Will  Hawkins
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Will Hawkins

Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Once a upon a time, there was a successful music executive named Will Hawkins. He spent his days making others famous as he worked tirelessly to sign the musicians he believed in, artists that produced music that mattered.
Then one day, Will woke up and quit. He left his apartment and moved to a studio in Brooklyn. He took a job as a carpenter and led a quiet existence. Hawkins toyed with the idea of where music fit in his life and often would idly pick up a guitar to entertain himself and friends. Eventually, his friends convinced him to sing his songs from a small stage at a nondescript dive bar in Manhattan.
Jump forward eight years. Hawkins now plays more than 100 shows a year and has garnered attention for his soul-wrenching lyrics and highly charged compositions.
I met up with the lanky, boyish-looking Scarsdale High School alum and found him wildly imaginative, discerningly honest and, overall, as passionate as the music he creates. Below is an excerpt of our conversation:
It's very interesting to me that you worked on the "other side" of the music business before recording your own material. How do you think that the experience as a music executive has influenced the direction in your career?
There is really no wrong way to go about this career thing. I guess, if anything, my experience in artist management [or "professional underpaid baby sitter," as he likes to refer to the job] really taught me to steer away from some of the proven pitfalls I have seen others go through. The thing is, there is something to be said for not knowing what might happen because when you don't know anything, you don't know you are making mistakes.
I have watched others artists and when I started I knew that I believed in entertainment. Like Bob Seger and [Bruce] Springsteen. They put on a show, they give their all, you know? I've been given the gift to entertain and I have decided not to squander it. I've seen great artists make bad records and bad decisions and maybe (working in the music business) just makes me more aware.
What made you want to perform?
My father was a cop and one year James Taylor came to play in Tarrytown. Apparently there was a death threat on him or something. I was 13 years old and went backstage and after watching him perform he came backstage and made me feel important, appreciated. He asked me to accompany him to the "Meet and Greet" with the fans. I remember thinking at the time that this is what I wanted to do.
You have a reputation of using the stage as your platform for your own political views. Are you ever afraid of the reaction you might get from the people in attendance?
I see nothing wrong in using the spotlight I am handed for social activism. The only thing I've ever wanted to be is a performer and now that I'm getting my chance I would hate to waste it. I know one thing: You can't let fear dictate life. At some point we have to figure out what we want and what we believe in. I don't want to be a preacher, I want the songs to be important to the people that listen and I want them to mean something to them.
My thought is that for every seat that someone stands up and empties, someone else will stand up and applaud. I wear my heart and my politics on my sleeves and the people who are like-minded will find me and connect. And from the response that I have gotten at some of my performances tells me that some have.
Do you write songs with a specific intention or is it more organic?
I actually do not have a set process for how I go about writing my music. Some songs begin with lyrics, some with music. Some, like "John's Town" (off of this year's "Ghost Town") write themselves. That was written during the car ride back from performing at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in (Washington), D.C., to Scarsdale. I thought about (some of the people I had met) for the entirety of the four or five hours it took to get back and when I finally got home, I picked up my guitar and the song just came out.
Some artists take on a persona once they hit the stage to ease their nerves. Do you do that? What is going through your mind?
Actually, I've never really had any real problem with stage fright. But I guess I think about the artists and the people I respect the most (when I'm performing). People like Sinatra, because of his bravado. He owned that stage, man. My dad listened to Johnny Cash and I think that gave me some of my twang.
When I'm onstage, it's mine and I'm not going to give it up for anybody. I respect people like [John] Steinbeck and [Charles] Bukowski for their stark cynicism. And sometimes it's hard to allow yourself to be yourself, to not have that edit button.


- Samantha Spector


Singer-songwriter Will Haw-kins is no stranger to Johnstown.

For his second compact disc, “Ghost Town,” the New York native wrote a single titled “Johnstown” that has received nationwide play.

“I was inspired to write the song after visiting troops during a USO show at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington,” Hawkins said.

He was so touched by meeting the many maimed and wounded troops that he wrote about a young man coming to terms with his injuries sustained in combat and his impending return to his hometown: Johnstown.

Hawkins will sing “Johnstown” as well as other songs from his “Ghost Town” release during an hourlong concert at 6 p.m. July 21 at the Roxbury Bandshell in the city’s 8th Ward.

“I love Johnstown,” Hawkins said. “I have performed there during FolkFest and appeared with (U.S. Rep.) John Murtha’s 2006 re-election campaign.”

Rob Basso, president of Hawkins’ record label, Nick Sky Entertainment, said “Johnstown” is not a protest song, but more of a tribute to America’s soldiers.

“ ‘Ghost Town’ is full of songs that express emotion about many current issues ranging from the war in Iraq to the gentrification of Will’s home neighborhood in New York City,” Basso said.

The concert by Hawkins and four of his band members is free, but donations are encouraged. All of the proceeds will go to the Texas-based Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

“We will have a table set up to give donors a tax-deductible receipt for their support of this worthy cause,” Hawkins said.

The fund is a leader in supporting the men and women of the armed forces and their families. Begun in 2000 under the auspices of the Intrepid Museum Foundation and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the fund has provided nearly $60 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.

“I believe the current administration is going in the wrong direction and not providing the best of care for soldiers and their families,” Hawkins said.

“Now we have 42 presidential candidates saying the same thing, but not the right thing about ending the war.”

In addition to the concert’s donations, Hawkins will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from sales of his CD.

“Johnstown” already has been downloaded more than 5,000 times and has received nationwide airplay.

Hawkins’ earnest and compelling songwriting style and passionate live performances often have been compared to such entertainers as John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen.

“Maybe it takes some heartbreak and experience to bring out those true feelings that punch a hole in the facade that we all carry around each day,” Hawkins said. “From my dad, uncle and brother, who are cops, and another uncle who is a fireman, I come from a family that has a history of civil service, and it gives me a understanding of how these courageous troops have answered the call for our country.”

- Tom Lavis


Will Hawkins, a passionate singer and songwriter, is currently embarking on a free concert tour in support of the Fallen Heroes Fund, which benefits soldiers who have been injured in Iraq and their families. As part of this tour Will is making an appearance at the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce Summer Music Series Sunday, August 19 at 5:30pm and will be performing with the beautiful Hudson River as a backdrop.

The Chamber's Annual Summer Music Series offers fantastic musical entertainment on summer evenings free to the public between July 1 and September 3.

Will is a strong supporter of organizations that benefit injured military servicemen. His hit song, Johnstown, which appears on his most recent album Ghost Town, was written after an emotional USO-sponsored performance at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. The song tells the tragic, yet inspiring story of how an injured Reservist returns home after his tour of duty in Iraq and comes to terms with how his injury and experiences on the battlefield have changed his life forever. Johnstown has been downloaded over 5000 times and has received nationwide airplay.

Will recently returned from playing the Radio & Records Triple A Summit, in Boulder, CO. Other artists in attendance at this event included Steve Earle, Mark Cohn, Ryan Adams and Paula Cole. "The Cold Spring Summer Series is a thriving community music series and I am awaiting my appearance with great anticipation. This is a wonderful opportunity to spread the word and garner support for the Fallen Heroes Fund while following my passion for performing," said Will Hawkins. "I know that this tour and my appearance in Cold Spring will be a rewarding and memorable experience."

Will Hawkins was born in the historic and haunted village of Sleepy Hollow, NY, home of one Headless Horseman and a crumbling Ford Motors Factory. His father was a local policeman and his mother was a secretary. He was raised with complete faith in the American dream, believing that if you worked hard enough you would be rewarded with a comfortable and secure life. His writing reflects the changing times in America as well as the world as the new generations face new challenges.

The Chamber's Annual Summer Music Series offers fantastic musical entertainment free to the public on Sundays at 5:30pm from July 1 through September 3. Should you have any questions, please send an email to info@coldspringchamber.com or call 265-3200. For more information about Will Hawkins and his music, please visit www.willhawkins.net.

- Cultural Events


Will Hawkins' debut solo album Next Stop Bedford Avenue was many years in the making. Hawkins spent his days prior becoming well-versed in the music business. He worked as an engineer turned radio promoter turned manager and subsequently shifted his focus inward and began working on his own project.

A native of upstate New York and a current resident of the fertile artistic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Hawkins was spawned from a music scene full of other talented singer-songwriters.

Obvious influences include Richard Thompson, Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen, Hawkins is also able to draw from his experience turning knobs for artists like George Benson and Jonatha Brooke, and has released a well-rounded, sonically exciting project. The songs are radio friendly and fully equipped with hooky choruses sung with a husky roots-rock voice. - DN


Alt country is starting to become a broad and general category that, unfortunately, is the only place at the moment to file the music of Will Hawkins. I say unfortunate because I think Will Hawkins is much more than that. “Alt country” immediately conjures up aural images of Jeff Tweedy or Ryan Adams, crooning out lyrics, hitting notes differently with each pass of the chorus, making you wonder if they were half-in-the-bag when recording it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a style I’ve come to enjoy. But this isn’t the style of music that Mr. Hawkins employs on his debut release Next Stop Bedford Avenue.

Instead of Tweedy or Adams, imagine the velvety smooth vocals of Tom Jones, set against a backdrop of twangy Chris Isaak-style Americana music, and you’ve just imagined Will Hawkins.

Hawkins sounds like he should have grown up in the mid-west, kicking around dusty truck stops and shady taverns, listening to Roy Orbison and Hank Williams. Instead, Hawkins claims upstate New York as his hometown, New York City as his current residence and Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen as influences.

Regardless of his background, Hawkins has a unique vocal style that carries each of his songs. Whether it be a soft, soulful acoustic ballad like “California” or a horn-blowing, honky-tonk tune like “The Someday” or a super-cool, guitar-twanging song like “I Wanna Be Your Man” – Hawkins vocals are why you like it.

“The Someday” is one of this CDs stand-out tracks. An impossible-to-dislike, big, bold, horn-backed tune, with Hawkins belting out the vocals, that to me, sounds like Neil Diamond. And admit it – we all love Neil Diamond.

Hawkins does mix up the sound on this CD, sounding like a modern lounge-singing Tom Jones, a road-weary singing cowboy, a coffee-house folk singer, and even a bluesy surfside Chris Isaak. But with some lyrics like “I met a girl from Kalamazoo; she had sweaty palms and four tattoos” (from “Around”) or “I find myself walking down Bedford at 3am; hoping to find a friend to help me drink away this pain” (from “All the Rage”), and with that sweet acoustic slide guitar sound, you can’t help but call this country.

Finally, with a tribute song to the memory of 9/11, “City of Dust”, Hawkins shows he can write from the heart without sounding corny or contrived – and to me that can’t be country music. - Michael Walls


Next Stop Bedford Avenue is an assured, pro-sounding album by NYC-based Hawkins. "Breathe" exemplifies his work, an MOR Amalgam of tried and true sounds that sometimes evokes bonifide hitmakers like Springsteen and Petty, without nicking their style. What shines through is Hawkins' street poetics. This is a singer-songwriter who knows his craft and puts it across convincingly. - Editor


"Brooklyn based Will Hawkins' live performance is energetic and memorable. He weaves stories of un-likely chacacters with a wonderful folk-pop influence of Tom Petty, Richard Thompson and David Gray. Don't miss him at the Bedford this Thursday." - Editor


Discography

Ghost Town-2006
Next Stop Bedford Avenue-2003
Five Dollar Singer-2000

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Bio

Will Hawkins was born in the historic and haunted Hudson river town of Sleepy Hollow, NY. His solo debut, NEXT STOP BEDFORD AVENUE (2003) was hailed by critics and fans alike as a powerful, melodic and insightful recording. He toured extensively through the North America received support on college and AAA and later took the U.K. by storm with airplay on BBC-2, BBC-4 and many web radio networks

Hawkins' follow-up CD, Ghost Town was released in March 2007. There is already a buzz online created by his song Johnstown, which is already receiving airplay for after being downloaded over 5000 times. Writing about a soldier he met who lost his hand in combat, the song received a standing ovation when Hawkins performed for the injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital and was the subject of a documentary by Persiana Cota. In addition Hawkins headlined the Johnstown Folk Festival in September with Maia Sharp and in October he and his band performed at Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha's re-election rally.