This week, I'd like to introduce you to Chris Hawkes.
Chris is 1/2 of the Austin, Texas-based husband-wife duo Dawn & Hawkes. The group formed in 2012, and have been recording and touring ever since. In 2014, they were featured on Season 6 of "The Voice", where they joined the team led by Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Their most recent release, "Yours and Mine", is a fantastic album, so make sure you buy it immediately after reading this blog!
But, how do I know Chris?
Back when I was in high school, I used to frequent local shows down in Deep Ellum. My two favorite bands were Forty Percent and Greatness in Tragedy, and I tried to never miss one of their shows. Walking into the Curtain Club, getting punched in the face by second-hand smoke, having a giant X on my hand to let everyone know I wasn't old enough to order a Shiner (I'm sure my thin frame and lack of any signs of facial hair may have given it away, also...), seeing my favorite local musicians walk past me, people watching for days...all of these things remain some of my favorite times ever.
Chris fronted a band called Redtag at the time, and I noticed that they opened almost every show I went to. Chris was a no-frills frontman; which was the polar opposite of the two bands I mentioned previously. He didn't transform into some other person on stage, which was refreshing. He was himself. I could relate to him in some way, even as a 17-year old who didn't know who I was or where I fit in. In watching him, I could see that he was probably the most talented musician on each stage he stepped onto, but he never tried to exploit that. There were no gimmicks. He simply loved playing music, and he did it with humility, hard work, and a lot of talent.
My first interaction with him was on AOL Instant Messenger, otherwise known as AIM. I was getting into music and recording, so I reached out to Chris with a bunch of questions that probably drove him insane. He graciously answered them all and talked back and forth with me a few times. It meant the world to me that a musician I had great respect for would take the time to have a conversation with a teenager, and it means the world to me that he would take the time to answer a bunch of questions for my blog!
Throughout the next few years, I watched Chris continue to write and produce in a few different bands, including a solo project. I got to see him play a solo acoustic show when I first moved to Denton, Texas. Every musical endeavor he's been a part of has been really great, but I always got the sense that he hadn't found exactly what he was looking for yet.
Fast forward to 2017, and I think he's found it. He writes and records amazing music with his wife Miranda Dawn, and he did it all the right way.
I strongly encourage anyone who reads this to support Dawn and Hawkes as much as you can. My wife and I saw them perform in Denison, Texas a few months back, and it was a phenomenal show. We bought a vinyl LP of their newest record "Yours and Mine", and we listen to it all the time.
Without any more rambling from me, enjoy the interview with Chris.
Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I'm a musician, guitar and taco enthusiast living in Austin, TX. I write songs and perform concerts throughout the country with my charming wife. I'm thankful every day to love what I do and the people I do it with.
Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I grew up in Arlington TX and went to school in Denton before moving to Austin a decade ago. Arlington was a window into the world of middle-America's Top 40 and Classic Rock – Denton showed me how an intimate artistic community encourages more expression and rich creative energy and Austin is an endless stream of music and musicians flowing through a infrastructure built by people with love and respect for legends and rich history that inspires, encourages and challenges me all the time.
Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Making music! I'm grateful to have a way to make ends meet doing what I love. The administrative or business aspects of a music career (researching, networking, booking, promoting, accounting) are time consuming. We spend about 2hrs a day making music or rehearsing and 10hrs working on the background business. Added financial freedom might allow even more free time to create and perform.
Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
People, landscapes and art inspire me. The stories people share are motivational – hearing how someone similar deals with something so different or a person who seems different has the same struggles and joy. Those interactions are the most inspiring things.
Landscapes, especially in nature, are also thought provoking. I love how looking out at a road winding through a mountain or river waters pouring into the ocean can start a whole stream of new thoughts and ideas. Anytime I feel stuck in a mindset, there's a landscape that can change my mind for the better.
Creative arts, musical, visual, theatrical and even technological expressions are inspiring. It's so cool to see the creative outlet of individuals represent them in a way that simple words couldn't do alone. Inanimate objects become so full of life and meaning by relating back to a person. The temporal nature of us being here can become slightly more permanent through a recording listened through generations or a piece that's preserved and celebrated in a museum. I also appreciate the more fleeting performance arts because they impart those same larger-than-life insights as memories held by other people. It's lovely to share a life with people who want to share themselves with you.
Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
I struggle with balance. Maybe a lot of people do. Finding the right amount of time to spend creating but also taking care of the chores of life. It's like having enough wood for the fire but not letting it go out while you're busy looking in the dark for the perfect log. That shows up for me as being in pursuit of success but also being consistent with the quality of our art and communication with people.
Being in Austin raises the stakes a bit because of the city's parabolic growth in the cost of living. It's an inspiring place to be but it's a challenge to balance with affordability for the creative community. I really want generations after us to be able to experience and submerge in the same inspiration we've had from the artistic side of the city.
There's also obstacles navigating the moving targets of the music business – I hesitate to use the word "industry" because it's not all a coalesced, refined and conventional thing that musicians take part in. It's like a wild land of tribes. Some tribes quickly flourish and stay for a good amount of time, like iTunes and downloadable music, but that can change even quicker when the listeners find convenience with another structure like streaming. It's not new or a "frustration" all the time for me because it's part of the information age that has been integral to my even having a musical career. The straight and narrow path for "professional" musicians is more open now – more confusing but more open. It's a constant activity to keep learning and adapting.
Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
A first defining moment for me was deciding to drop out of art school and pursue music full-time. I was late to a ceramics class while talking to a band about recording their album. I had the choice of going to class and making a clay pot I might sell someday (only if I got MUCH better!) or pay my rent in a few days recording rock songs.
The second moment was when I moved to Austin knowing only one person, my new roommate. It was exciting to be in a city that was named "Live Music Capital" and felt like a turning point of fully committing myself to pursuing music.
The third moment was asking my girlfriend and bandmate to marry me. That was fully committing! I moved to Austin, grew up a little and lucked out a lot.
Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
I would love to keep traveling and playing music for decades. I'd also love to start a school or mentorship for young musicians wanting to make a living in music. I found pivotal moments of inspiration from mentors growing up and I'd like to put more back into the musical world. It seems trickier now for kids just getting started. With all of these wonderful years watching people's lives be enriched by making music and hearing music, it would be a shame to think any of those moments didn't happen for the next generation.
Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (specific art, books, music, activities, etc.)
A few of my favorite things: Making Miranda laugh, finding inspiring new music, listening to Led Zeppelin, dancing to classic blues and country with Miranda, Tacos, Guitars, watching The Big Lebowski and dreaming about beach resorts.
Be sure to check out Dawn & Hawkes, and support them by buying their music/merch! Their newest album "Yours and Mine" is available everywhere now.
Official Facebook Page
iTunes - "Yours and Mine" (2016)