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Fiona Joy Hawkins Interview 2024 Photo Two

It was time to get caught up with Australian composer, pianist and vocalist Fiona Joy Hawkins, as the last time we sat down with this affable and talented lady was in 2020. We connected with her at her home in Kendall, New South Wales, Australia. Although you do not often hear her mention it, Fiona Joy Hawkins has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious music venues.

Our conversation on this day, however, takes us far from those concert venues and to the Arctic and how she has combined her music with nature and video.

Fiona Joy Hawkins Interview 2024 Photo OneAcknowledging that her trip to the Arctic was a life changing event, she says, “Absolutely, it was probably the best time I ever had, and it was such an eyeopener with the beauty there. I want to do it again, but there are so many other things I want to do. It really made me aware of the problems there and aware of the power of music and the power of suggestion. I was on a boat that was full of writers, biologists, photographers and politically involved and motivated people. We had really famous political people and I can’t even say who. When I met all of these people I said, all I could really do is my music. There is nothing more that I feel I can do to help these situations. They said to me, in some ways you can do more than many of us.

I was like, really? Are you joking? For the last night they played my video of the polar bear with the music on the big screen. I looked around the room and there were people crying. They came up to me and said it gave them an emotional connection to the subject matter, not a scientific connection, (such as) the polar bears are all drowning and here are the statistics. The problem for me (she starts to laugh) is that polar bear was fat. It was the only non-starving polar bear, we got fatty the polar bear. That is okay. He was a beautiful polar bear. He was just going about his day doing his thing. It didn’t quite tell the story and a few people when I posted it said that polar bear is fat! (she laughs heartily). He’s not starving!

The truth is the polar bears are starving and a lot of them are stuck on land. They are having to eat berries and birds’ eggs. They aren’t able to get out onto the ice like that polar bear. Generally, the population is declining.”

Never one to shy away from a new adventure Fiona Joy Hawkins tells us about her video from a small plane, as it flew over Australia’s Lord Howe Island, which is located in the Pacific Ocean five hundred kilometers off the coast of Australia.  It is actually part of an archipelago, comprised of twenty-eight islands known as The Lord Howe Island Group.

“Lord Howe Island is about five hundred kilometers off the coast from where I live in New South Wales. It is the southern tip of our barrier reef. It is beautiful, pristine and it is just an amazing place to go and visit. A lot of people don’t go there, because they are only allowed to have two hundred visitors on the island at any one time and there are two hundred people that live there, so there are only four hundred people on the island.

I went over there, because I always wanted to see it. It cost an absolute fortune to go. I went up in a small plane and I had to rent the whole plane, because I had to have access to both sides of the windows. I got some footage, and I was thinking I just want to capture this as best as I can, so I can show people how amazing it is,” she says.

Continuing, Fiona Joy Hawkins explains, “The music that I have been using is from one of my albums with Riverest. During COVID I wondered what I would do because I live four hours from a recording studio.  I went back to the stems of my music, and if you take out the piano, the remaining stems are lush with a background of strings.  Where there is nothing or where there used to be solo piano, I close up the gaps and add layers and layers of vocals.  It turns into cinematic, Celtic music and when we add synth it sounds other-worldly.  That is the music I use for my environmental videos.

Then I decided I wanted to learn how to make videos. I had a lot of spare time and I learned how to make videos. I decided I wanted to make environmental videos. I didn’t want to teach them (the listener and viewer) the subject matter, but I took them somewhere where they could experience something. All I can do is make people want to connect with the subject matter, to have an emotional connection. It is like I did with the polar bear, so people will look at that and have an emotional connection through the music and the video footage and (perhaps) try to learn more about it. I suggest there is problem, and the polar bears are suffering.

I am not a scientist; I am not a biologist. I can’t tell people enough to teach them anything. All I can do is give them an emotional and beautiful experience.”

So, Fiona what comes first the music or the video?

“The music is already made, so I don’t make the music for that video. It is already in my repertoire. Once I have made the video I will go through the songs and usually I have an idea of what will work. There is only one piece of music that tells that story, and I will narrow it down to that one.

In the case of the Lord Howe Island, I am still making the video, because I got so much footage. I have to change songs.

First, I find somewhere that I really want to go and then I look for what it is about that place that is unique. How it is affected by climate change and what the environmental issues are. Then I try to integrate the message that will say something that will help. In the case of the Arctic it is obviously the fact it is melting and that it is a huge problem,” she says.  

Fiona Joy Hawkins goes on to say, “I am big on content, so I am recording and making videos for the next twelve months. I would like to get back to touring. It is all in good time.

So often what we are fed in the news and what the scientists give to us has shock value to it and it makes us think on an intellectual level, but it just doesn’t connect with the heart. This is the only way that I can help, really, is to put it to music and for people to connect with that emotion inside them.

In terms of reaching out and touching people. I am not a scientist, but I can touch people in that way.”

Referring once again to the comment that was made to her in the Arctic how in many ways she could do more than the scientists and politicians to reach people, Fiona Joy Hawkins says, “It was lovely to hear. Artists are often made to feel that what they do is flimsy. Some academics will say the arts are just some flimsy pursuit, and the arts are not of any great value. Get a real job. It is not true, because we do connect with people on that ground level, and it is important.

There is a lot of power behind the messages and people relate to them, because of the lyrics and the music. Not that I do lyrics, and that is another interesting one, because I am trying to sell a message without lyrics. (she laughs lightly)

It is really powerful because I have the video instead of the lyrics, but with music on its own you are trying to tell a story and it is more the power of suggestion than anything else.”

In November of 2023 Fiona Joy Hawkins made her first trip across the Atlantic since pre-COVID days, to record not one, but two albums.

To The Wind, was the last album that everybody has seen that came out. That was recorded in 2019. The pipeline is a number of years. I went into the studio in November of last year. I went to San Francisco with Rebecca Daniels and that is the first time that I have been overseas since 2019. Fiona Joy Hawkins 2024 Interview Photo Three

We had aimed to record one album, plus some extra songs in case something didn’t work, so Cookie Marenco had some choice. We wanted to record fifteen or sixteen good songs. She said, I am just going to keep (recording) and you just continue to play. We got twenty totally usable songs, which means two albums. We are pretty excited about that. Cookie is sending me the first drafts of the work. They belong to Blue Coast Records, but we get to listen and to comment and put any other ideas in. I am hoping the first single will come out in May or something like that.  Then next year there will be another Blue Coast Records album that will come out from the second album we recorded last year. That is the pipeline,” she says.

Pausing, Fiona Joy Hawkins takes a moment to say, “Cookie Marenco is a woman, a pioneer amongst men in the audiophile world.  She is a producer and record label owner, as much as she is involved in the finished sound (engineering).”

If that is not enough of a creative explosion, Fiona Joy Hawkins is also currently composing yet another album, which she hopes to record in Australia, this July.

Taking another step back to last year (2023) we discuss her album Blue Dream Solo Piano, which is the rebirth of the 2008 album Blue Dream, produced by Will Ackerman, engineered by Corin Nelsen and mastered by Bob Ludwig. The songs were composed by Fiona Joy Hawkins and the music was built around her playing piano.

“When I recorded the album Blue Dream it grew into this huge thing and there were twenty-two other artists on it. I love working with other musicians. There were a lot of session musicians. I really enjoy that, as it is very cinematic. I always thought I would release a solo piano version of that album, because I wrote it to stand alone as solo piano. I like working with other musicians and I think of myself as a composer, so I was very happy to go down that route and to release the instrumentation in the initial stages. It took how many years? It was released in 2008 and I released my solo version last year. It has taken quite some time for me to strip it right back and to release the original version,” she says.

We wondered how the stripped down version of the album has been received.

Laughing, Fiona Joy Hawkins says, “Not as well as the original, it never is (more laughter). The original was pretty amazing. I learned so much working with Will Ackerman and I worked with so many amazing musicians. Blue Dream was such an amazing experience for me.

Bringing it out as solo piano is very personal. It hasn’t done as well, but it is something I always wanted to do.”

Recently, Fiona Joy Hawkins released The Gift, Felted Piano, and Sidney Chopin, a collaboration with Sidney Chopin. Who is Sidney Chopin? Is he a descendant of the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin? Come on Fiona give us a scoop!

“Sidney Chopin is another artist that I created during COVID, because I wanted to stay creative and I wanted to keep working. I didn’t have access to a piano to record, but I did have access to a keyboard. I was able to devise this felted piano sound. It is all very slow and scrunchy. I am not a very big fan of it to be honest, but I had to replace my touring income. I created Sidney Chopin, and I used my husband’s face (she laughs again). I recorded little snippets of my music here and there using that felted sound that I had developed, based on what other people were doing with felted piano. I just didn’t have a recording studio or a piano for me to record. I have dogs barking. This is Australia and we have birds that I just cannot drown out and we have cicadas that are so noisy you have no hope of recording. I really had to do something electronic, so Sidney Chopin was born.

Everyone in our world says how is Sidney Chopin going or they will ask what new songs has Sidney Chopin done? They all think it is hilarious. When I wrote his little bio on Spotify I had so much fun. I just had a giggle, because it is so ridiculous.

You have to keep working and finding new ways to keep working and I thought that was a little bit ingenious, given that I couldn’t go anywhere and record. I live in the country in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t go anywhere.  Sidney Chopin is a European male with a felted sound. The little backstory is that he is German, and he moved to Australia. It is a fun project.

My husband will come home from work and ask what I have been working on that day and I will say Sidney has a new song coming out and I need you to do a quick recording for Amazon and Pandora. I need you to say (something like) Hi, this is Sidney Chopin and you are listening to my new song “Six Hundred Years,” that sort of thing. I give him a little script and he just laughs. I think what am I going to do if somebody wants to interview Sidney Chopin? If someone wants to do a radio interview, what am I going to do?” she says.  

As for the immediate future,” I am working on a Reggae / New Age track at the moment. I have done three days in the studio, and I probably have two or three more to go. It is something completely different and I don’t know how it will be received. I am just having a blast with it.

It will be keyboards, vocals with lots of layers. I can’t tell you anymore about it at the moment.

I love Reggae music. I absolutely love it. I thought it would be interesting to get that Reggae rhythm and chord structure with floaty New Age vocals and to have the main instrumentation over the top of it, like you would do for a New Age album. It is really cool. I think it will turn out okay,” she teases.

Please take time to visit the website for Fiona Joy Hawkins and you can find her music on bandcamp and she has also posted her videos and music on YouTube. Return to Our Front Page

  #FionaJoyHawkins #RivetingRiffs #AustralianPianoMusic #AustralianMusicInterview #RivetingRiffsMagazine #EntrevistaAustraliana #EntrevistaPianista #EntrevistaMusica  #CompositorEntrevista This interview by Joe Montague  published March 31st, 2024 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the the property of  Fiona Joy Hawkins unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.