Vulnerability underscored by grit. Strength sealed by fire. Mood driven by melody. Reconciliation that turns to inspiration.This is the territory of Sophie B. Hawkins’ remarkable sixth album, which is at once the most directly personal, musically transporting and defiantly raw work yet from the Grammy nominated singer/songwriter.
Since her instantaneous 1992 breakthrough with the indelible hit single “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and her acclaimed debut album Tongues and Tails, Hawkins has proved an enduring artist with a fierce commitment to constantly evolving, while remaining steadfastly true to her own authentic history and experience.
This comes to the fore as she breaks open her heart without reservation on The Crossing, her longawaited first album of new songs in several years. It is a searing, lush and startlingly naked chronicle of the most intense period of Hawkins’ life, in which she has come to terms with her father’s death, openly surrendered to the haunting specter of her past, discovered the exhilaration of motherhood and arrived at a profound reckoning of acceptance. All of this emerges in songwriting and vocals that mix the brashly playful and the unabashedly poignant in fresh ways for Hawkins.
The eleven songs on her upcoming album, The Crossing spilled out of Sophie B. Hawkins in a way she had never experienced before in a lifetime of diverse and critically admired songwriting – yet were so closely entwined with her very being, she confesses they felt at first like secrets that needed to be kept. “I didn’t play these songs to anybody, not a soul, for a long time,” she acknowledges. “But as I wrote, I developed deeper and deeper roots of strength. I felt it was time to do something that might scare me. And what I love about these songs is that they are very, very emotional but they aren’t filled with baggage. There’s something very unconscious about them, a letting go, and they seem to bring people a lot of joy.” Hoping to sustain the stripped-bare honesty of how the songs were written, Hawkins created the album in a sonically hand-made way – recording entirely in her home studio and keeping the sparse, spontaneous immediacy of a demo-like sound. She engineered the album herself. “The album is entirely me with just drums, bass, guitar and flugel. I didn’t hire a band – I just would meet one musician at a time and have them come to the house to record and it was a very spacious and organic process. I became an engineer really by instinct. I kept things very simple and told the musicians to just have fun. It felt like it unfolded all on its own — I really wanted to retain the feel of these songs that were written completely in the moment and I think we did. I felt lucky just to be there watching this be created.”
Her first album, Tongues and Tails, full of primal, fiery pop, was an immediate success, earning her a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist.” Hawkins followed that with Whaler, which featured the smash ballad, “As I Lay Me Down,” which remains the longest-running hit single in the Billboard charts in American history. The album, as equally gutsy as her first yet an atmospheric departure sealed her rising reputation for musical breadth and lyrical depth.
The roiling energy and close intimacy of Hawkins’ live shows was captured in 2006’s Bad Kitty Board Mix, a two-disc set recorded in Seattle. Spotlighting her improvisational instincts, Hawkins says she wanted this live album to be something different, “not just the songs you already know, but what they become in front of you, totally raw, exposed and new every night.”
In 2008, Hawkins’ life took one of its most dramatic and enlarging turns yet, as she became the proud mother of a son, Dashiell, now only 14 months old. “Becoming a mother gave me an amazing new perspective on being an artist,” she muses. “There’s an immense amount of truth and honesty and presence that comes out in our relationship. It’s a constant reminder that the most beautiful thing you can ever do for another person is to fully, passionately and fearlessly express yourself and what you believe in.”