FIONA JOY HAWKINS
Sensual Journeys
(Little Hartley Music)

 

Based in New South Wales Australia, keyboardist and virtuoso pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins is making music fans happy with her prolific CD output on the Little Hartley Music label. Case in point is Fiona’s 2012 instrumental music CD Sensual Journeys. A modern music masterpiece filled with the sounds of Celtic, New Age, World Music and jazz influences, the 11 track Sensual Journeys is a fitting showcase for Fiona’s subtle, yet magical piano work colored with her occasional lead and background vocals as well. Interestingly, the CD was partly recorded at the Imaginary Road studios of New Age maestro Will Ackerman. With its magical, sublime instrumental piano-based soundscapes, Sensual Journeys would fit right in on Ackerman’s famous Windham Hill Records. Spotlighting Fiona’s deeply impressionistic piano based sounds, Sensual Journeys features some intriguing musical assistance from Will Ackerman (acoustic guitars), Charlie Bisharat (strings), Philip Auberg (orchestral arrangements, keyboards), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Tony Levin (bass) and Marc Shulman (guitars), with other players assisting. The music on Sensual Journeys is dedicated ‘To all our mothers, past, present and our shared mother...earth’, while the CD booklet features stellar artwork, track by track credits and full discography. An accomplished composer, pianist and vocalist, Fiona Joy Hawkins has a number of other New Age music releases to her credit including a 2011 Christmas music CD entitled Christmas Joy (2011), Blue Dream (2008), as well as a 2011 instrumental live CD entitled Fiona Joy Hawkins And The Blue Dream Ensemble - Live At The Q. If you’re feeling stressed or mentally burned out, give a listen to the sublime instrumental music of Fiona Joy Hawkins and get a new perspective on life. www.FionaJoyHawkins.com.au


mwe3.com presents an interview with
FIONA JOY HAWKINS


mwe3:
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? What was your early musical training like and how did you become introduced to music?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I grew up in rural Australia (NSW) with very young parents who fortunately had enough money to pay for me to learn the piano, some violin, some guitar, and a little drama. I must have sent them broke, my mother was 17 and my father was 19 when I was born. My grandmother moved in to look after me and she bought a very old German iron frame piano with her. I started lessons at age 8 and fell in love from the very first touch of the ivory keys.

mwe3: When did you start recording music and how has your approach to writing and recording evolved since you started? Do you practice every day and before recording, how does the writing process start?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I didn’t go into the recording studio till I was 38 years old, but I was a prolific writer since the age of 8. There are a million reasons and theories but the catalyst was my mother saying ‘If you don’t do something with your music you will have wasted your whole life.’ I hoped to god that I was good enough and deep down believed that’s why I’m here on the planet, that music is the sum of me, a gift given to share. Finally I did it. With great trepidation, I booked a half day at a studio. Nine albums, many awards and 10 years later I’m writing this interview. Its been a wonderful journey and lucky for me, it continues.

Practice is an odd thing, you spend your student years studying and practicing regularly, then you turn professional and you rarely do any practice at all. I’m always playing (different to practice) – as in writing or improvising but scales are thing I can barely remember. LOL

The writing process begins with a concept, a story, an emotion, a place or even politically inspired subject matter. Its like synchronicity, you see it one way and translate it as a piece of music. To me its logical, I just have to hope that other people can see and hear my subject matter in the music. I think of myself as a story-teller, when there are no words, music takes over.


mwe3: On the 2012 CD release of Sensual Journeys you work with producer Will Ackerman. How did you meet Will Ackerman and what has it been like working with him? What does Will bring to the recording process and how about other producers working with you on the Sensual Journeys CD? What do you look for in a producer and how does that affect your sound?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: Collaboration is important, and a main ingredient to the success of many achievements in life. I had emailed Will three times and received no answer. Then I read that he said there were three million George Winston ‘wannabees’ in the world and every one of them emailed him. So I figured I was one of them and gave up. Then I was a finalist in the New Age Reporter ‘Best Piano Album’ finals along with George Winston. I won. I was shocked. My album was done on a keyboard. Then I received an email from Will Ackerman saying come over and see how you go on the Steinway. It was an invitation to record at Imaginary Road Studios.

Will has a way of finding the magic moment, I have learned so much about the art of recording from Will, he has an amazing talent. Corin Nelson also produced a number of the tracks on the album (and engineered all of them). Corin’s talent is to have one of the finest creative ears and abilities to edit on the planet. One track was from LIVE At The Q, produced by Rebecca Daniel (co-produced Andy Busuttil), and they are Aussies who also play in my Blue Dream Ensemble, and just happen to be musically brilliant in a million directions also.

You never do these things on your own. I wouldn’t have got this far without all these people. Having said that, I’m very picky and choosy about who I work with, because brilliant people are hard to find. When you find them, you are blessed.

In terms of varying the sound, there are so many options and alternatives in the recording process, the main thing for me is working with people who share the vision and understand my project. The sound at Imaginary Road studios is very different for example to that of the Stuart and Son’s showroom where I recorded half of the album’s piano tracks. The variations are wonderful because you can hear the two distinct piano sounds, Steinway and Stuart & Sons. Two very different pianos and two very different spaces. I love both and each suits the music produced there. To have an album that combines sounds, producers and studios that is still cohesive requires the ‘constant’ to be the level of perfection. Yes, we are all perfectionists! LOL

mwe3: When did you write and record the Sensual Journeys album? Were there many logistical problems in getting so many musicians together during the sessions and how many recording studios did you use during the making of the Sensual Journeys album? Any favorite moments during the making of the album?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: The album has been recorded across a number of years, three countries, 9 studios and 22 musicians. The constant is that I did all my pre-production on the same piano!

There are too many wonderful moments and the funniest ones I can’t repeat, but for me the great revelation was to sing on my own albums. I have always performed my own tracks live, but with Sensual Journeys I recorded my own vocals on many of the tracks.

My all time favorite moment was having Luka Bloom ‘yousendit’ a part in for “Contemplating” from Ireland, stating he just wanted to sing on my track cause he could ‘hear the part’. Wow… did I feel privileged. He had seen a pre-production youtube clip for the track and jumped right in with the offer. How cool is that?


mwe3: Can you say something about the other players you work with in Australia including your collaborations with the group Blue Dream and singer Trysette too? What’s the music scene like in Australia for your music, and music in general, in your opinion in 2012? What’s your impression on bringing your music to other continents far and wide?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: Australia has soooooo many talented people. The Blue Dream Ensemble are amazing and I have the youtube clip to prove it! We are planning to release a feature length DVD of Live At The Q next year.

Touring with Trysette has been a highlight of my career, the combination has worked well for us and being completely different in terms of genre makes our show appealing to a wider audience. Maybe there is something in the water over here, but Australia has more talent than population to support it.

2013 is looking great for touring, as many of the venues we played in 2012 have invited us back next year. I would love to play all over the world, but time prohibits and so do children, running a record label and writing and recording music… all these things make touring full-time an impossibility. I’m trying to keep it all in balance and will tour 3 to 4 months a year.

mwe3: What pianos and keyboard do you prefer to play and perform on the new Sensual Journeys CD? Do you do any endorsements and do you follow all the news in the gear world and do you play any other instruments?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I don’t like playing keyboards. If you need to do a festival without a piano and can use the keyboard as a layer only then its fine, but for solo piano, it just doesn’t work.

I love the Stuart and Sons piano and both Trysette and I also have a penchant for Yamaha (every one we played on tour was very good).
I don’t have any endorsements…yet! I have to believe in what I spruke or I couldn’t do it. I would love to be a Yamaha artist.


mwe3: How about your biggest musical influences and what genres of music interest you the most? Can you give a couple examples of some of the musicians and albums helped shaped your interest and directions in music?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I started listening to Ravel’s Bolero very early and lay in front of the speakers for hours deconstructing the layers and the build. I was only 8 years old and it left a lasting impression on me. Then Prokofiev’s Peter And The Wolf and after that I moved onto a love affair with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. Clearly I was interesting in contemporary but melodic composition.

Then came Michael Nyman’s The Piano and have always said that if there is a stage production of this movie I would love the main part.

My other favorite was George Winston, I’m still his biggest fan.

In my spare time, I chose to listen mostly to folk music, which has nothing to do with the music I write and comes as a welcome break and breath of fresh air to my ears. I love Janis Ian, Dido, Luka Bloom and similar artists. I can’t write lyrics and so I appreciate listening to them.


mwe3: What are some of your other interests outside the music world and what do you like best about where you live now?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I love the weather here. I moved from a very cold area to a more temperate climate, it was a smart move! I love good food, good wine, good company and I stay fairly quiet when I’m not working. I’m not quite a hermit, but close! My favorite day is spent on the lounge in my PJ’s with my laptop (working) – with coffee in hand and the odd trip downstairs to the piano. I would need my black cat Sabrina to make it a perfect day. I’m probably quite boring to most people, but my career is so full of people and places and excitement that my free time is best spent doing as little as possible.

mwe3: How about your plans moving forward regarding writing new music, future recording and releases and also your live performances coming in 2013? What was your recent tour of the U.S. like?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I LOVE the US. The tour was fantastic and I loved every minute of it. The downside was that my husband was back at home and of course I missed him and got home-sick.

Next year I’m releasing 600 Years In Moment, an album about ancient world instruments with an Australian made contemporary piano. Later in the year I’ll release the LIVE at the Q DVD. I’m also hoping to move sideways a little into film. I’ll also keep up the touring for 3-4 months of the year.

Keeping things in balance is key to being successful and sane at the same time!



Thanks to Fiona Joy Hawkins @
www.FionaJoyHawkins.com.au and www.LittleHartleyMusic.com.au


 

 
   
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