Singer and songwriter. Broadcaster. Performer, producer, poet, and playwright. Multi-instrumentalist and Mountie. Hawksley Workman is all of these things and others still – an ambitious, ever-busy global ambassador of Canadian culture and creativity. The pun on the surname? It’s just too easy.
A staple of the Canadian arts scene for close to 15 years, Workman boasts a catalogue of solo releases currently 14 strong, showcasing his now signature spectrum of sonic influence, from cabaret to electro-pop to anthemic rock and plenty in between. The accolades they’ve amassed include JUNO nods and wins and widespread critical acclaim. Many were self-recorded by Workman in his basement studio – long before home recording rigs’ rise to ubiquity.
As a producer, his fingerprints grace releases by JUNO and Polaris Prize nominees and winners like Tegan and Sara, Sarah Slean, Serena Ryder, Hey Rosetta!, and Great Big Sea. He’s also penned melodies with a myriad of artists, from Oscar winner Marion Cotillard to French rock icon Johnny Hallyday. And despite the laundry list of achievements, the man continues to strive for his creative crest.
Workman’s most recent release is the soundtrack to his acclaimed one-man show, The God That Comes – a theatrical tribute to the Greco-Roman god of wine and ecstasy that benefits beautifully from Workman’s peerless panache and vivacity. While his songwriting has long sprouted from an epiphanic kind of effortlessness, with the majority of his songs written, recorded, and ready for consumption within 24 hours, theatre aches for a more elaborate approach. “In theatre, people like to exist in a state of constant process,” Workman shares. “I’ve always thought of songs as little organic gifts, and taken them as they come, whereas in theatre, we were focused on minutiae at all times. It was interesting accommodating my desire to kind of mess around as I saw fit.”
The God That Comes is much like Mounties, Workman’s on-the-rise lo-fi indie rock trio rounded out by Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays and Ryan Dahle of Limblifer and Age of Electric fame. “For someone like me that’s always trying to figure out what’s coming next and how I fit into this fickle music business, these kind of projects give me breathing space to figure out exactly where I want to go with my solo stuff.”
And with that, Workman is currently part way through the composition and creation of his next solo album, due to drop in 2014. “I’d been walking around as an angry man for awhile,” he recalls of the period preceding his first writing stint, for which Workman abstained from wine and fasted for 10 days back in February 2013. He points to things like the current Canadian political climate as motivators behind his mood. “But anger can be this thing that splashes around and dirties people’s shirts. I didn’t want anger to be a motivator for my music.”
And so, with artistic outlets like the aforementioned Mounties and his theatrical production acting as a creative filter and primer, Workman is set to get back into the studio with regularity. “I’m feeling quite strongly about it now,” he says of his latest material – material that explores our relationship with nature and how humans often strives to look graceful in a habitat where they don’t belong.
Hawksley Workman is many things to many people in many places, but primarily, he’s a student of the human psyche; an artist in the purest sense of the word, constantly finding fresh and interesting ways to frame and share the world – the people we are and the things we encounter. It’s a virtually bottomless well of ideas for a man with virtually endless imagination and creative outlets.