An email chain that goes back three years this year with Claire Hawkins sits in my inbox. Every 365 days or so I hear from her and with each new note, a new project from one of the hardest working musicians I’ve encountered in my 10+ years doing this. Late last year it was about her ‘Foreign Voice‘ EP, and an interesting ‘Foreign Voices’ Travelers Tour that had her taking things to new heights with out of the box shows at, of all places, hostels. We talked about all of that and then some as Claire continues to entertain with her ‘Foreign Voices‘ in the new year.
Kendra: What made you decide to go with a themed album this time around for ‘Foreign Voice?’
Claire Hawkins: When I came back from studying in Europe in 2018, travel was still very much on my mind. For the first time in my life, I felt a passion for something else that was as strong as my passion for music, so it became my goal to combine my love for music and travel. In that way, centering my EP around the theme of travel was both intentional and unintentional; I actively wanted to make travel a big part of my life, but I was already writing songs about my experiences in Europe anyway because they impacted me in such a big way, so travel was likely to be a big theme of my next record regardless.
Kendra: When you visit a new place, other than the music scene, what inspires you did that play a big role in the new album?
Claire Hawkins: For me, it’s 100% of the people. The ‘Foreign Voices’ Travelers Tour has introduced me to so many people that I now consider great friends. One of the best examples of this was my show in Killarney, Ireland at the Black Sheep Hostel. Everyone who works there was so friendly and welcoming. Before my show, the hostel hosted a pizza party so all the guests could meet and get to know each other. The show was extra special because it felt like playing to a whole room full of new friends. Then after the show, several of us went to a pub in town together, and the next day I got to spend more time in town with some of the people I met at my show. It still stands out as one of my favorite shows of the tour because of the people I met.
Kendra: When it came to Dublin, what stuck out for you so much so that it got a whole song penned about it?
Claire Hawkins: Each song on the album was inspired by a different place. The title track is about my time living in Berlin, “Une Partie” is about living in Paris, and “Pass-By Towns” is a song for all the small towns I’ve visited during my travels. “Dublin” was the first song I wrote for the EP. It was an interesting one to write because it came directly from my travel journal. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to journals.
I started nightly journaling when I was nine years old, and for the past couple of years, I’ve also kept travel journals that I bring with me on trips. The song “Dublin” comes from a page I wrote on my first full day in Dublin, which also happened to be my 21st birthday. My dad’s family is from Ireland and Irish music has influenced my songwriting, so it was a big dream come true to get to visit Dublin. At the same time, a 21st birthday in Europe (where the drinking age is 18) is a bit anticlimactic, and it was my first time celebrating my birthday more or less on my own, so I was missing my friends and family back home. In the song, I tried to capture the mixed emotions that sometimes come with traveling, even when you know you’re exactly where you should be.
Kendra: When we travel, we tend to do what tourists do. As someone who is on the road more often than not, what’s your advice when it comes to capturing a city’s essence?
Claire Hawkins: It’s so simple, but my best advice is to wander. Especially when I’m traveling solo, I love walking aimlessly through a new city. Sometimes I’ll eavesdrop on conversations happening around me (regardless of whether or not I understand the language being spoken…) or sometimes I’ll put my headphones on and listen to music that comes from the city I’m visiting. I do make notes of some spots I want to see ahead of time (travel vlogs are great for that!), but I also love asking locals I meet for their recommendations. You never know where you might end up!
Kendra: You’ve stayed on-brand with this album, playing hostels instead of traditional spaces. Was that something you planned on doing as soon as the idea of ‘Foreign Voice’ came to mind, or were you inspired to take that route later once the album was wrapped?
Claire Hawkins: I came up with the idea for the ‘Foreign Voices’ Travelers Tour while I was still working on the album. I knew I wanted to tour, but I hated the idea of only going to a city to play a show and then leave for the next city. It was important for me to figure out a way to spend some time in each place. I didn’t just want to tour, I wanted to travel. The idea to perform in hostels came to me first as a financial decision (I realized that I could stay for free in each hostel as part of my compensation for the gig), but the more I developed the idea, the more benefits I realized it had. Hostels do a great job of turning strangers with vastly different backgrounds into a community of travel-lovers.
My main goal with my music has always been to bring people together. Playing in hostels on the ‘Foreign Voices’ Travelers Tour has allowed me to do exactly that. As I moved forward with plans for the tour, I started thinking of other ways I could bring the worlds of music and travel together. A big part of that has been the video content I’ve been creating for my YouTube channel. I’ve been documenting each show of my tour with behind-the-scenes travel vlogs, which have been so much fun to make. I also started an interview series called ‘Foreign Voices‘, where I meet up with a local musician on each stop of my tour and talk to them about their city’s music scene. It’s been a great way to learn more about different music from around the world, and it’s also introduced me to a lot of new music and new friends!
Kendra: Will you continue to play hostels if you bring this tour to the US?
Claire Hawkins: These hostel shows have been so special and truly unlike any other shows I’ve played in the past. I’m interested in expanding on this idea of combining the worlds of music and travel, so whether that means continuing to tour hostels or trying something completely new, I’m open to it!
Kendra: What does the new year currently have in store for you?
Claire Hawkins: I am so excited for 2020! I’ve learned so much from the first few months of this tour so I feel ready to take on the new year. The ‘Foreign Voices’ Travelers Tour is continuing into the spring, so new dates will be announced soon. I’m also always creating new travel and music-themed videos for my YouTube channel (there’s a new video every Thursday!) so people can keep an eye on my YouTube Channel. I’m looking forward to visiting some places I’ve never been to before and learning about different music scenes around the world through the ‘Foreign Voices‘ interview series. Beyond that, who knows! I’m living in Dublin as my home-base while I tour around Europe, and I love it. As much as I adore traveling, I’m also planning to spend some time getting to know my new city, too.