September 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 13  

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Hawksley Workman talks

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
HELP! THEY'RE GOING TO BEAT ME UP! Hawksley Workman is both a lover and a fighter on his recent album.

Remember that part in Almost Famous where Billy Crudup's character, Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond, stands on a rooftop at a party practicing his last words? All he manages to come up with is "I'm on drugs."

Well, Hammond should have consulted Hawksley Workman before climbing up there because the mysterious yet jovial singer-songwriter has a flair for words. He delights in playing with them, emphasizing them and seems determined to use as many of them as he possibly can before his firecracker of a star burns out in this life.

Workman doesn't so much write songs as he creates odes to everyday people and events that somehow manage to recall a distinctive sense of old-fashioned romance while simultaneously oozing with primal, raw sexuality. Since the release of his debut LP, 1999's For Him and the Girls, much has been made in the media of the singer's so-called quirks. His tendency to speak playfully and poetically in interviews and his active imagination are just some of the reasons the word most frequently used in his press clippings is "eccentric." One might even say he is boxed into a particular image, but the ever-optimistic Workman sees it differently.

"I love those boxes!" he enthuses. "I love boundaries and limits because they allow me the chance to go beyond them. I really don't want to sound too sinister and manipulative or anything, but with that whole ‘eccentric' image, I feel like I almost played that up a little too much where the media is concerned. I just wanted to give people something to take notice of me and the fact that I had a record out and to get people to talk about it and listen to it."

And listen they did. Well, at least some of them. For Him and the Girls became an instant classic with fans of quirky independent folk/rock music. Workman reveals he was somewhat caught off guard by audience reactions to the album.

"When I was making For Him and the Girls, I thought I was making the most accessible pop record ever," he laments laughingly. "But instead, the people who gravitated to it were the people who were sick of hearing the same things time and again and wanted to hear something really different. And I really thought I had created this universal pop record."

With his latest album, the saucy yet sentimental Lover/ Fighter, Workman is adamant he went into his little private studio with a definite goal in mind.

"I think my other two records were a little too disjointed and scattered, so I consciously wanted this one to be different - more focused," he states emphatically. "I really wanted this record to have nine songs. I actually wrote 30 songs for this album and that doesn't mean that I only wrote nine good ones and 21 crappy ones, but just that these nine fit together the best and get across the overall theme and flow of the album as a coherent collection.

"I'm always thinking of what people want to hear. Truthfully, I can't really understand those kinds of artists, the ones who say 'oh, I make music for me and if anyone else likes it, that's just a bonus.' I'm always thinking about people."

Hawksley Workman plays at Club Phoenix on Tue. Sep. 23 with his band The Wolves. Tickets are available for $15 at Ticketmaster outlets or at the door prior to the show. The show is 19+ and doors open at 8 p.m.




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