Known for her expressive tone and moving interpretations “with a voice that has the power to uplift – irrespective of the song being sung” (NZ Musician) Anna Hawkins‘ music has been described as captivating and ethereal. In this interview, we learn about her latest album Dreamer and why Anna hopes audiences come away feeling inspired for their own creative journeys.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do).
Singer-songwriter, recording artist and performer.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
I grew up in the Waikato on a farm near Morrinsville. I’ve since lived in Poland, Oxford, London and Tauranga.
What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?
Stories from the bible, I recall a golden book of prayers. Golden books and Disney stories were a big part of my upbringing. Aside from that Dad and Mum would often tell me a story about their upbringing or their grandparents to relay values and lessons to us.
What’s your favourite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
I love the area on the Mount beach to the right of Leisure Island. I’ve seen many beautiful sunrise and sunsets from that part of the beach and when I’m there I feel all the stresses of whatever is going on melt away.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
I work three days a week when our son who’s three is in care. On those days I head to my home office first thing to tick off my most important jobs or emails with the last six months centering around releasing my new album Dreamer. As a self managed artist I’m responsible for all aspects of the release from putting my website and visuals together, mapping out concepts and planning music video shoots, organising release concerts and seeking out media opportunities. I also plan out my email newsletter and social media channels taking time every week to schedule, craft my emails, create and upload content. Then there’s the admin related things that are a part of all of that. The last few weeks [pre-lockdown] I’ve been focused on the Dreamer release tour. It’s been really great to spend time in that creative space, rehearsing with the band and performing to an audience which honestly is the reward after all of it, because connecting with people through the medium of music is why I do what I do. It can be easy to lose sight of that when you’re busy with the other side of the business.
On the non work days I enjoy being a Mum to Leon and having quality time together. It’s also when I tend to tick off household jobs which we do together, he’s my helper at the supermarket, loves baking and is even into vacuuming, it just takes twice as long as we take turns.
You’ve recently released your album, Dreamer. How do you want it to make audiences feel?
Ultimately I want people to feel and experience hope when they listen to Dreamer, for it to make their day brighter or have them looking at themselves and their life differently. I hope listeners find songs they can relate to and connect with and perhaps help them process some of their own thoughts or feelings. I want people to come away feeling uplifted and encouraged for their own creative journeys.
Can you explain your creative process in under ten words?
Exploring ideas without limitations, then strategising creatively to achieve them.
If you could open a show for any musician in the world (dead or alive), who would it be? Why?
Barbra Streisand would be up there as she’s an absolute legend in my mind and I learnt a lot listening to her growing up. Bob Dylan would also be incredible to open for and see in action.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing?
I’m passionate about seeing women empowered across different cultures, in business and in life. I think a coaching type role would be something that would interest me with a focus on this.
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
I started my career in music at the local country music club and Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Leanne Rimes were my heroes during that period. I have Irish heritage and remember being introduced to traditional folk songs jamming in the living room. My Dad played a lot of old school Rock n Roll hits and Disney also deserves a mention. After starting singing lessons I discovered classical and musical theatre music and would listen to theatre compilations and singers like Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and Andrea Boccelli as those to emulate.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
Barbra Streisand was very influential as I learnt a lot listening to her in terms of vocal technique, phrasing and interpretation. She also has a keen business mind and enjoys multiple creative outlets which I admire. Bob Dylan is really fascinating his lyrics are poetic and powerful in the way they approach political issues and different topics. I also consider Walt Disney an incredible creative thinker. In fact the concept of Dreamer was partly inspired by Walt Disney’s approach to new ideas and his three room creative process. The first room is the ‘Dreamer’ room where you go crazy exploring ideas without bringing up problems or issues related to them. You don’t bring limiting thoughts into the Dreamer room. Then there’s the ‘Realist’ room where you still don’t go into the problems but talk about the ‘how’ how would this idea play out, how could it be made to happen. Finally ending in the ‘Critic’ room where you pick apart the idea and problems associated with it. I really love this philosophy and I’m naturally wired to work best this way.
If you went away from the Bay of Plenty for a long time and then came back, what are the first three things you would do or visit?
Walk up and around the Mount. Head to the beach anywhere along the coast. Take Leon to Memorial Park for a run around.
Looking back at your teen-age self: what one sentence describes that person?
An idealistic driven young person with big dreams and a bent towards being a perfectionist.
In one sentence, can you define art?
Art is everywhere its unfolding all the time in nature and in the story of our lives, it’s the expression of all that is within and around us.
What is missing or lacking from your Bay of Plenty community or environment?
I would love to be more connected to other musicians and creatives in the Bay in a way where we helped each other and served one another with our gifts like a trading of services, knowledge and expertise.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
I still love The Notebook. It’s a beautiful story of enduring love and the acting and cinematography are brilliant. Shawshank Redemption has some profound take-aways and moments. I also enjoy The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, my favourite being the first Hobbit film because it’s about being courageous enough to embrace the unknown.
What was your first real job, second, third?
My first job was performing at concerts and events from as young as fourteen. The second would be waitressing, and third, a dance teacher.
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
I think it would be fun to do another stint living overseas. America would be an interesting place to live for a while. I also like the idea of Italy and France to experience a different language and culture.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Don’t give up. Keep your ‘why’ at the forefront of your mind and revisit it often. Sometimes there’s not a lot of reward, particularly from a monetary perspective in the creative arts and knowing my ‘why’ is the fuel I use to keep creating and remain focused.
What’s the biggest problem about life in New Zealand? How you would solve it?
Family culture is what I’d put the focus on because our childhood is what frames the rest of our lives. Those early years are so powerful in forming who we are and how we see and interact with the world. I don’t think there’s an easy one fits all solution but it would be great to see further programmes created to help families get out of cycles of abuse, addiction and poverty.
What is your dream of happiness?
To fulfil my potential and serve the world with my gift to the best of my ability. To love well and enjoy a healthy, happy family.