The best part about middle school is that we sort of all go through the same situations brought on by not only biology but our mental state at that age. So think back to that time in your life, and then realize that tweens and teens around the world experienced middle school during a pandemic in which they were isolated for safety while watching adults bicker about everything from masks to science. I for one cannot imagine being that age during that time, but for many, that was their reality. Many like singer-songwriter Hawthorne Oachs.
Yes, we’re talking to a young singer-songwriter today who lived it and got candid about the mental struggles all of the above had on her, and how she spun them into music that sounds like she’s been doing it for years. Our conversation didn’t stop there as we explored why society often overlooks the voices of the youth, what she hopes her generation’s creative legacy will be, and more like her latest single, “Chase Me.”
Kendra: Getting your start not too long ago while still only in middle school, hats off to you because I was a hot mess express at your age. What do you think has contributed to you being so focused on music?
Hawthorne Oachs: Thanks so much, Kendra! I have more than enough hot mess express moments that I could probably drive the bus!
During the pandemic, besides the obvious boredom, I needed an outlet to express all of my emotions. I was already making music and art but in a more casual way. After writing my first complete song, I discovered it was more than a way to pass the time and music became a passion that I promptly continued to use and hone. I was also going through a very difficult time in my life and having a tool to get my feelings out was very handy.
From my experience, the teenage years, while certainly formative, can also be extremely chaotic to live through. There are so many new emotions and experiences that can sometimes take a second or two to process. Having multiple creative outlets has helped me cope with all the stress and the learning that comes with growing up.
Kendra: Since the rise of social media and YouTube in the past 15+ years we have seen artists coming about earlier than before like Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. At the same time, we’ve also watched the aforementioned both be sort of overwhelmed with the fame. They’ve both taken mental breaks from the limelight. Do you think that’s ultimately the biggest drawback of fame today, that eyes constantly being on you once you hit a certain level?
Hawthorne Oachs: What a great question! That thought has crossed my mind before when I started all of this. I mean, it’s hard not to think about that possibility and wonder if there is anyone in the world who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by fame at any age.
Everyone micro-analyzes what people are doing publicly anyhow, so being at that level I can imagine that it could get overwhelming if not tended to with care and intention. I’ve thought about not being able to really live my life anonymously and that maybe being in the limelight so early could possibly be detrimental to my growth or mental health. However, I really do feel an indestructible desire to share my art and music with the world, and I see it as my little way of changing it.
I’ll make time for those mental health breaks if I need them, and remind myself (and anyone else that needs to hear it) that it’s perfectly healthy to take a step back and just live and experience life. Plus, with those new experiences come new inspirations, stories to tell, and new ways to tell them.
Kendra: Speaking of mental breaks, we crossed paths when I reviewed your single, “Maybe Time.” I could not believe you weren’t an artist with 20 years to their name. It is such a well-done song, but also the lyrics were just wonderful, yet sort of melancholy. Was that a song that felt therapeutic for you to pen?
Hawthorne Oachs: First, thank you, Kendra! Not only for your kind words but for the beautiful review you wrote for “Maybe Time.” You were my first press and I’ll never, ever forget that!
Most of my songs are either written about experiences or thoughts I’ve had and writing about them is exceedingly therapeutic. Sharing them with the world is my way of setting them free.
“Maybe Time” was particularly therapeutic because I was in uncharted territory experiencing depression and anxiety for the first time throughout the pandemic, and writing that song was a way for me to work through those feelings. I almost didn’t release it because it felt so personal and immensely vulnerable to me. When I realized that surely I was not alone in experiencing depression or anxiety, I decided to release it regardless in hopes that it might make someone else feel assured that they are not alone.
Kendra: In all my years of writing and now on my podcast, Crushgasm, I always say the ages in which we are in middle school are without a doubt my favorite chapter in human existence because it’s the first big wave of changes for us that in hindsight hits all of us in sort of the same way. Which makes me wish more people your age would start to channel those thoughts into art. Especially your generation, which I feel is the boldest yet. Thinking of the big picture, what do you hope your generation’s legacy will be in terms of art; music, movies, television, etc.?
Hawthorne Oachs: That’s a big question and I genuinely carry a lot of hope that my generation’s creative legacy will be one of unapologetic authenticity. I feel that way particularly because art and music are excellent agents for change. I sincerely hope we are known for using our art and voices to make life a little better for everyone around us, and that we are so loud that we simply cannot be ignored.
Being young, you get dismissed a lot. Society often thinks kids don’t have anything of value to contribute or that we aren’t mature enough to have big thoughts, let alone see solutions to problems. I get really frustrated by that because creativity, innovation, and passion aren’t exclusively reserved for adults. Ideas can come from anywhere! I’m lucky because most of the adults in my support system have encouraged me to not only dream but enabled me when I decided to take action on those thoughts and dreams.
I see so many peers making art and I can only hope that the adults they encounter are as supportive and encouraging to them. In the year that I’ve been doing this so far, I’ve noticed a lot of gatekeeping in the music industry, so I always have heaps of gratitude for the gems who stop to listen to the younger voices and amplify them. Including you, Kendra! Being part of a bold generation as you say, I’m manifesting a legacy for us that ambitiously leaves a trail of artistic expression behind that is inclusive, inspirational, revolutionary, full of love and kindness.
Kendra: So I was listening to “Ghosties” and it felt very different from what I’d heard from you before. It had a bit of a bite to it, but what I loved most was the musical arrangement. It felt very much like an homage to shows like ‘The Munsters.’ Was that the inspo behind the overall sound?
Hawthorne Oachs: Thank you for the compliment! ‘The Munsters’ theme song is such a classic! “Ghosties” wasn’t influenced by only one specific piece of spooky – but rather a culmination of spooky! My family delights in all things Halloween and ghost stories, so for years we coordinated costumes and enjoyed the season’s creepings together in various ways. Spooky is deeply baked into me! I don’t really enjoy slasher films or unnecessary jump-scares, but I do quite appreciate psychological and analog horror with surreal elements.
While lyrical interpretation is subjective, I wrote “Ghosties” about leaving depression, anxiety, and trauma behind, with the ghost representing the aforementioned issues coming back to haunt you. While the ghost depicts depression, anxiety, and trauma – those issues don’t define you as a person but are still part of you whether temporarily or perpetually. To choose to accept that and learn to nurture and manage it better, or rather to become “friends” with it instead of ignoring or rejecting it, that’s the sentiment behind “Ghosties.” “Ghosties” was pivotal for me because it was also a time where I was experimenting with my sound, trying out something with more of a bite while also making my contribution to the collection of spooky, head-bop-able, make-your-Halloween party unstoppable songs out there!
Kendra: All of that said, what can we expect from your next single? More in the direction of “Ghosties” or leaning more towards “Maybe Time?”
Hawthorne Oachs: My new single “Chase Me” exists in a softer, more gentler vista. If you’ve ever wondered if they love you enough, or if you love yourself enough, or even if you wonder why you keep chasing a “perfect” version of yourself aimlessly, you just might discover that “Chase Me” taps into the desolate emotions of the fear of loss, regret, and the burden of perfectionism. I hope you will look forward to it!
Kendra: Time for a side note: With Thanksgiving being right around the corner I’d love to know what artist’s discography are you most thankful for?
Hawthorne Oachs: Ahhhh, this is such an impactful question because music is like air and water for me! If I had to choose right here and now, I’m most thankful for Mafumafu’s discography. There’s a lot of music that I really love listening to, but the artist that I come back to the most is him.
His music and variety content helped me through some hard times in my life. When I’d listen to him, it made me feel understood and seen. My favorite song is his cover of “Eine Kleine,” and surprisingly, it has stayed my favorite. I do love a lot of his songs, though, and recently have learned “Jigsaw Puzzle” on guitar! Also, “Hated by Life Itself” was a favorite of mine for a long, long, time because it validated my emotions, and reinforced my learning and love for the Japanese language, which I’ve been studying for the past three years. I must conclude by clarifying that I adore so many other artists and I could go on and on about them as well!
Kendra: Lastly, with “Chase Me” out now, what’s on the horizon as we head closer to 2023?
Hawthorne Oachs: Earlier this year I applied for my first grant and got it, so I used that to help make “Ghosties” and “Chase Me.” As you can probably imagine, funding big projects at my age takes some creativity, but even so, I’ve got several new songs in the works for a future release.
I’ve been spacing them out because, with each one, I’ve learned something new – which has helped me define my musical direction.
Sometimes I do wonder if anyone will resonate with someone still figuring themselves out because candidly this is me learning and growing up in the public eye. Since I don’t yet have a label to promote me, finding my audience has been a challenge, but I know that they are out there. Given that music and art have already saved me a million times over, if one person finds my music or art and it provides something of value to them, even if for a brief moment in time, then it will have been worth it.
While “Chase Me” is a taste of what is yet to come in 2023 and beyond, you can expect me to continue working hard and pouring my heart into whatever comes next, with probably a few twists and turns sprinkled in there just to keep it interesting. I hope you will be there to cheer me on!