Kaz Hawkins, Belfast Blues Diva Feelin Good talks to Bluesdoodles
BD: Big thank you for taking time out of your busy life to chat with Bluesdoodles. Thank you so much for letting Bluesdoodles have a copy of Feelin Good, your forthcoming album before its release. More of that later I am sure.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Belfast?
KH: From my Dad, the Eagles which is why I love to harmonize. I found Etta James and when aged about 12 I auditioned for Opportunity Knocks. The tapes are lost as the BBC had a big fire where they stored lots of videos including mine all were burnt so not able to get a copy. Granny tried getting me to listen to St Louis Blues 1st on cassette tape. Then Etta James and female torch singers. I like the passion in women singers and in some men, it is powerful women singers that make me feel empowered.
BD: Kaz you are a big character on stage and the sound is blues with soul gospel with a contemporary twist what influences from past and today go into creating the Kaz sound?
KH: It has taken years to nurture and develop my stage presence. If you don’t feel strong enough to be who you are, nothing would change. I would still be in a cover band, it was monotonous, I felt lost just singing rather than performing. Then in it changed in 2011. I had started to learn guitar in about 2008, I only had 3 or 4 chords. With note books full of words I had written over the years, I just had to put them into chords to make them into songs. On the plus side singing covers gave me the solid platform to jump off from. I had no idea it would take off with a Blues Band. I then had the amazing opportunity to support Van Morrison, so my presence just blew up in 2012. Took just over year to be known, because Belfast is so small you can quickly become famous or infamous.
BD: How jump out of Belfast? KH: Well couple DJ’s including Kevin Beale, and Ed Mitchell Blues Magazine playing and promoting my style of blues kinda going on in background. We needed to get rid blues hat not just blues felt I was not going down the right route. So took the decision and packed in the blues band and went solo. I had my own vision of where I wanted to be with my music but it was so very hard and challenging to put my vision and belief to other people. During the making of my debut album Get Ready it was so difficult, I lost band members, there was no feeling of being cohesive as no-one could commit or they didn’t fit so people got sacked. It was all rather traumatic and demanding. I lost money huge amounts but I had a belief in the music I wanted to create. All off this in the mix that is Kaz Hawkins on stage.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting? Is it always personal influenced by your at times difficult life’s journey?
KH: The lyrics are mostly personal. I have always kept a notebook where I put down words thoughts as they occur. On Feelin Good the words are all so important to me. Soul Superstar is about me as a child never being able to sing for joy. I was virtually kidnapped by my Granny who took me to the Opportunity Knocks audition. I did sing in public from a very young age. Dad took me to bars when I was 7-8 to sing for money, he used to take the pound notes giving me a £1 to take home to my mother. It was not a happy experience. I want to feel comfortable, be happy with the artist I always wanted to be breath, taking a moment I always do when standing in the wings take deep breath still get nervy but I so need that adrenalin. I started from very humble beginnings. The song Because You Love Me is for my daughter whereas Don’t Run Away is an abstract reflection of domestic violence. The lyrics have changed, partly due to the funky rhythm and also Domestic Violence needs to be noticed and talked about but also need to respect the code of silence that survivors maintain. Some of the songs have been written for a while like Belfast Town a crazy mad song of my hometown. The personal gives you connection, understanding and passion for every piece when performed on stage or in the studio.
BD: Tell us a bit about being a woman in the 21st century music scene, misogyny and the motivation for the facebook group Blues Sisters UK?
KH: Needed to be done get all of us in one place I didn’t want a man leading the way. Yes we have brothers who support but women have been subjected to so much over the years there is lots of mistrust. We need to take women to a different level where they are confident in their abilities. The DJ’s play our music yet when you looked at the UK Independent Blues Broadcasters Association (IBBA) I could only count only 2-3 sisters. It cheered me up when Dave Raven recently posted on the Sisterhood group that the sisterhood is strong in the latest charts. It is sad in a way that we have to be notified that our presence is strong it should just be happening. We still have blinkers on do not look outside it really shouldn’t be a big issue of 50:50 especially for the next generation. They have to be inspired and most importantly see the life of women in the world of music. For years for me personally the music scene has been horrific and definitely not good to me. I would go to jams and people (men) would not play with me so I said F**ck it! Neanderthal behaviour so would get my own band and not go to blues jams and be the token female. I have been made so welcome on the mainland by a lot of males in the blues fraternity catching on to the fact that sisters have a lot to bring and should be appreciated. The UK Blues Sisterhood is a place for every sister to have a showcase. Everyone can see how exciting and eclectic UK Blues scene is. The whole range sisters have to offer is stunning.
BD: You have had a change in band members since your last album/tour what have the new members added to the mix? Also this time you are Kaz Hawkins Band is it more of a team enterprise?
KH: Working so hard since touring last year I knew the next album was going to be bigger and better it was so important to have the right rhythm section. I needed a big sound and a more feminine sound with the addition of the immensely talented Deanne Jones as a backing singer. With the re-brand as I was no longer comfortable being solo so here is the Kaz Hawkins Band. As a band we have a three year plan, we will be going for it hammer and tong, touring like crazy and releasing as much music as possible. I now have a much better band they are just so loyal and amazing. My guitarist Nick has been with me for four and half years. He has lost jobs because of putting commitment to my music first. He is so loyal and having been in car crashes, supporting me when I broke my shoulder and had to put up with people saying doesn’t have the caliber to be my guitarist. He may not have had the money to buy the best but loyalty to me is far more important that this macho guitar w****ing that goes on. Nick will shine brighter and be able to afford to buy the equipment he wants. Kaz Hawkins Band is strong and will be noticed through our music.
BD: Lots of positive vibes for your follow up album to Get Ready – this certainly got us ready for your explosive blues sound, How has the music focus changed for Feelin Good. Was the inspiration for the title a reflection of how you are feeling now?
KH: Yes! it was and to reflect the journey from debut to the follow-up album. I wasn’t 100% sure of the direction I was going in as a musician. The cost of making Get Ready was eye watering bankrupted me plus the emotional fallout as the band changed personnel as members left others were sacked, there was no cohesion no band loyalty. But I kept going remained strong thanks to so much support from fans and people who know me and now out the other end and my life is amazing. People have asked why use the title of a cover song, firstly our version is so off the wall and the title is a true reflection where we are as a band and my own life.
BD: The video and song you used to announce the album and to get pre-sales was This Is Me a powerful song and is this autobiographical or for women everywhere to be themselves?
KH: Wow glad you find the video powerful it was meant to be. Yes it is autobiographical. The words also relates to anybody who wants to be themselves. This is Me is a statement about accept me as I am, I may not conform but I will not be judged by my quirk approach or difference. This is Me – a simple but bold and empowering statement take me as you find me and please do not judge. ..
BD: You have recently announced that you’re a Honorary member of the recently formed UK Blues Federation tell me what you have as a vision for blues across the UK and how the federation is a piece of the jigsaw.
KH: Kaz, excitedly shared via video link that the button stating Honorary Member and UK Blues Federation logo is proudly displayed on the album. Blues in the UK need a vision. UK Blues needs to be seen as stretching out across the UK. Northern Ireland, doesn’t have blues clubs and expensive to tour Danny Bryant comes over and is always appreciated. UK Blues Federation should raise the profile of the blues and as an honorary member who sings the blues and from Northern Ireland should help get this area of UK noticed. Danny Bryant comes over, no blues clubs and low payers NI cheaper than mainland. It is important that UK Blues have somewhere to congregate in one place should be leading the way so that all clubs join and setting the example. Gives bands a place to compete and then represent UK in Europe and Memphis which is exciting. After entering and the stress it caused me I swore after the Mascot Label that I would not compete again. How things have changed I am so excited and proud to be one of the four bands in the 2016 UK Blues Challenge at the Robin 2. Using opportunity for mini tour Basingstoke and Tenby Blues Festival already confirmed.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
KH: Everyone from Free and Journey plus myself joining on vocals what a three way harmonizing Paul Rogers + Steve Perry & Kaz Hawkins….
Read all about the album HERE