You may not have heard of Kirsty Hawkshaw
before today, you may not have listened to Electronica music before today and that’s OK, because that’s about to change. There aren’t many singers in the music industry with such a wide vocal range like Kirsty’s, at least not on our side of the pond. Born in the London, UK in 1969, to British Disco producer Alan Hawkshaw it seemed almost inevitable that Kirsty would have music running through her veins. Showing interest in performing at age 3, her father saw no harm in letting his young daughter record her own vocals. So, he gave her a tape recorder and allowed her to spread her free flowing, creative wings. That event would be the catalyst to a career that spans 21 years over 50 collaborations and approximately five full length albums, and a recently started music label Barefoot-Audio
with music specifically written and produced by herself and Helen Hall.
Discovered in 1991 at a rave event by producers of Opus 111, she would quickly join the group and form Opus III, a dance act. Throughout the years Kirsty has established long-term professional relationships with music producers and a close personal friendship with BT. She’s had great commercial success on these collaborations producing hits like, Just Be (Tiesto), “Running Down the Way Up” (BT), and “Fine Day 2008” (Kinky Roland), to name a few. While her dance hits have made her a household club name, it wasn’t until I heard her Electronica collaborations with Delerium and Sleepthief that I really got a sense of the enormous range of vocal talent that Kirsty has.
On her solo album Meta-Message from start to finish you are treated to 12 tracks, all with their own identity and sound. The reproduction, aka remix of “Just Be Me” (not the Tiesto version) is a great House track, along with the awesome production work of Mike Truman and Chris Healings on “Blackout” and “All I Want.” You are hit with “Beautiful Danger” perfectly remixed by Future Funk Squad and Slovo’s “Whisper.” As a retrospective album I was hoping for “Dreaming” and “Running Down the Way Up” to be listed on here in reality Nettwerk could have added at least 4 more tracks to this pseudo greatest hits. Kirsty’s latest release, “Ice Castles”, is a bit of a departure from what you’re used to hearing. Its Ambient Chillout feel is toned down from the usual House/club beat driven songs you tend to get when she’s collaborating. Also, another larger missing component is her vocals. While she’s there, it’s more an accompaniment to the music rather than the main show. This is mostly instrumental, so before you get your panties in a bunch try it, it’s actually very good and quite relaxing.
Kirsty’s voice never disappoints, however and what you hear is what you get time in and time out. I had the humbling opportunity to interview Kirsty as she took time out of her busy schedule, including her recent marriage to longtime love Tim, to answer a few questions from little old me. Here’s how that went:
Erin: You've had quite the steady and exciting career, what do you think attributes to your longevity in this industry?
Kirsty: I think it's really important to have a normal life in order to keep ones mental health in check when dealing with the music industry and to not take it all too seriously. I got a lot of advice from my Dad about that. I've mostly stayed out of the limelight and just got on with making music. I've never gravitated towards the Celebrity status side of things but have stayed friends with people I trust and make sure that I take time for them instead of hanging out with people I don't know well just to raise profile.
Erin: Did you know from the very beginning that this is the type of music genre you wanted to perform in and did your father Alan Hawkshaw support the idea of you getting into the music business?
Kirsty: My Dad didn't want me to get into the music business I think part of me rebelled against that lol.
Erin: Rebelling against your parents is a universal language no matter what country you live in, lol. I think DJ Tiesto and BT are probably my two favorite solo male artists in the Electronic genre, what do you like about working with them?
Kirsty: When I work with producers, I need a certain level of intimacy with them in order to get something good as a result. I have some of my most memorable experiences in life working with BT. We are both into very similar things. I once walked 20 miles in the dark with him after we missed a ferry back to Bodinnick where I used to live in Cornwall and basically got to know each others’ lives during that walk. Working with Tiesto was like working with a machine, he has a team of people behind him and there was only one person in that team that I really connected with to be honest. I ended up recording my vocals for Just Be at Judie Tzukes house and the song was originally uploaded onto my website as I was hoping a label would sign it after hearing it, sadly this was the cusp where vocalists could only get deals if they featured on a DJ record. I gave in and let Tiesto use the song for his album because nobody would sign it as a Kirsty Hawkshaw track. I didn't even know who he was at the time but everybody in the team was saying he was going to be massive. I'm a bit pissed off with his team at the moment because Just Be on his official YouTube account doesn't have my name on it. I've been protesting and mentioning this on twitter and my fans have been standing up for my rights.
Erin: I think singers are sadly underrated in this business and at times looked over, so I’m glad to see you are railing against that and standing up for yourself. More women need to see that strong role model so they will feel empowered to do the same.
Meta-Message, which you released in 2005 happens to be one of my favorite albums. I have in my iPod rotation (it's on right now). From start to finish, it's impeccable. I can't say there's one song on it that isn't listenable (if that's even a word). In 2008 you released Machinima on the Loverush Digital label and now the Ambient album Ice Castles on the Magnatune label, was it a natural progression for you to move towards digital record labels?
Kirsty: The problem with Wikipedia
is that the facts are not always correct. I didn't release an album called Machinima with Loverush Digital and I won't be working with them again because they don't pay my royalties for other releases. I do get paid my royalties by Magnatune though and I like their ethos so I hope to work with them again.
Erin: Yes I agree Wikipedia can be a crapshoot with facts. Digital Record labels, Youtube, Spotify, iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, with all of this social media and digital media sharing, do you think it's helped independent artists such as yourself gain a larger broader audience?
Kirsty: Yes definitely it has, I just still think there is a lot of corruption in the collection societies though and this needs to be addressed. i am a pro-active member of the VSA http://www.vsa-global.com
which is an alliance of vocalists who have had enough of the corruption and Dictatorship within the dance music scene. We are uniting and protesting for our rights and its' working. We now have 200 strong members on the private forum.
Erin: Two hundred members, that’s excellent. Where do you get your inspiration from when writing a song, do you follow a specific routine when writing or is it when creativity strikes you?
Kirsty: It either strikes me or it doesn't. I sometimes just compose something with my piano and write a top line, sometimes I get given a track and a melody will come. It varies. My favorite project at the moment is my Barefoot Running music. I've started an Ltd company with an Ultra Distance Iron Man champion 'Helen Hall' called Barefoot-Audio and together we have created 3 running programs to aid runners to be more efficient in their style.
Erin: I think it's safe to say that in the Electronica genre an overwhelming amount of time you will hear female vocals and one thing many of you share in common are your collaborations. Both you and Jody Quine have been featured on Sleepthief's album and you've shared a spot with the likes of Kristy Thirsk, Rani Kamal (aka Rani Kamalesvaran), Zoë Johnston, Camille Henderson, and Sarah Mclachlan on Delerium's albums. Do you think that's strictly by accident or do you find that his genre just lends to female vocals better than male vocals?
Kirsty: Gosh good question! I am good friends with Zoe Johnston
she was my maid of honor on my wedding day :). I love working with Justin Elswick
he is like a family member to me. Coury Palermo
is a male singer and is amazing! He has worked with Sleepthief on world gone crazy, lovely guy.
Erin: I do have some great questions, don’t I? Ha. Justin Elswick makes some fantastic music and Jody Quine recently introduced me to Cory and I love his stuff. Is there an artist that you haven't worked with yet that you are just dying to work with?
Kirsty: I'd love to work with more Drum and Bass producers like Calibre or Moderaat, Rusty Nails is a brilliant track.
Erin: Having been in the band Opus III, that didn't work out, to going solo and being on your own, what do you think you took away from that experience, did it teach you anything about how you choose your collaborations and how you work within the music business?
Kirsty: Opus III was the launch pad for my career, we had something very special and we just naturally drifted apart. We are looking into the rights for our music now and hope to have some kind of reunion as it's been 20 years since the release of Fine Day.
Erin: Ice Castles
is quite a departure from what we're used to hearing from you especially that you don't actually sing on it, what was the inspiration behind doing an Ambient album?
Kirsty: I am singing on some of the tracks :) but mostly just for atmosphere. I love to make this style of music and am also a composer not just a singer. I'll be releasing more of this style on my new record label which I've set up independently called Wellhead Recordings
Erin: What can we expect from your record label Barefoot-Audio, do you have any plans to do anything different than you've done in your career thus far? Also, any collaborations coming up you could tell us about?
Kirsty: [i]Barefoot Audio[/i]
is progressing really well, I'm a keen barefoot runner and we are about to launch our label officially at a conference on the 30th of June. I can't wait to meet Barefoot Ted who is going to be there, he features in the book Born to Run and I'm hoping he will sign my book with a foot print! I have just written another track with Seba which is really heart wrenching. I wrote it about 4 years ago so it's not a song where my head is currently at but I'm glad to see it's finally getting finished :). I have an album coming out with Ulrich Schnauss this year finally, it's also a deep album and one that I'm very proud of. I have also started a new recording label for my children's music called Baby Love
and have an album up on I-tunes which is relaxing music for Mums and babies. The idea was to create something that pregnant Mums could listen to with their babies in the womb and then when baby is born baby recognizes the tracks and is comforted. We have had some great feedback from Mums who were testing the music with a Ritmo belt.
Erin: I’m not a Mother, but one thing I do know for sure from experience working with children and being around baby cousins, etc. is that music aids in mental development. When they say music equals brainpower they really aren’t lying, it’s been scientifically proven and it’s something more women should pay close attention to. And finally, my fun question, can you tell us something about yourself that your fans might not know about you? For instance, what do you enjoy doing when you aren't making listeners swoon with your angelic vocals?
Kirsty: I have recently been into making things, especially my own shoes! I stopped wearing high heels and nonsense shoes that don't connect the feet to the ground I've been recycling old leather and making my own slippers that have hardly any sole. My friend is a shoe designer and she helped me to make a pattern using masking tape - amazing. I love to spend time with my children and mostly look after my 16 month old son Jonny Fox. I'm mostly incredibly busy looking after him and enjoying watching him grow. I recently got married to the love of my life Tim and we have a lot of fun together. I have a Tipi in my back garden and on a Wednesday night I like to hang out with my friends in there and call it Wednesday club. We mostly talk about technology and raw food and have a lot of laughs drumming up ideas for the twitter account 'cheshamfacts' In the rare hours I get to run I like to fly fly fly with my pitter patter feet and disappear into the depths of nature.
Artists like Kirsty are not a dime a dozen, talent isn’t something that’s handed out to just anyone, it isn’t earned, it’s a gift you’re born with. And she has learned how to harness that talent in various aspects of the music industry. Through years of experience, ups and downs and finding the right mix of what she wants and working side by side with others to create their vision, she’s been able to sustain a long impressive career. Still at a young age, Kirsty has the ability to become a much more intrusive force in the industry and has the ability to expand the electronic genre, so that it can be reached by more listeners. We see that in her music for mothers and runners, she is reaching a new audience and exposing them to a genre they may not have been familiar with before.
Part of what I do as a writer is selfish, I’ll admit that. I get to meet and find out about some of my favorite artists, people I admire and aspire to be like or people I just think are extremely talented and everyone should know about, but my favorite part about what I do is helping the artist themselves. I love shamelessly promoting artists with nothing in mind other than to help them gain more exposure and yeah I kinda look cool to chicks too.