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Sophie B. Hawkins On New Music, Celebrating Her Past, Songwriting And More

Like almost all artists Sophie B. Hawkins is happy to celebrate her history, as long as she doesn’t have to live in the past. So Hawkins is living her dream life in 2022, revisiting her seminal 1992 debut album, Tongues And Tails, while also sharing new music, like the recent signal, “Love Yourself.”

The combination is the perfect balance for Hawkins, who says proudly her current band is very much of this day. So even when she does songs like the timeless “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down,” they feel as vibrant as they did three decades ago.

I spoke with Hawkins about new music, motherhood, her affinity for George Harrison and much, much more.

Steve Baltin: How is the tour going?

Sophie B Hawkins: Oh, it’s amazing actually. People really love Tongues and Tails, and Whaler and Timbre, all the hits and everything. And they love the inner workings of that whole era. And they’re very supportive and excited. They hang on every nuance of the lyrics, which is great. And then we get to the new songs, and people just flip out. They’re very excited about “Love Yourself,” which dropped October 6. They’re streaming it and they know it, and they’re singing it and they’re clapping, and they’re all very supportive and very excited. And about the new album coming. So I just feel good. It’s almost like a reunion for me going back to a family that really loves my music.

Baltin: You’re celebrating an anniversary, obviously, but not just living in the past. I’ve talked to so many artists about this, I’m sure that was very important for you, that when you go out, you get to really appreciate what you’ve accomplished. But at the same time, do new music.

Hawkins: Yeah, and I think also one really supports the other. First of all, the band that I’m using is very of the day. I’ve got this amazing drummer Katie Marie, who also plays guitar and piano and sings. And then I’ve got the amazing Seth Glier, who also plays guitar and piano and sings. And then I’m moving around from drums to guitar, piano, like we are all moving around. And it’s just beautifully choreographed. It’s very exciting renditions of the old songs, because we’re bringing ourselves to them, they’re totally new for us. And then also the orchestration really works with the new songs, which are so musical. And so I don’t know how to say it, there’s no synthesizers, there’s no auto correct. In the new songs, the new album is really real. And so yeah. And I think of the thing about the songs from the ’90s from Tongue and Tails and Whaler is that because there was synthesizers and some people. You don’t really know until time goes by how great the songs are but they were great songs just written on a piano or a guitar whatever. And now, they’re standing up and they’re standing the test of time. And then you’ve got these new songs that seem to be standing the test of the audience, which is really amazing. And it’s all flowing, it’s very challenging. The set, we’ve got three of us playing a lot of parts are and we’re doing it. It’s tremendous.

Baltin: Has COVID and not always having the control on if and when you tour made you appreciate touring in a different way?

Hawkins: Yeah, and even on these tours, like Judy Collins. I was really excited about doing that double bill with her and then she had some kind of thing happened and had to cancel. You’re right, you never know what’s gonna happen, you’re not in control. And now a lot of us we have families and stuff. So there’s so much more in the mix. Before, it was like, you’re getting on radio, you’re dealing with your record company, you’re dealing with press and you’re always sort of going in one direction. And now, everything is so spread out, you don’t know what direction you’re going in. All you can do is make the best of the direction you’re thrown into and then try to kind of try to influence it towards where you want to go. So that’s different but you need the right people around you. You realize the people around you are key and you really want to do is set your table, you want to create your own vibe on the road. It’s the people that you really respect who can roll with this and deal with this. So I’m lucky.

Baltin: You say you’re lucky. But do you find that you also are appreciating it and enjoying it more now?

Hawkims: Yeah, I do. I think I always appreciate it. I think I’m truthful by nature. And I always did appreciate all the work and small successes and even the challenges ’cause those were where the songs come from. And so I can’t say honestly that I’m enjoying it more, because I’m such a enjoying type of person. But I would say that I see the world is tougher for artists. And I feel like I’m really one of the lucky ones. That would do the takeaway now. Before, I was one of so many artists who were so successful. And then I went off independently on my own, which was ahead of my time, I’d have to say, with the banjo and the third album, when I left Sony, and they gave me my masters back. And that was a huge deal, and a huge fight. And I’m standing up for artists, and I did that whole thing and that was great. But now what I’m realizing is that everything I’ve done, every choice I’ve made, has led me to this really good niche. I’m in a good place, and I’m really one of the lucky ones.

Baltin: So when you go on stage and you feel that connection with the audience what does that mean to you now?

Hawkins: It’s a connection. And especially being a mom, you’re gonna appreciate every connection so deeply, the nuances of them, and it’s realizing that in any moment, this can shift into something really almost untenable. For me, as a mother, you realize that these moments of connection and these moments of really registering with either an audience, which is one body at the time, whoever, cause you’re up there and you want to have this intimate experience and this give and take. And that’s the thing is, it’s not just about me and my career anymore. It’s about the way that I live and the way that I connect, because no success will ever make anybody happy. That is the truth, no amount of money or success. And you realize that for sure. You might think you know it, but boy, when you get older and you have children, you realize that for sure that the only thing you have is these connections and this ability to feel that you are reaching someone’s heart, and they’re reaching yours. And that is the key. When I get off stage, it’s not about really anything but that. “Was I really connecting with the audience since I wasn’t feeling really good about this? Was I really challenging myself?” Yes, I was, I feel good about this. I moved myself forward. We moved forward as a band, I moved forward as an artist in this show. And people got it and they received it and I received their energy. That’s all and you don’t care about the mistakes anymore for me. It’s really true. We’re living, really, moment to moment now.

Baltin: I’ve talked about it with so many artists too. When you have kids changes your whole outlook and you realize music is just one aspect, not everything.

Hawkins: Yeah, and it’s true then. And then it becomes about that you’re in the world and you know how limited your time is. And you know how important other people are. How we all are. It’s really interesting. And at the same time, I just want to say that as much as our kids are the only thing that “matters,” the truth is we can’t live for them and we can’t treat them like that either. It’s their lives too. And so that’s the hard part about it. In other words, the art takes on new meaning because at first the art is going to save you, your artwork is gonna support you, it’s gonna save you, it’s gonna tell people who you are, it’s gonna make your life matter. And then when other people’s lives, like your children matter, your art becomes something else, just as important, but really, really different. Because now, your kids don’t want you in their face and they don’t want your life and your art doesn’t matter to them. What matters to them is their art and their world and their life. And then suddenly your art becomes part of this other foundation for you, this other place. And that’s what I’m also realizing being away from them on tour. It’s really difficult for me to be away from them. They have become my whole meaning and now I’m back in my art and I go, “Oh, wait, this is my meaning.” When I’m home writing, I can write from 9:00-4:00, that’s when my kids are in school. And I can do a hell of a lot in those hours. And then I can come back, right after they go to bed. But it’s all in the context of that I’m their mom. And that’s my real job. When I get out here, I can’t control what’s happening at home, I can set it up the best I can. But now I’m in my art again, this thing that was the only thing that was gonna support me and be my everything. It’s really weird and yet it doesn’t. So now you’re finding new meaning with that, you have to redefine everything. It’s constant.

Baltin: Are there people that you really admire or appreciate for the way that they were able to evolve and grow into that artist that you’re talking about?

Hawkins: Oh, yes, there are so many. Someone like George Harrison, as such a songwriter and to be in the pressure cooker of the Beatles, and within that, such a steady, great songwriter and always evolving. So I look at songwriters, Joni Mitchell, and again, a steady, evolving great songwriter. And, I look at songwriters, I guess, as the people that I want to compare myself to, because that’s where I think my real natural talent is. That’s where I think I stand out, the songwriter, the lyricist. And that’s the people I would say tried and true, who have the longest careers that I think of right at the moment. I can name like, 50 others, but right now I just know those.

Baltin: “Love Yourself” came out October 6th. Are there other tracks from this record that you are really excited about the writing or that you can’t wait to share with people?

Hawkins: Yes, I actually think about that. I think about that because there are so many songwriters and songwriting has become such a thing. It’s almost like general now, where it used to be really specific sort of talent and craft and everything and sort of magical. Now it’s like tribes of songwriters and groups of songwriters and everybody wants to be a songwriter. And now songwriters like me are expected to give workshops on songwriting. I’m happy to go and ask people what they want to know and inspire somebody. But seriously, this is one of the arts. It’s not like writing a novel, it’s not. And I know this because I’ve written two novels that will never be published and then I’m writing a book now that I hope will be published, but I know the difference. Songwriting is such a specific thing. So anyways, I think that yes, my songwriting, I’m not saying it’s better or worse than it was, but I think I’ve written some of the greatest songs of our time. “As I Lay Me Down,” “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” I can honestly say that because the public has said it. And I feel it when I get up and sing it and go, “Holy s**t. This song is amazing. I could never write this song again. And I’m so glad that this came out of me. I don’t even know how it did, but thank God I was able to do it.” And then there’s a few songs on the new album that I was saying, “This song is f**king great.” I don’t know how it happened. Because I write plenty of songs that aren’t great, and then I sift through all of those and I try to put the best ones out there on the album for the albums. So yeah, I’m excited about the song “Free Myself.” People will hear them. I’m not supposed to really talk the new work. I’m supposed to say, “I’m in the studio working on it.” But the songs have been written and I’ve been performing some of them, and I think they’re just phenomenally complexly layered, but also fun. All my songs, they have this quality of being so simple on the surface and very melodic, but then musicians can’t ever play them. Because they’re not simple, they’re very complicated and that’s beautiful, and they love it and they laugh, and they go, “There’s always something, there’s always something in these songs that’s really, really unusual and never done.” So that’s my magical thing. And I don’t know how I got to do that, but I’m really grateful.

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