough in our separate careers that there’s no real ego when we’re writing and recording.  If somebody has the energy to run with an idea, the others stand out of the way. 

I definitely re-learned what “special” can feel and sound like. When we were making our first record, thrash rock legacy, I could tell right away that we were making something special,  and I rely on that instinct to guide me now more than ever. If I’m not feeling “that” feeling then I know I’m not there yet.

You can keep up to Hawksley’s many projects at www.hawksleyworkman.com


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