Singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman trusts his instincts
universal music photo
Many artists agonize over their craft: writing, re-writing, recording, re-recording — a process that, in most work, usually yields good results.
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That is unless you’re Hawksley Workman.
Somewhat of a purist, if you ask the prolific glam pop-rock musician about the hours of deliberation that proceed a songwriting session, for instance, he’ll simply tell you it doesn’t exist.
“Thinking doesn’t belong in music… (It’s more about) just trusting your hands to know what to do,” explains Workman, 32, whose latest album, Between The Beautifuls, took only 30 days to write, mix and record. “I just kind of let what happens in the moment happen, without trying too hard to manufacture something that I can conceptualize.”
Between The Beautifuls, a collection of introspective and playful tracks, is something he refers to as a songwriter’s record.
“I think that it’s lyrically a lot more dense (than my other albums),” said Workman, a two-time Juno winner. The song What Would You Say To Me, Lord? is a good example of this; the song curiously questions what would happen in a confrontation with a ‘higher being’ — emphasized by an almost gospel-like sound and chorus.
“I wrote that whole song in about 10 minutes and it just felt like a gift from another universe and I was really appreciative of that,” he explained, adding that the very emotive All The Trees Are Hers was written in a similarly lucid moment.
Unlike the limited capacity of today’s “TV musicians” (i.e. Canadian Idol), Workman’s multi-instrumentalist abilities allow him to be involved in every aspect of his work.
“I always used to be accused of being a control freak (for playing so many instruments on my albums),” said the Huntsville, Ont., native who’s been compared to Tom Waits and the Rheostatics. “But it has more to do with the fact that I just love playing the drums and all those instruments.”
Also filling Workman’s time these days is producing. This year he worked with Great Big Sea as well as up-and-comers Hey Rosetta! and in the past has produced such talent as Jeremy Fisher, Tegan & Sara and Sarah Slean.
“I love (producing) but it usually shaves away my sanity and reveals my sort of quirks… It is definitely a job that requires a great deal of focus and determination.”
So what’s next for the man who created art out of expressed cigarette envy?
“I kind of think that you’re going to get an ear load of sex on the next record,” he said, calling it Los Malicious, which is where Between’s single, Piano Blink, comes from.