Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels
Outside as the March wind blew through Bristol, we knew that the hot sirocco of a vocals storm was brewing in The Tunnels as Kaz Hawkinsand her band hit the stage. Kaz is riding on a blues fuelled crest of a wave as she embarks on a mini British tour and they were tight and hot across a set that made us laugh, cry and be awash with the emotional power of live music. Fresh from a solo trip to Nashville and the band reaching the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge with the U.K. having a band showcasing British Blues for the first time at the event.
Tonight, it was as we all expected a rip-roaring performance from the band who grow from strength to strength. The rhythm section brothers bassist Ján and drummer Peťo Uhrin provide more than a solid base. The rhythms were deep and adding another layer of drama into the mix is the fiery fender displays from guitarist Nick McConkey. His tasty licks and hooks are a feature of the Kaz sound providing the perfect accompaniment for the full-on power of Kaz.
The set was full of firm favourites from her debut album Get Ready and her latest Feelin’ Good with numbers that mix up the blues with funk, country, and Celtic soul, every number sung as if for the first time from the heart. Every song is a special moment for everyone who had turned out to The Tunnels on a Thursday night. Those who missed her tonight in Bristol missed a night of live music fireworks. As Kaz sung Believe With Me, we all believed in the music being delivered this is blues with an extra shot of high-octane energy. As Kaz arranged her signature petticoats as she sat behind the keys to sing This Is Me, dedicated to everyone searching for inner strength and a pray for all of us to love ourselves for who we are. Like all of Kaz’s numbers, the emotions are raw, personal and hit your spine with honesty and soulfulness. Kaz’s songwriting is always aspired by real people, I Saw A Man, about a homeless man Kaz met in London, but always dedicated to Belfast man Norman the intensity of the lyrics are added to by the drumming of Peťo using felted drumsticks, the beat is muffled beating out the endless repeating rhythm as if walking the streets as Kaz narrates the tale hitting the high notes with perfect pitch and howling with pain and then the deep colour of her powerful voice adding to the drama.
Tonight was a time for smiling as well as tears with fans flying in from Belfast and an old friend from school days seeing after a long time no wonder Belfast Time was included in the mix. But Kaz is more than the power of her vocals it is her ability to connect with people. As she shares fears and bad times of her life along with celebration of hitting two out of three life goals, making a career in Music, being a non-smoker both ticked off and now she embarks on becoming fit under the supervision of her personal trainer. Kaz laughs with you and at herself, with a wardrobe failure her hair would not behave, first losing the scarf and then escaping the pins. This is Kaz, a real person who wants you to find the power of life through her songs.
A song that always brings a smile and tonight we all enjoyed singing on Hallelujah Happy People a real highlight of her set as is Feelin Good, a great rearrangement of this classic. With a great emotional lead break from Nick as the first half finished we were all feeling good in the presence of Miz Kaz.
Opening, the second set was a Kaz solo with her acoustic guitar a song she recently wrote in the Bluebird Café in Nashville, The River That Sings. Dedicated to Alabama legend Tom Hendrix and the wonderful stone wall, taking over thirty years to complete in memory of the 600 miles his Great, great Grandmother walked. As the notes faded and the applause filled the venue the boys came back on stage.
Her teenage years were difficult and the cleansing power of the emotional Believe in Me and the songs inspired by ex-boyfriends, Drink With The Devil and Can’t Afford Me put them firmly in their place out of Kaz’s life. We had soul with Soul Superstar and a flick of the legendary petticoats and the wide smile that warms The Tunnels. The night closed with Kaz’s re-working of I Just Want To Make Love To You, and then the encore with Shake that allows Kaz to display the full vocal range and colour of her voice. Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels as she took her turn on the drums, reaffirming this is not an act to miss.
With the love of Kaz’s warm heart and the power of her vocals ringing in our ears we collectively wish her and the band every success as they go off to The European Blues Challenge in Denmark.
KAZ: We didn’t expect to win because as much as I am bluesy the songs aren’t 12 bar blues. We went in not realising what was wanted, that was the frightening part. Then there were all the judges some I knew others I didn’t and no one was giving anything away. It was pretty daunting, it was run strict and I didn’t dare put a foot out of place so that added to the tension because everyone knew their place and what to do. We done the performance, I kinda burnt myself out with nerves, I am not a good one for these kind of things so I came out fighting fire and pretty much exhausted myself by the third song. So when I did the ballad I had to pretty much kick myself up the arse and say get a grip you have two songs to go calm down if you want this you have got to fight for this. We went into the ballad there was so many things happening, I remember afterwards Nick saying, not experienced anything like it his hands started to sweat up and couldn’t play the guitar, well he did obviously. I had never sweated as much. So when it was announced we had scattered out for a smoke, hanging round the merch table, the bathroom really pretty much decided we weren’t winning. When Ashwyn, called out Kaz Hawkins I physically punched Janny, on the back of his neck just a reaction of disbelief (Kaz laughing as she recollects the night). I honestly didn’t think we would get through. The competition was tough, I really thought Wille and The Bandits were going to win they had put up such an outstanding set. As were Rebecca and Lauren we were all so nervous. So when it was announced I really couldn’t think anything at all other than except I haven’t got my belt on and I was being called to the stage. I run up as you know I depend on looking my best off stage with my hourglass figure chuckling and there I was just after a smoke lippy hanging off me. Then next minute had to make my way to the stage it was a surreal moment. Then trying to get from the merch stall to the stage when my name was called out, people just launched on me, pulling me and it was just crazy. Then we got on stage and we had to do all the procedures, me and the boys kept looking at each other in disbelief. Once I started singing it dawned on me what had just happened we opened up with Feelin’ Good that just set it off. I could let it rip, let go of all the tension and just perform. We had already got through, I can remember dropping down at one point I was still scabbed on one knee two months later because I had dropped that hard, I think it was just exhaustion.
Don’t forget we were mid-tour when the challenge this was happening, so we had been on the bus for week/two weeks before we were exhausted but match fit.
BD: What were the challenges following the win, Crowdfunding and organising the band to play first in Memphis with all the added expectation of the first British Band to play at The Blues foundation International Blues Challenge (IBC) with all that expectation and the forthcoming European Blues Challenge (EBC) in Horsen Denmark. Getting the band into competition rather than touring mode etc.
KAZ: Having already done the UK Blues challenge we were in that competition mindset. It was only then we realised that there would be different timings. We thought we would do in Memphis exactly the same as in Wolverhampton but found out the quarter finals were only Twenty-five minutes then if you got through the semi-finals were thirty minutes and if made it to finals it was a twenty-minute set. When we got home it was rehearsals and plan three different sets so that was the hard thing trying to give our best in that space of time. Thirty minutes is a great time it’s perfect don’t need anymore but any less and you have to start to sacrifice your great songs. The crowdfunding was running alongside the rehearsals and we were constantly thinking about it. We were in the zone for it. We were all raising money as well, begging the fans. The problem with the crowdfund was that it became, I felt I like I was begging I came up against a few rows on Facebook about bands should pay for themselves and do stuff like this. I don’t think people understood the gravity of what we were about to do, the pressure that was upon our shoulders. When you go somewhere like that, we had no idea what we were walking into in Memphis no one had been before. What I did was contact a load of people that I already knew had performed. I went into obsessive research mode, which is what I do on any challenge. So I chased up people who I had known over the years which came in handy, lots of contacts that I had, lots of blues sisters who had performed gave me great insights from Lucy Hammond to Hatz Ftiz & Cara Robinson and everybody who were giving me tidbits of information. Then I went into radio mode and sourced out lots of radio shows that were promoting the IBC’s around the world. I ended up listening to Vinny on The Couch who runs his radio show from Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street. What was freaky, about three weeks before we were due to go he bought on about four/five of the IBC judges on this two hour show I am sat listening to it over and over again and I hooked up on Beale Street when this woman said Dave Raven said to get in touch with you, I am Suzanne Swanson. I just screamed in the middle of Beale Street and just said oh my God! You saved my life because you are the reason I could plan this trip. Everything she had said on the radio interview, because she has been a judge and has just got a blues award from the foundation for her photography. I had no idea who she was, how well known she was how much she contributed to the Blues Foundation, in the end me and her became best friends during the IBC. When I told her how I had listened to the interview she started crying in the middle of the street. I can’t believe it, I am just so glad I put it out there and someone took heed. This was what it was constantly about, the after effect of all my research. For whoever wins next UKBlues challenge, the advice I would give them is hunt down anything and anybody who knows about the IBC. You can get it from the most unlikely places. Because when we landed there I realised that there were a lot of bands that didn’t have that information. We were streets ahead with knowledge, we hit the ground running. It was thanks to all that research I had done. BD: You will have to write a book Kaz: Ha Ha Jesus Christ Liz, A friend wants to do a documentary I say to her if you got a ten hour day.
BD: Tell us about the Memphis experience and reaching the Semi-finals. Was the Blues different in Memphis and how many other Europeans were competing in the heart of the roots of Blues.
KAZ: I think we are full on ready, if anything it has prepared us definitely. I wasn’t really nervous, not even nervous I was apprehensive about Memphis because everywhere we went we could hear twelve-bar blues and I was kinda worried Oh! I was kind of worried, my god we are not going to go down here you’re not Blues. But I had a good talk with David, he is my rock, for the first time felt a little bit inadequate, as we artists do, these are my songs and about to go into a competition. I never wrote these songs to compete with David said to me “Kaz you just have to keep the end in sight, and the end is exposure to further your career. If you don’t win it doesn’t matter”. We did go over there to fight for it, but we didn’t think we had a hope in hell of winning and to make it through to the semi’s was unreal. The talent was just off the scale but I think it prepared us, a lot of it was a shock of what happened. So we are definitely given us heads up for the European Blues Challenge.
BD: Is the Blues scene over there stronger and deeper than here, you were saying the people playing were stupendous
KAZ: We have it too but there on a much bigger stage it is much larger it is just so daunting over there with 288 acts from around the world. It is not just up and down England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. This is the Best of the Best of Blues around the world. What we did realise was so many societies say California had maybe twenty Blues Societies sending acts there were so many. In one of those interviews, I listened to one of the judges said some societies will send a band that is not of the calibre of touring bands. We knew going in there were different levels, the local band that jams for the sake of blues, then you have a proper gigging circuit bands, then you would have the professional bands who are touring like us. We were confident we knew our stuff. How it worked it was about the music, the blues not about talking. I heard a great quote “If you want to be a favourite on the next Justin Bieber jump into the audience with your guitar. If you want to impress the Judges stay on the stage”. So I stayed on Stage!
BD: Kaz Hawkins and your Band did do Well taking UKBlues Federation Challenge winner to Memphis and leaving a semi-finalist
KAZ: The start was with two-hundred & eighty-eight bands at the beginning. With Forty-Four making it through to the Semi-finals. With twelve competing in the challenge final. So reaching the semi’s was massive I am so proud of us. People got what we were about. There were two quarter-finals, on the second night how many in for us. On the first night we were one of the bands from about one-hundred miles away filled the room with their fans they were loud and rooting for them So when we came on afterwards I was sort of oh hell and just did our stuff. On the second night, I didn’t even realise until I got off stage and went outside for a smoke apparently they had been queueing down the frigging street to get in. The doorman went to me didn’t you see the queue I said no I told you last night people would want to come back and see you so word had spread really really fast. We were branded we had our coats on, we were giving out badges and business cards, CD’s to everybody we met. That is what each society was doing handing out freebies. People got to know and recognise us by what we were wearing.
BD: How Many European societies were over in Memphis, if you know?
KAZ: Not sure I know there was bands from, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden Met bands from Switzerland and Germany who we will be up against at the European Blues Challenge so have an insight. We are now going to the Europeans as Semi-finalists having met the Challenge in Memphis
BD: Memphis itself as an experience must have been amazing
KAZ: I cried Liz. We went to Hard Rock Café, you know it takes a moment to get your bearings. We were heading down to Beale Street Hard Rock is first. I didn’t realise it was Beale Street that I was looking at. We went into the Café sat down it was empty except for another man and his wife who was in the Challenge. You must say challenge not competition I was corrected when I said Competition. I am going for a smoke, went out the other door, and there was a horse and carriage I looked to my left and saw Beale Street I was wow actually here. I ran back in and said come on guys we can’t just sit here, Beale Street is right there. They laughed and said we know Kaz. Why didn’t no one tell me, it was one of those stupid blonde moments. We then walked out crossed at the lights and hit Blueside Café first one on the left as you know I had written Hallelujah, Happy People about Memphis so for me to hit that street. I had been singing about happy people who sing the blues It was just surreal to actually to be there. We arrived there two days early and it was empty there really wasn’t many people no really anybody from the IBC. They had blocked the street off in preparation for the IBC. ‘Cos they open it in the week but close it at weekends, so it was all closed down street was empty you could walk down the middle of the road. It was surreal everywhere you looked it was merchandise and tourist stuff it was early afternoon and music was blasting out onto the street so you instantly knew you are in Blues Mecca.
BD: Denmark is round the corner the last of the three challenges that started back in Wolverhampton last November.
KAZ: We are ready, the fans have been so on board that pushes us forward. I am comfortable I sort of got the nod from Blues Foundation you did all right. That gives you so much. Flights and hotel are all booked so organised for Denmark. Have a nice hotel directly facing the venue. The only thing in Memphis we were about twenty minutes outside so we had to hire a car etc. all eats into the cost. In fact takes us longer to get to Denmark we have an eighteen hour layover! All crazy but will be fine. We have a great slot and feeling very positive playing on the Saturday line-up half way through the evening. We do feel that we are going over with a real chance to bring the trophy home for UKBlues Federation and blues fans across the UK & Northern Ireland.
BD: So once you have finished the trio of Challenges, what is planned for the rest of 2017 for Kaz Hawkins.
KAZ: New solo album away from the band. It is just because things have been so hectic I can get kinda manic with it all so taking time out for me and my music. I am doing couple of dates here in Northern Ireland in July, one massive one, a dream come true for me, singing in Belfast Cathedral. Release date for solo album is 22nd July. Will be performing with Sam York and the band is off the road July. We hit the road with a big European Festival still a secret and Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival which look so exciting the new look for the festival. Then UK and European tour with the band. I am off to Nashville next month to play the Bluebird Café then back for weekend touring in England then back and the next day off to Boston lecturing at Boston Uni, as I am still doing my own stuff.
BD: So glad you had a good and successful time in Memphis and now off to Horsen, Denmark good luck and be wonderful if Kaz Hawkins can bring the trophy home.
Bluesdoodles, thanks, Graham Whittington of Lens Art Photography for sending a selection of the superb photo diary of Kaz and the band in Memphis.
‘ This was an excellent evening and our thanks go to everyone involved, the bands, the judges, the sponsors and all the team at the Robin 2 who made us so welcome and worked so hard to make the event such a success. The feedback we have received has been great and it is clear that those who attended thoroughly enjoyed the very fine musicians who played for them. I hope that we have laid the foundations for future UK Blues Challenges and that it will become one of the must-attend events of the blues year.
This was a night that celebrated the best in UK blues and demonstrated only too clearly the quality and range of the talent that is all too often unsung in this too frequently ignored musical genre. The event also raised funds which we, UKBlues, can use to further our aims and to make a contribution towards the Kaz Hawkins Band’s costs attending the two Challenges.’
Multi award-winning Kaz Hawkins is Northern Ireland’s very own blues and soul darling. The Belfast-born singer-songwriter is fast becoming a performing icon across UK & Europe with the United States temptingly beckoning her over. Her high energy, original shows with her 1950s style swing-dress-meets-Dr Martens look and ability to closely connect with her public contribute to making Kaz one of today’s most popular blues artists in the UK and Ireland, as she continues to play to full houses.
Kaz has been compared to Etta James & Janis Joplin to name but a few. Mixing the genres of music for over 20 years, she finally found her niche in roots and blues, bringing a fun, inspiring & hopeful message with her new debut album ‘Get Ready’ self-released in August 2014, featuring Kaz’s deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and soulful tracks. ’Get Ready’ wooed both the public and the critics, winning the Blues Matters! Magazine Writers’ Poll Best Studio Album of 2015 in September.
In a hat trick during the same month, Kaz accepted the prestigious Barry Middleton Award for Emerging Artist at the British Blues Awards (the first ever Northern Ireland recipient) and also received the Pure M Award for 2015 All-Ireland Best Female Act at a ceremony in Dublin.
Kaz’s stellar rise to success will be no surprise to the Northern Ireland’s music friends and blues fans over the world she has been wooing for years with her deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and soulful tracks. No mean feat for the 43-year-old funky grandma, who owes surviving a life of physical and emotional hardship to music and a larger-than-life personality that doesn’t take setbacks lying down! Kaz has now rebranded full-time as KAZ HAWKINS BAND. Guitarist Nick McConkey has been with Kaz 4 years and has been a crucial part of the bands direction. With the addition in 2015 of brothers Pete & Jan Uhrin on drums and bass KHB as they are now known, release their ‘Feelin’ Good’ album and UK tour on 28th May at Belfast Empire Music Hall.
Kaz has worked tirelessly for different charities and is Arts Ambassador for EastSide Arts Belfast in which she lectured students at Boston University on how she used music to survive trauma.
Tonight Celebrates the long tradition of women vocalists and the blues. Five members of the Blues Sisterhood UK hit the stage at The Convent. This consisted of the five acts and a Q&A session between each act all streamed live via Netgig. Without weeks of planning, hours of rehearsals tonight was the outcome of short collaboration and run through. Achieved by women supporting each other and producing the goods, two hours of music and smiles. Massive thanks to the dual forces of Matt Roberts at The Convent and the powerhouse that is Kaz Hawkins without this collaboration tonight’s unique celebration of the blues would never have happened.
The sound check ensured that the three drum kits, four guitars, three bass guitars, keyboards and five vocal mics were ready and waiting for the show to begin on the stroke of nine when the Convent stage went live on air. The logistics in place for the night was going to be a rollercoaster of energised music celebrating women, blues, and rock.
Tonight was all about celebrating female vocalists and their contribution to the contemporary British blues scene. A wall of sound started the fiesta with all the artists on stage, the three drum kits merged the guitars blended and the groove was deep in this mass 12-bar jam. Kaz started off the vocal jam as the five women vocalists sang I Believe, the baton passed onto to Olivia, Andi, Lorna and then Victoria and back again. Wow! this was music that raised your heart beat capturing the community of music that binds us all. We had the pure joy of stage magic in action. With the acts leaving the stage, Bluesdoodles had the first interview session with Kaz. The first band wasHusky Tones with Victoria combining vocals and drums, everyone knows Victoria is in charge as she joyously points drums sticks first at Chris Harper on guitar and bassist Matthew Richards. With a mix of blues slow, and fast this as a set that left you wanting to hear more. Husky Tones certainly gives blues a lift with style and smiles, closing with a new track, potentially the title track of their new album, they certainly gave the show Momentum. Then from the first duet of the evening singer Olivia Stevens of Ruby & The Revelators. Olivia calmly walked on stage joining Frazer Wigg on keys. The contrast worked well with a stripped down take on the blues. Olivia’s vocals were full of emotional tone and texture adding layers of blues power. Her set of four songs was a mix of originals with Shattered Not Broken particularly capturing the sorrow and the hope of the blues.
The music empowering women to continue growing in strength whatever life throws at them. Next up a complete contrast as rock band Eve’s Secret took to the stage. With Bluesdoodles interviewing their up-front vocalist Andi Hall before they started their set. Rock is the next door neighbour of the blues and the links are strong. Andi Hall fronts the band as a rock diva with her bassist Jeanette (Tig) Kirkham and the two women joined by guitarist Bruce Drummond and drummer Dermot Hall. The rock flared out of the stinging guitar and hard-hitting drums and Andi’s vocals powered through the three tracks, including Bad, Sad, Glad. There was definitely an air of the bad vibe, the music they played was definitely not sad and they were definitely glad to be rocking out at The Convent tonight. The tempo changed as theNorthsyde duo Lorna and Jules, sat side by side on stools. Jules on acoustic guitar and Lorna with her voice. The power seared through the night air with vocal colour, emotional texture and empathy with the heart and soul of the music. This was a delightfully different dimension to Northsyde. A marvelous acoustic duet with Lorna and Jules playing in complete stripped down harmonies. The acoustic vibes of the Allmans reshaped poured out as the blues from the porch recreated this was definitely a set you wanted to hear more of. Laid back, musical and dipped deep into the essence of the blues.
Up last and definitely not least was Kaz Hawkins Band with her larger than life stage presence. Vocals that wrap around you, drenching you in layers of emotions, from the travails, joys and hope of life. Gospel meets Blues with buckets of soul Kaz supported by her band that combines deft touches of guitar from Nick McConkey his solos contrasting with Kaz’s vocals. The rhythm section brothers, drummer Peter Uhrin and Janny on Bass. There couldn’t be a better act to wind up the fiesta celebrating women in the blues. Even with a short set Kaz’s energy, class and joy she shares when performing shone through. What a phenomenal performance as she sang Soul Superstar. Kaz is a superstar. With all the sisters joining Matt and Bluesdoodles on the sofa for a group hug and short chat the bands congregated on the stage. The jam kicked off with the drums and proceeded to gather momentum as the vocalists re-joined and the closing minutes were full of smiles, camaraderie and the shared joy of live music.
Throughout the evening each of the vocalist took turns to answer questions from Liz, Aiken, Bluesdoodles. Providing an insight into inspiration, the role of the newly formed Blues Sisterhood UK it was a friendly, fun and informative interludes between the main focus of the even the glorious music. Tonight, was an impromptu celebratory festival of the Blues Sisterhood and it went not just very well, it exceeded expectations in brilliance, companionship and the power of coming together through the Blues.
Sisters Bring Blues and Friendship To The Stage
Big Thank you to Eric Hobson for some of the photographs used – check out his website HERE
Tonight, Kaz Hawkins Band Created a Warm Red Musical Glow. Her music is wrapped in the blues but never shrink wrapped in conformity. Her music embraces you with open arms embracing the spirit and soul captured in the power of words and true emotions. The Altar stage was bathed I a warm, enticing red glow as her Band of men picked up their instruments and then started to play, her entrance was bold, loud and a swirl of a deepest red dress. The Black gloves were soon disposed of as this was a night of rejoice. Her vocals have a spectacular range, full of power and they colour each lyric with its own musical tone. Kaz Hawkins is the business, her music is the real deal. Songs are all written from the heart that connects with the hopes, fears and disappointments we have all experienced on life’s journey.
This is a night where we explore her life, inspirations, and her two studio albums. The Feelin’ Good Tour, is promoting her latest album, and building on the loyal following she has around her, and then opening with Don’t Make Mama Cry, from the Feelin Good album. Kaz with her huge heart dedicated the number to Paul Gallagher who is about to graduate as a mature student and is really ill back home in Belfast. Once a friend of Kaz she is your friend for life, Kaz relishes the joy her music brings as she connects with her fans. Picking up her acoustic guitar adding another guitar tone to those of the electric Dr Nick to her left, the music is empowering with This Is Me, an anthem that celebrates the joy of presenting yourself to the world. Combined with I Saw A Man, affectionately known as Norman’s song in honour of the homeless man who was the inspiration behind the music of a moving track from her debut album Get Ready.
Kaz creates an aura that absorbs everyone around her into a bubble that is ruled by music, including one of the Convent cats, not sentimentally sweet but full of the realities of life. Nina Simone’s classic Feelin Good is given the Kaz treatment as she re-works the number with the energy and electric sparks that is Kaz. Her rhythm section affectionately known as the Slovakian Army are brothers who have settled and made Belfast their home. On Bass, Mr Janny and drumming out the beat that drives the song is Mr Pete, who was joined by Kaz at one point. The music flows with a live vibrancy reflected in the red glow and swish of Kaz’s petticoats and flutter of her fan. Highlights are impossible to pick out as every track is superb. Touching my soul tonight is the wonderful song written for her daughter Because I Love You, and the celebratory feel good sing-a-long energy of Hallelujah Happy People. During Hallelujah, Kaz does her own thing once again, leaving the stage to sit in the audience, yet without missing a beat takes time to apologise to camera as she intuitively decides she wants to sit with us. Closing with her very special re-arrangement of Willie Dixon’s I Just Wanna Make Love; the re-shaping of a classic takes guts and Kaz has the confidence to make the song work for her and more importantly for the audience. It is like hearing the song for the first time and I am positive that Willie Dixon approves. This was a night where everyone’s energies raised we felt the music flow through our veins and deep into our collective souls.
The encore Shake, may only be four minutes on Get Ready, tonight we have a jam and weaving of tunes and songs as we have a very special extra fifteen minutes and that wasn’t enough. A marvelous animated set of great music celebrating the glorious vocals of Kaz as she delivers her commanding lyrics.
Once again, The Convent has created a vibe of miraculous proportions as Kaz Hawkins and Her Band, do more that entertain she invigorates, empowers sending joyous shivers of happiness through our bodies. Tonight is what memories are made of!
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….
Kaz Hawkins Band: ‘Feelin Good’ Album Release and UK Tour May/June 2016
Multi-award winning Kaz Hawkins is Northern Ireland’s very own blues and soul darling.
The Belfast born singer-songwriter’s high energy, original shows, her 1950’s style swing-dress-meets-Dr Martens look and her ability to closely connect with the audience, make Kaz one of the most popular blues artists in the UK…
Underground for years as a secret songwriter, Kaz Hawkins is now established as one the biggest performers to come out of Northern Ireland. Locally called “a vocal force” on stage, she envelops the fighting spirit of a true powerhouse singer.
Kaz is much-loved for her deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and down to earth attitude; she brings fun to every performance & is loved not only by her fans, but anyone who meets her. She has lived and sung ‘The Blues’, yet has much more to offer across differing genres – soul, rockabilly, folk & more.
Kaz’s new album ‘Feelin Good‘ more than a collection of songs; it’s a progression of Kaz’s work, it is power and the passion that is Kaz Hawkins.
‘Feelin Good‘ will be officially launched on Saturday 28th May at Belfast’s iconic Empire Music Hall, before the band head out across the UK for their biggest tour to date.
‘Feelin Good’ albums will be available for sale via the band’s website after 28th May 2016, with digital downloads to follow.
Mojo Found With Kaz Hawkins Full On Soul and Blues
Mojo Found With Kaz Hawkins Full-On Soulful Blues. How? The mesmeric power of Kaz’s tubes and a band that just understands her every nuance.
We are definitely ready after the amazing debut of Get Ready and having listened to Feelin Good Kaz raises her game and her second album is a triumph. With two covers the other eight tracks come straight from the big heart of Kaz whose emotional soul runs deep. Live the darling from Belfast mashes up the styles blending 1950’s swing dress with Dr Martens. The music is the same with the granite edge of rock with thick veins of blues, soul and a twist of gospel running through she moves you with her music. This is not Kaz Hawkins but Kaz Hawkins Band and the band fits around her attitude like a glove augmented with classy licks and bass that drives the tension through the album. Her band is a rhythm powerhouse, brothers Pete & Jan Uhrin originally from Slovakia have made Northern Ireland home for over 10 years. The synergy and natural initiative of understanding is a result of playing together since childhood. Guitarist Nick McConkey who has been with Kaz for over four years remains in the mix and joined by his cousin Deanne Jones on backing vocals. The band is tight and the controlling reins are firmly in Kaz’s hand as she shapes the music around her vocals and the lyrics that have deep meaning and are always personal.
No track is more personal than the official single and video release from the album a statement This Is Me. Opening with Kaz at piano and her voice deep with soul and emotional and then the words they are spell-binding. Stop what you are doing and listen this is a soulful philosophy for life This is Me and all I wanted to be. The guitar and drums add tonal textures as they take up the melody. Wow it is powerful yet never swamps the other nine tracks it fits into the flow. Opening with background studio you first hear Kaz saying she has lost her mojo. Oh no she hasn’t Pray is gospel A-Capella that draws you deep into the velvet complexity of Kaz’s vocals from the high to the low notes. The Drum joins with a pounding beat and we are off on a rollercoaster of emotions of Kaz Hawkins Band. We have a change of tempo with Don’t Make Mama Cry as the band sweeps Kaz along on a waterfall of rhythmic tempo. The title track nestled in the middle, is a sumptuous cover of a Newley & Bricusse number. Opening with chords from Nick’s guitar we wait for Kaz’s voice and now we have a gentle reflective tone and you are left moved as she sings the well-known refrain It’s a New Life a New Day.
How to follow that? Put some funk into the mix, with a deep opening bass as the instruments join in Kaz joins the party. Don’t Run Away, you won’t this is an album that beckons you to keep returning to. Closing with a Willie Dixon Classic I Just Wanna Make Love the circle closed and blues the strongest vein of shining blue is captured in the supremacy that is Kaz Hawkins.
On every listen there is another gem of instrumentation that you missed on the first, second and third listen. Every track has a different approach that needs time to explore and you will make the time to explore Kaz Hawkins and her band on this outstanding album Feelin Good. Catch Kaz on tour it will be fun – for dates – click the link
1. Pray (Hawkins)
2. It Ain’t You (Hawkins)
3. Don’t Make Mama Cry (Hawkins)
4. This Is Me (Hawkins)
5. Belfast Town (Hawkins)
6. Feeling Good (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse)
7. Don’t Run Away(Hawkins)
8. Because You Love Me (Hawkins)
9. Soul Superstar (Hawkins)
10. I Just Wanna Make Love to You (Willie Dixon)
Feelin Good albums will be available for sale via the band’s website after 28th May 2016. Digital downloads will not available for the foreseeable future. The only other place to get a hold of the album will be from the Feelin Good UK Tour venues of which there is a comprehensive list on the band’s website.