FIONA JOY HAWKINS
600 Years In A Moment
(Little Hartley Music)

 

In an age and time in history when the sheer speed of life can actually slow you down, Australian composer and piano virtuoso Fiona Joy Hawkins encourages you to stop and smell the roses with her 2013 CD entitled 600 Years In A Moment. Once again, Ms. Hawkins joins forces with the production team of Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen and the results provide yet another winning instrumental album that combines modern classical, jazz and World Music. Although based in Australia, Fiona is on track towards becoming a world wide music phenomenon and the release of 600 Years In A Moment only enhances that fact. Featuring Fiona performing her hand made Stuart & Sons piano, 600 Years In A Moment finds Fiona in the studio backed up by a number of veteran musicians including Will Ackerman, Eugene Friesen (cello), Todd Boston (wooden flute), Marc Shulman (guitar), Tony Levin (bass guitar) and a whole lot more. A sense of floating, sonic timelessness is rooted at the core of 600 Years In A Moment. Commenting on her latest masterpiece, Ms. Hawkins adds, ‘600 Years In A Moment was created as an answer to the question of “globalization” in a musical sense. I played a contemporary hand made Australian piano with ancient world instruments from around the world to bring the village and its hidden treasures into a modern musical setting.' Highlighting the pairing of Ms. Hawkins and her concert piano with a range of old world instruments, performed here by a number of musicians, there’s quite a contemporary feel to the music on this album. Being all instrumental and mainly acoustic based, with a pair of tracks featuring female vocals, 600 Years In A Moment encourages your mind to wander and ultimately find safe haven in the magical, fantastic music of Fiona Joy Hawkins. www.FionaJoyHawkins.com.au / www.LittleHartleyMusic.com.au


mwe3.com presents an interview with
FIONA JOY HAWKINS



mwe3
: I was reading that you felt the effect of globalization was one of the prime influences on your new album, 600 Years In A Moment. How did you arrive at the concept of recording an album that combines classical, jazz, New Age and Celtic influences with ancient instruments and does the title and concept have something perhaps to do with the timelessness of life and how things like, the internet say, can bring centuries of history into modern day focus with the click of a button?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I think that’s exactly it. Its about bringing worlds together. To do that I tried to create a sense of time, space, distance and history and bring ancient instruments and their cultures into a modern setting. Slightly slower than a click of a button but same concept.

mwe3: Where and when was 600 Years In A Moment written and recorded and what was it like working once again with producers Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen at the famous Imaginary Road studio in Vermont and how did you pick and choose the various players who appear on the new CD with you? What other studios was the album recorded in and how did that affect the sound and concept?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I love working at Imaginary Road. It was a highlight of my career working as a producer with Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen. I think it may be the first time there has been producer
credits as such from Imaginary Road and that an artist has produced their own album. I’m honored to have had that trust in my work. I wrote some pieces with various instruments and sounds in mind, other times I spent hours searching youtube for the instrument I was after. I researched all the harp sounds by listening to CDs. There are so many different harps, and after I identified it was the Paraguayan Harp I liked most, looked on youtube for a player in the US. I not only found a great sounding instrument but when I saw Alfredo Rolando Ortiz it bought tears to my eyes. He is a musician of the absolute highest degree. Music comes out of every pore of his skin... he doesn’t just play it, he lives it. My journey was to find people like Alfredo. People with a passion for their instrument but not too precious with it in the traditional sense and able to play within a contemporary setting.

I recorded in three different countries and the project took 4 years years from conception to release!
This is the list of studios :

Stuart and Sons Newcastle Australia: Piano, Didgeridoo, Violin, Vocals, Double Bass, Turkish Oud, Tarogato, Irish Whistle, Mongolian Throat Singing, Morran Kurr, Buwu and additional percussion.
Imaginary Road Studios Vermont USA: Percussion, Cello, Vocals, Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Tiple
Heart Strings Productions Halifax Canada: Vocals
Bryan Carrigan LA: Paraguayan Harp
Ted Spencer Studio NY: Laud
Phil Aaberg: Arrangement and keyboard at his Sweetgrass Studios.
Mastering: Gateway Studios with Bob Ludwig

mwe3: Was the album recorded mostly in real time or was there a lot of overdubbing and file sharing via the internet to make the album? For instance, the title track “600 Years” features you backed up by Heather Rankin (vocals), Tony Levin (bass), Todd Boston (wooden flute), Eugene Friesen (cello), Andy Busuttil and Dan Houghton (Irish Whistles), Jeff Haynes (Irish Bodhran), Eugene Friesen (cello) and Marc Shulman (guitars). The sound is flawless. Did you meet all the musicians? Can you say something about recording the title track to the CD?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I worked with everyone. I flew all over the place and the only session I missed was with Charlie Bisharat, Corin did that session. Phil Aaberg worked alone and sent his orchestral parts in first so we could build on them. I was the only producer at the Paraguayan Harp session and only Corin and I did the Canada and N.Y. sessions. All three producers were at the Newcastle Australia, Imaginary Road and mastering sessions. It was a mammoth undertaking and one that required a lot of organization. All parts are overdubbed but the artist has all the other players playing in their headphones as if everyone were in the room. It was impossible to have every player together at the same time. When we play all at once, it's closer to a live album rather than a studio album and that's one of my favorite things - playing live. I can’t wait for the album release in Sydney on August 22nd. We are playing at the Seymour Centre Sound Lounge and have 5 players on stage covering about 9 instruments and three vocals.

mwe3: You also cite Eugene Friesen and Rebecca Daniel as being important to the album. What did those two musicians contribute and who else would you cite as being important to the overall concept and recording of the 600 Years In A Moment album?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: Rebecca Daniel and Eugene Friesen not only did amazing solo parts but both contributed substantially to the string arrangements. It's Becky’s amazing voice you hear in “The Journey” also. I did a lower alto part but it’s very secondary to her vocal. Their musicianship was key to the orchestration as was Phil Aaberg. I think Heather Rankin’s vocal in “600 Years” is also amazing and so is Paul Jarman and Alfredo Roland Ortiz. All the musicians were standouts so it’s hard to narrow it down. I guess I’m saying these names because they featured as soloists more.

mwe3: How would you compare 600 Years In A Moment with your last CD, Sensual Journeys and how do you feel your music has changed or evolved over the past decade? Where does 600 Years In A Moment find you in your career and life?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: 600 Years In A Moment is the album I wrote after I grew up. It was more in an emotional sense than a musical sense as I could write when I was a kid. It’s slightly more sophisticated in the writing but much more mature within the concept and the life stories conveyed on the album. Blue Dream was also epic but it was an outpouring of emotion that represented my own life at the time. You are limited by your self and your place in the world when you write, you can only tell the stories that you are living. When you can move on from this and take on a broader aspect, your writing is much more diverse and by being less self focused you can use the wisdom you gain to move on with life, and that shows in my music.

mwe3: What’s been the reaction to 600 Years In A Moment in Australia and elsewhere? Is it very challenging to bring your music to all the places in the world where you want it to be? There’s that “globalization” thing again! lol

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: The album is very well received and the reviews have been embarrassingly good. No one has said anything other than praise and I’m grateful for that. I should really add that, as usual, the same old gatekeepers have ignored it but apart from them... You just have to pretend they don’t exist cause they will always be prejudiced, I just wish the gatekeepers would put the darned thing in their player and turn it on!

mwe3: I see you pressed vinyl records as well as CD and SACD for 600 Years In A Moment. How would you describe the differences in sound between vinyl Lps and compact discs and SACD and which do you prefer and why? Also speaking of mastering guru Bob Ludwig, what did he bring to the album sound?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: Mastering is really important to the overall product. Not only is the preparation of the CD into the different formats but also some amount of very careful compression to allow for radio play and car stereo play but without changing the integrity of the music. The tracks are topped and tailed and spaced and global reverb is added as well as small changes to the overall sound. It’s far too technical for me and I’m giving you the ‘Mastering Guide for Idiots’ list. Bob is referred to as having the best ears in the industry and of that there is no doubt. The SACD and vinyl are for the audiophile population. The SACD is a hybrid/multichannel and its remixed into 5.1 surround sound for a soundscape experience if you have the expensive gear to play it on! The vinyl version is 180gsm double gatefold manufactured in Holland to the highest audiophile specs and includes a bonus track that no-one else has heard.

mwe3: Do you feel music is the dominant cultural art form in the 21st century and with all the upheavals in the world, culturally, politically and economically, can music still help bring world peace?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: Yes to all you just said. Music transcends language, culture and religion. Instrumental music is one of the few art forms that speaks all languages and can reach all hearts and speak to all people. I would love to think that music can bring peace greater even than the peace it brings on a personal level.

mwe3: What do you think about the current music scene in Australia and the rest of the world today? Do you feel like a New Age / Celtic artist or more like a modern classical artist and do you see the borders between genres melting away in time?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I struggle with genre identification. Australia doesn’t recognize New Age so it’s tricky to get around, that’s why I added the Celtic in there. Sometimes I’m not played on radio or included in festivals because they don’t know into which pigeon hole to place me. If I could abandon all genre descriptions it would help I think. It’s a shame we need a genre for retail placement, ARIAS, Grammys and general recognition including download categories, but clearly we still do. Windham Hill got around it by supplying the shops with shelving tabs saying Windham Hill. They became their own genre. Maybe there can be Classical, New Age, Pop, Country... Fiona Joy Hawkins. That would be cool!

mwe3: What else keeps you busy these days? What other activities enhance your composing and musical skills? Are you still painting?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: I don’t seem to get much spare time at all. I’m aiming to change that a little after this U.S. tour. I get back late November after covering much of the U.S., and then I’m going to sit in the lounge chair and have a competition with the cat to see who can stay in the one place for the longest.

After that I would like to have a more normal routine of cooking, walking and one day I would love to find time to paint again! Next year I have two major projects and a small tour, so it will be a wee touch quieter. So long as no major films or new projects come along it’s all good. (LOL)

mwe3: Tell us about your upcoming tour of the USA. Are you performing with Trysette as well and what music will you be performing on the American tour? Is Trysette planning any new albums too? What pianos will you be using on the tour?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: We start in Raymond, Washington on the 8th September and move down through California, then over to the East Coast, to Colorado, Arizona and back to LA. We have all the venues and ticketing listed on the front page of my website at www.fionajoyhawkins.com.au or on our tour website at www.twograndimyours.com

Trysette is working on a new album and hopes to have it finished by the tour. I know for certain she is playing songs from her new album as am I. I think my track listing is a little more ‘serious’ this time, but having said that we have a lot of laughs in store for the audience and will do some songs together also. Rumor has it I may have a mandolin with me, that’s if I get off my butt and start practicing it in time! We are partially sponsored by Stuart and Sons pianos and yet we don’t get to play one on the tour. We use the venue pianos and they could be absolutely anything. Grands only of course!

mwe3: How about other plans you have for 2013? Last year you mentioned you were planning to release a DVD and do some soundtrack work. What musical mountains are you planning to climb next?

FIONA JOY HAWKINS: The DVD is taking FOREVER….. it is coming though and may get pushed back to 2014.

Next year I’m recording a solo piano album live to DSD with Cookie Marenco (ex-producer from Windham Hill) at her Blue Coast Records in San Francisco.

I’m writing and producing an album with Rebecca Daniel for a brilliant writer and poet by the name of Spencer Ratcliff. It will be a mix of poetry, stories and music.

Next year will see the release of the first album produced by Fiona Joy Hawkins and Will Ackerman - it's my big my entry into producing other artists! The pianist is a new pianist by the name of Jennifer Defrayne and she will entering the music scene with her first album, By A Wire, and trust me, it will be an album to watch out for! My future will very much be centred around finding amazing new talent and producing other piano and New Age artists.

I'm doing a small “Two Grand I’m Yours” tour with Trysette in November and that’s the whole year done and dusted. Back to the cat on the lounge after that!


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


 

 
   
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