Q&A with singer/songwriter Juliet Hawkins - modern troubadour with footprints in both the soul and rock worlds

"I want people to feel, to think, to let go of fear, to look inward; most importantly I want my music to carry a message of unity and hope. I want people to come together and want to move as one. I want my music to serve as a monkey wrench in the machine that is our society."

Juliet Hawkins: Lead with Love

A modern troubadour with footprints in both the soul and rock worlds, singer & songwriter Juliet Hawkins brings her message of hope and self-acceptance in her new EP Lead with Love (2020). From the start of her musical journey in Rockport, Mass., on a path that led to working at an orphanage in Peru, stints in Wyoming and California, and finding her true voice in Nashville, Tenn., Hawkins’ commanding vocals evoke a place of self-healing. The fusion of her fiery personality and artistry stirs and inspires the listener. From her rendition of Cage The Elephant’s “Trouble” to the smoky, bedroom pop track “Let You Leave”, Hawkins’ compass points home. “I chose the Cage the Elephant cover because besides being a personal fan of the Nashville band, the message felt relevant given ‘the times’,” Hawkins, who first released the single on July 3, said. “It was the first to be released as well to set a personal and global storyline. The solution to the trouble is love.”                               Juliet Hawkins / Photo by Misfit Studios

Her recovery after the devastation of a drug addiction doesn’t define Hawkins. Her energy now focuses into music, she’s into plant-based medicinals, and her independent soul has taken her to places near, far and off the beaten path. She’s enlightened her world with surges of adrenaline and centered meditation. Like the lotus blossom tattooed on her body and ingrained in her art, Hawkins’ trek aims not for perfection but for enlightenment. Lead with Love released on a full harvest moon day. “I’ve always been influenced by the moon and feel it’s the purest time for setting intentions, manifesting, transcending and rebirth,” Hawkins said. Hawkins’ live performances include her band, comprised of Ricky “Tank” Daughtridge Jr. (drums), Jackson Price (guitar) Cory Williams (keys) and Patrick McIsaac (bass). Daughtridge and Price (playing both guitar & bass) lend their talents to Lead with Love. After years of backing up a Cream and Eric Clapton cover band in San Diego, Hawkins is now at home front of stage with a divinely unique musical repertoire that centers around her formidable feminine spirit.

Interview by Michael Limnios     Special Thanks: Juliet Hawkins & Melissa L. Kucirek

How has the Soul and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think the soul and rock counterculture has hugely influenced urge to speak up and speak out, especially in the message of my music; to radically self accept and encourage each other to wake up, let go, let our freak flag fly so to speak, and make the music we want to make, the music in our hearts, the art that has the power to move and to nurture awakening and expression, verses a mainstream cookie cutter approach.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I’ve never been great at putting my music in a category or genre, but I’d probably describe it as a caldron of vintage soul infused and marinated in blues roots sprinkled with a classic hip hop groove. I grew up listening to people like Chet Baker, Nina Simone, Blackstreet, and Amy Winehouse, so perhaps I’ve borrowed elements of each of those sounds to mold my own. Although I’d like to think I can create anytime, when I’m going through something emotionally painful or even experiencing a spike in my own daily depression, that’s when I usually make the best music. Something about feeling submerged in darkness causes me to reach for that light inside to create.

"I think I miss that it took talent to go places, it took dedication, faith, community, love, a shared experience; unlike today where with enough money, enough of a social media presence, enough fancy equipment, you can be a “star”. I miss the authenticity of what was, how artists used to go about it. The heart of it." (Juliet Hawkins / Photo by Misfit Studios)

What moment changed your life (and career) the most? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I fell into the grips of an opiate addiction that nearly killed me. I ended up overdosing and moved out to the mountains of Wyoming for a few years and something shifted inside me, something new stepped in when I woke up that gave me a completely different admiration for life, art, the universe, and my own existence. My voice and music changed as well. I felt things and began writing things that I’d never experienced. The best advice anyone gave me was my grandmother Dorothy Ozanne. She said I had the indomitable spirit of the Irish woman and to never, ever give up. So I haven’t. 

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think I miss that it took talent to go places, it took dedication, faith, community, love, a shared experience; unlike today where with enough money, enough of a social media presence, enough fancy equipment, you can be a “star”. I miss the authenticity of what was, how artists used to go about it. The heart of it. I think technology has made artists lazy and made audiences blind to what actually matters, which is the message. Music is meant to be a universal language for people to connect and heal, regardless of race, religion, creed, upbringing, etc... it’s become hugely some plastic one dimensional presentation with a voice machine and some fancy filters that anyone can hide under and I believe it’s my job in my own art to bring it back to something real. My voice, my look, my story, is far from perfect but it’s who I am and if I can help other people feel ok as who they are, then I’ve done my job. I hope technology crashes and we go back to a Woodstock way of music, so people can shift their focus from the quality the internet says they have, to the reality of who they are and the difference they make in the world. The only fear I have in this is that we stay on the road we’re on, aside from music, and that we don’t come together as a world and make the necessary changes to save this planet.

What would you say characterizes Nashville's music scene in comparison to other US scenes and circuits? 

I’ve lived a lot of different place and when I got to Nashville, for the first time I felt I belonged; I felt I fit in amongst a bunch of other misfit toys because the focus of inclusion and community is huge here unlike any other city I’ve lived in. It’s “cool” to collaborate, to reach out, to jam with random people. The “more the merrier” spirit here is still alive and well and it’s not as common in a lot of other places within this industry. Somewhere along the line they figured out here in Nashville to keep it they must give it away, and that’s what a lot of people here have done for me. I felt in parts of Southern California, all the way back to the music college scene in Boston, there was an arrogance and elite-ness that really turned me off. It’s a crabs in a bucket scarcity mentality that’s deeply rooted in insecurity or a “how can I benefit from you/who do you know” thing and it went so deeply against the grain for me having had an experience of salvation and gratitude with music myself, not competition and caddy-ness. I’m sure that exists in parts of everywhere but the minute I landed in Nashville, even at baggage claim, people were kind, helpful, interested in connecting. There’s a heart here that really beats for me and I’m lucky I found it.       (Juliet Hawkins / Photo by Misfit Studios)

"Although I’d like to think I can create anytime, when I’m going through something emotionally painful or even experiencing a spike in my own daily depression, that’s when I usually make the best music. Something about feeling submerged in darkness causes me to reach for that light inside to create."

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I think now more than ever it’s actually a woman’s world, with all due respect to the great James Brown. I also was lucky enough to have a father encourage me and my sisters to never let our gender limit us. As the feminist movement grows, I feel right at home straddling the line of feeling empowered in my female body and spirit and also removing that stigma or stereotype one gender holds over another because of what society has told us those roles entail, anatomy aside. I have tremendous respect for my male artist friends and equal respect for my female artist friends, but in order to transcend into something greater, it’s important to play both sides of the coin; to focus on being a good human more than being a strong man or even an empowered woman. We’ve got to rewrite the script and adjust the role play if we want to be a better human race in general. 

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Throughout a lot of my music, I have been overtly sexual, outspoken, and sort of in the face of the listener intentionally to derail the stereotypical image of a female artist or her message. For example, I’m about to release a song called “Daddy’s Home” in which I describe myself as being daddy; that there is a “daddy” in all of us; that you can play any role you want, that it’s ok to talk about these feelings, that it’s actually necessary to our social awakening. I want people to feel, to think, to let go of fear, to look inward; most importantly I want my music to carry a message of unity and hope. I want people to come together and want to move as one. I want my music to serve as a monkey wrench in the machine that is our society. 

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

If I could take a time machine anywhere I’d probably go back as far as I could to the beginning and show people what has happened to our world because of money, greed, the obsession with power, and even technology. I’d tell them to stick together. I’d make sure it’s plastered everywhere that a Native American woman lead the white men who claimed to discover America. I’d try and prepare them for the corruption that will come. I’d tell them to keep a trade and barter system, I’d encourage weekly or even daily community jam sessions, and I’d let them in on the obvious secret we know now, that the government is going to attempt at dividing and conquering them eventually. I’d tell them to keep the focus on plant medicine, preserving the oceans and forests and our fellow creatures that live here with us. I’d tell them to never let each other forget how special women are and to honor our mothers and grandmothers and sisters and daughters as queens, not as objects or less than a man. I’d remind them to love each other no matter what and I’d warn them that their love for each other will be tested. If they didn’t believe me of the perils to come, or I couldn’t communicate with them in my language, I’d probably spark a joint and play them some of my music on the guitar I hopefully tossed in the backseat of the time machine.

Juliet Hawkins / Photo by Misfit Studios 

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