Bio: “Hawksley Workman is not afraid to be strange. After over a decade in the business, this hyper-prolific, perpetually restless creative force continues to push the boundaries of experience and the heights of his successes well outside the comfort zone. In fact, Hawksley Workman’s comfort zone is probably not all the comforting to most: it’s left of left field and nowhere near the beaten path. Call him a lone wolf, an odd duck or a strange bird; just don’t call him ordinary. Hawksley’s touring career has seen him play nearly a thousand shows in over 15 countries. He’s headlined prestigious venues like Massey Hall in Toronto and The Olympia in Paris, as well as opening for heroes Morrissey, David Bowie, and The Cure. As an actor Workman has appeared in films such as Score, Hockey a Musical (he also wrote a portion of the music), Youkali Hotel, and Stormy Weather. Beyond his own solo work, Hawksley has written songs for many feted artists including legends Johnny Hallyday and Jane Birkin.” He’s out touring his latest CD “Old Cheetah” and will be rolling through the Patch this month. I caught up with Hawksley, by phone, from somewhere in the Muskokas….
Mb: Hawksley, how are you?
HW: I’m good and we’re right on time!
Mb: I’m not one for being late. Always respect the other person’s time, I say.
HW: Agreed. It’s like, you get to the gig and the time sheet says sound check starts at 5:30. Well, it’s actually going to start at 6:30 and the show is 8:00, and then it’s 8:15. It’s one of those things where slowly your day gets chipped away at and you’re just sitting around waiting. It’s that “hurry up and wait” game we’re always talking about. Waiting for me is preposterous. At the Toronto airport there’s a section for people who are coming to the airport to pick up friends or family and there’s this sign that blinks and points in the direction of a parking lot that’s a little ways away from the airport that says “Free Waiting.” (laughs) To me, nothing could be more indicative of the coming apocalypse than when water is no longer free, when so much of essential life is no longer free, now at the airport they’re offering “Free Waiting!” We’ve really turned a corner I think.
Mb: Next it will be free air…
HW: (laughs) You know you say that but I bet if you and I talk in twenty years…
Mb: I get the feeling you’re a talkative guy, Hawksley. No problem stepping up to the mic and letting people know how you feel?
HW: I guess so. It’s part of my job I guess.
Mb: You’d be surprised at how many musicians aren’t that talkative.
HW: You know, I was up in the middle of the night thinking about that. I was thinking about artists who are more quiet. I think I am an introvert but I’ve done so much public speaking from such an early age, that I think it was built into my DNA to be able to speak, and it’s something I like doing. I’m a bit of a loner who likes to be on stage. It’s a safe place up there. Being able to speak or sing or whatever, feels safe and comfortable for me to do that.
Mb: I noticed that you, like myself, wear many hats in life. In my case, I know it doesn’t allow me to do the best job possible when spread so thin. Ever feel like that?
HW: I know what your saying. The older I get, the more I realize that I’m better when I focus on one thing. I used to think I was a young little miracle worker cause when I was young I could show up with enough charm and pizzazz and kind of pull the wool over everybody’s eyes and people would go “Wow, look at him go!” But I feel that the quality work, that you really feel value from when you’re older, is the stuff you need to take the time to do properly.
Mb: That said, it does afford you an interesting life. I’ve seen you’ve done some acting, you’re playing all the roles in studio from producer to bass player to songwriter… don’t you feel that may give you a greater insight and understanding of many disciplines rather than having a limited perspective?
HW: It’s interesting. I do think that. One of my earliest Toronto mentors, someone I’m sure you know, was former MP Andrew Cash. Before Andrew’s political career, he was a musician. He used to come into the studio in my earliest days and listen to stuff and he said to me one time “You know, your biggest problem will be that you can do too much.” In some ways I don’t think that’s entirely wrong. I tend to complicate when the simple way may have been better. I tend to over elaborate when a single word could suffice. It’s that I’m really excited about things, you know? Any one who is really earnest is never at risk of being cool, they are sort of the opposite of one another. I’ve always been earnest, that’s why the whole “cool thing” has been off the table for me. I am excited to be doing my theatre show. I am excited to be in the studio playing all the instruments. That’s what, when I was a kid building studios out of Lego or drawing drum-sets on the back of my math work books, that’s what I was signing up for. I knew at a very early age that I wanted to do all that stuff. It all seemed like it was accessible. All I needed to do was save up enough allowance to buy a new instrument. I remember buying the bass and whatever I was listening to at the time I came under the influence and that’s how I played that instrument. Ya, do a lot of stuff. wear a lot of hats. I always said this to musicians, “If you don’t do this in Canada then you’re out of work, because the ones that make the million dollars are so few and far between that you really do have to be… it doesn’t pay to be a cumbersome human. It’s good to be a bit liquid.
Mb: So you’re back to Peterborough. Like it here?
HW: Ya, I married a Peterborough girl, so I’m there all the time. I love it. I get to see the new part of my family and it’s a warm place. There’s lots of interesting things about Peterborough. It’s a fascinating city. It reminds me a lot of Saint Johns in the way that you can feel the old realities, of the Protestant and Catholic divide, still really there and present. There’s neat things in Peterborough. It’s just far enough from Toronto that it has its own identity and then you have the hippy flavour that’s been brought in by the university. It’s a fascinating place.
Mb: Lots of music and art, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs….
HW: Ya, and you’ve got the Silverhearts!