A Chat with David Hawkins of Be (07.04.2016)

DavidHawkins_Be_sm (1)OSR: Hello, David. Thanks so much for speaking with me today. Firstly, would you care to tell us about yourself and introduce yourself to our avid readers?

DH: Hi. Thanks for having me. My name is David Hawkins and I am a musician and visual artist. I’ll be releasing the new Be album, You, on April 8th, which features Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM, Big Star). I am also the leader of the bands Hawks and Here Be Dragons, and I’m an abstract painter and a filmmaker.

OSR: One question I know many people would like to ask is why you operate under the pseudonym Be? Is there any particular meaning?

DH: To “be” is the most elemental state, and it’s one that we sometimes forget because we’re so busy “doing” all the time. Be says so much; I love it. It’s a reminder not just to exist, but to be yourself, fully, you know? Fly your freak flag; do what you’re here for.

The name came at a moment when I was fed up with the music business because its priorities are all wrong and it so often misses the point of music entirely, and I said “this is all bullshit, I’m not going to play these games anymore. I’m going to just “be” And that’s what I did.

OSR: In 2013, Be released a self-titled album that was quite successful. How do you feel You has departed from Be, if at all?

DH: You is a departure in the sense that the emotions are much more diverse than the debut, and I think this album has a wider dynamic range. The debut was fairly heavy and melancholic, and on this album the smoke is beginning to clear so to speak. The mood is lifting and there is an expansive feeling to the songs.

OSR: Can you tell us about your inspiration for the latest album, You?

DH: It was inspired by love and loss.  It’s an expression of gratitude for helping me through some really hard times. It’s looking back at the valley, but it also celebrates life and how sweet it is. It’s about the supremacy and difficulty of love and about sitting with the opposites and feeling it all. The pain, the joy (sometimes at the same time) and everything in between. It was a journey I went on and this is my offering from the journey.

OSR: What was the most exciting aspect of creating You?

DH: I love recording, and I got to spend a lot of time at my Michigan studio, which is a barn on 14 secluded acres that we built into a place to retreat to and play music and record.  Kind of a sonic hermitage. It’s one of my favorite places to be. Being immersed in nature for days on end while making music is heaven to me; the sound of the solitude and the woods gets into the songs; pine needles and bonfires; you can almost hear it. So that was great. But the most exciting part of making You was probably having Ken Stringfellow join in the process.

I’ve been a fan of Ken’s work with the Posies, REM and Big Star for years, and it’s been great collaborating with him. He joined in toward the end of this album, so his influence will be felt more on the coming albums. We’re continuing to record together and at this point he’s played on, I think, 36 songs spanning all three of my bands, Be, Hawk, and Here Be Dragons, which will all be coming out in the next year or two. We’re having a blast.

OSR: The new album seems to be one flowing tale from ‘Save The World’ to ‘I Get High (On You)’; however, do you have any favourite track? If you do, which one and why that one?

DH: I’m glad you noticed that. I always think in terms of albums, and it’s important that they work together as a piece; I like to take the listener on a journey of sorts. All of these songs are dear to me, so picking a favorite is hard. I think my favorite evolves with time, but if I had to choose one now, it would be ‘Golden Cup’, ‘If You Try’, ‘Superstar’; or ‘I Get High (On You)’. Oops, that’s four. (Laughter)

OSR: It is said that great tragedy begets great artistry. Do you agree with this?

DH: Yes, I think it does, at times. One of the highest functions of art or music is as a release or emotional catharsis for the be youartist, and it makes sense that when someone is going through something heavy, heavy art results. Some of my favorite albums came out of times of loss. Blood on the Tracks and The Velvet Underground’s third album are a couple of great examples, and there are countless others. It’s not the only time great art happens, but it’s one of them. Making music is so cathartic; I don’t know where I’d be without it as a release.

OSR: What do you think or hope your listeners will feel when listening to You?

DH: I hope the music resonates and that people can “live” in the songs and make them their own. Everyone goes through life’s ups and downs. Life isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s damn hard and it hurts. We all feel the joy, the heartbreak, and the need for deep feelings and connection in our lives. Music is powerful that way; when we’ve both felt the same thing and I voice it in a way that rings true for you, that’s deep stuff. There’s an alchemy there, of making spaces to live in for a while. It becomes your song and you fill the empty spaces in with your life. If you’re warmed by the same fire when you listen to it that I was when I wrote it and it resonates with you, then what more could I want?

OSR: Will you be touring anytime soon?

DH: Yes. We will be playing release shows in NY, LA and Chicago, and then we plan to tour more widely after that. We’ve been offered a tour of China, and we have a lot of fans in Europe, especially in the UK, Germany and Spain, so we hope to get over there this year to play for them.

OSR: If you could travel to any country, where would you go and why?

DH: I’ve travelled a lot, but India is definitely at or near the top of my list. My spiritual practice draws on the Northern Indian yogic tradition. I just love the Indian classical music (ragas) and am fascinated with the culture as a whole.

OSR: I know that you have worked with Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, but if you could collaborate with any other artist (living or dead) who would it be?

DH: Someone asked me this question last week, but living or dead, that makes it even harder! (Laughter). I am now collaborating with Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello’s drummer), who plays drums on the upcoming Hawk album, so that’s one more off my list!

I said Brian Wilson, John Cale, Brian Eno, John Paul Jones and Michael Stipe. If I’m dreaming, Keith or Paul McCartney, or of course Bob Dylan. Hell, I’d settle for just hanging out with Dylan for an hour. He’s my hero. I’ve been to too many of his shows to count. He’s like an angel or something with those incredible songs and the way he’s constantly evolving and defying expectations at every turn. He’s a force of Nature.

OSR: In addition to You, what can we expect from Be in 2016?

DH: We’ll be releasing several videos from the album, we’ll be touring, and are already in the midst of recording the third Be album.


To stay updated on all David’s tours, albums, and other musical endeavours, follow his Facebook and official Be website.

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