If ZO were to have an official vagabond, it’d be Claire Hawkins. We’ve checked in with her over the years as she’s played her guitar around the world and back, and we’re checking in again as she’s just released a brand new track. “The Name” isn’t the only thing we got into, as we also dug into the beauty of never choosing to stay put, where she might wind up next, and more like how you can find out how she does all this musical moving about. All of that and more in this international back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: Well, the last time we spoke, vaccines had just rolled out, and you were overseas, still in Ireland. Since then, you have nestled down in France. When it comes to the music scenes in each, from the venues to the community of indie artists, how would you say they differ most?
Claire Hawkins: It’s been a while! I left Ireland in the summer of 2021, and have moved around quite a bit since then. My latest stop was France, where I was fortunate to get to spend a month in Canet-en-Roussillon as an artist-in-residence working on a new songwriting project.
In each new music scene I visit, I’m always intrigued by the different roles that music can play in different societies. Of course, there’s great music everywhere, but it can have very different functions in different cultures, which I find really interesting.
Kendra: How much of your upcoming 2023 EP release do you feel represents your time in France?
Claire Hawkins: Actually, none of it! I finished this EP at the beginning of the year before I headed to France. The music I worked on at the artist residency is even newer, which means there’s more on the way after this EP (but I’m getting ahead of myself)! The EP covers the last two years of my life.
I started writing these songs when I was still living in Ireland, I finished writing in Germany, I tracked demos in Thailand, I finished the EP in New York City with producer Katie Buchanan, and then I shot the cover art in Ireland. These songs have already traveled the world with me, which is a pretty special thing to be able to say before the EP is even out.
Kendra: Thinking ahead, even just 10 years from today, what countries do you hope to have checked off your musical bucket list?
Claire Hawkins: What a great question! There are several countries in Latin America that I would love to visit. There’s a lot more of Mexico that I still need to see, and I’d love to visit Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil and get to know the local music scenes in each of those countries. I’d also really love to travel through West Africa and learn more about the origins of country music in places like Mali, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Kendra: Back to the EP, which is going to feature “Choosing to Stay.” This song felt like it could be about a person, but being a traveling musician, it also felt like a song centered around your wanderlust. Do you remember where you were when this song started to take place in your head?
Claire Hawkins: “Choosing to Stay” was the last song I wrote for the EP when I was living in Germany last summer. Spending a summer in Berlin had been a goal of mine since I studied there in college, and finally getting to realize that dream brought on some questions of “what’s next?” I was playing with this theme of choice and the idea that trying to avoid making a decision by standing still is still making a decision.
Kendra: With that, what do you think is the most rewarding thing about not choosing to stay in one place too long?
Claire Hawkins: The freedom that this nomadic lifestyle offers is really unmatched. The knowledge that I can pick up and go at any time is really comforting to me, and it makes me feel good about those times when I do choose to stay put for a bit.
Kendra: For those who are unaware and not already subscribed to your glorious YouTube channel – like you mentioned, you weren’t just in France to be there; you were actually there as a sort of job. Do most countries have these sorts of artist opportunities?
Claire Hawkins: I was in France as part of the Odyssée Artist-in-Residence Program, which is a government-funded program that invites foreign artists to come work on their craft at different heritage sites in France. It was an incredible experience, and sharing the adventure on my YouTube channel made it all the more fun. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to take my music abroad, and I’ve found that there are quite a few cool programs like this around the world, especially in Europe.
Kendra: Time for a side note – So August is a huge month for me, with so many loved ones’ birthdays being celebrated, so I’d love to know what song you’d dedicate to your loved ones, be it friends, family, or both…
Claire Hawkins: There’s a song that I wrote during my residency in France that was very much a love letter to the friends and family that have supported me through all my comings and goings over the years. I don’t know when I’ll get to share that one, but hopefully soon.
Kendra: Lastly, with a new EP on the way and your life always on the move, what else can the people out there expect from you as 2023 rolls along?
Claire Hawkins: My next single, “The Name,” came out on August 4th and we played a single release show the night before at The Mint in Los Angeles. In September I’m heading back to Ireland, where we’ll be celebrating my EP release with a very special show at Whelan’s in Dublin. That’s all I can share right now, but I definitely recommend keeping an eye out on my socials for some more announcements coming soon…