Column 209: A Simple Truth
Adam Hawkins embraces reality.
Adam Hawkins has lived through some bad shit. It was self-inflicted shit, it was some dumb shit, but it was shit nonetheless and he lived through it. And maybe too much has been made of it, at least to me.
When I first heard about the singer / songwriter / band leader, it was only in the terms of this bad shit. “Man, this guy’s been through it,” they said. “He’s seen it, he’s lived it and now he sings about it in his music.”
Lived through what? I had this picture of a junkie bunked out under an interstate off-ramp in a cardboard box or on his knees shaking a stained Dixie cup begging for dope money.
The truth was less dramatic. He did go through some bad shit, but he’s better now. It didn’t happen here; it happened when he was living in Ames, Iowa, in the early part of this decade. “I did a lot of hanging out, a lot of partying,” he said. “I was engaged to be married and then the shit hit the fan in all those regards.”
His partying led to the failure of his relationship, which led to harder partying. Just how bad was it? “It wasn’t anything monumental; I wasn’t 98 pounds,” Hawkins said. “I was on the path of losing control. I slowly started realizing the type of people I was hanging around — I wasn’t around them because they were my friends, but because they had stuff and they would share it with me. I kind of realized that I didn’t want to become these people.”
So he moved to Omaha. It wasn’t his first choice. The plan was for him and his roommate to move to Hollywood — a decision based on a 3 a.m. conversation after a few days of partying. Instead, Hawkins’ brother Jamie suggested he pack up and move in with him in Omaha. “He knew what was going on and said I could stay with him as long as I needed to. He gave me a lifeline and some security.”
Music wasn’t even in the picture. Hawkins had been in a few bands in Ames (“none worth mentioning”), but that had fallen to the side during his party years. Now in Omaha sometime in late 2005 or early 2006, he was living through a string of jobs — telemarketing, then slot attendant and eventually blackjack dealer at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, a job that depressed him so much that he hated getting up in the morning. After he was fired, he went back to telemarketing, and then waiting tables at Perkins. He’s now at Dietze Music, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Music slowly eked back into Hawkins’ life. After hearing him play in her living room, a friend suggested he perform at a birthday gig at a local school. On her own volition, she launched a Myspace page for him. “I thought it was totally ridiculous,” Hawkins said. “I thought Myspace was a tweener past-time, what kids did.” But that Myspace page would become a conduit for meeting other local musicians.
Kyle Harvey, the label executive behind Slo-Fidelity Records, first heard Hawkins play a solo show at The Foundry. Harvey and Hawkins began to correspond via e-mail, along with Midwest Dilemma’s Justin Lamoureux, and before long, Hawkins found himself entrenched in the Benson singer-songwriter scene.
“Knowing them motivated me to play out more,” Hawkins said. “Instead of playing in some school conference room, they were helping me get shows at bars.”
On his debut album, titled there there, now… / i think it’s best… (if i leave), Hawkins goes by It’s True — the name has to do with his psychedelic past and his definition of reality, which boils down to: “Any form of truth is a representation of that ultimate truth.”
Self-recorded on a four-track in bedrooms over the past couple years, the album is solo-acoustic folk sung in Hawkins’ dreamy croon, strong on melody and meaning. The lyrics are straightforward and painfully honest, obviously candid, and probably written from a place that you don’t want to go. But at the same time, it’s up-tempo and touchingly positive.
“Negativity can quickly get corny and self serving,” Hawkins said. “Not a lot of people want to hear you complain about your life unless there’s some deeper resonance. I want to be positive, but that doesn’t mean that I always want to sing about rainbows and sunshine.”
He said he never intended to release the songs until Kyle Harvey asked him to. “They were rough drafts,” Hawkins said. “I wanted to put a band together and rerecord them, and then time passed. It was actually keeping me from writing new stuff. Kyle said to just release them as they are.” Good call. The austere production adds to the music’s simple honesty.
Hawkins is celebrating the CD’s release this Saturday night at The Barley St. Tavern with fellow songwriters Kyle & Kat, Ben Seiff, John Klemmensen and Kendra Senick (Cat Island).
He said he has another group of “wordier songs, less melodic, more rambling” that he may record as an EP someday. Or he may not. Hawkins is content going with the flow.
“Right now, the plan is to get the band up to par. And that’s all in terms of ambition. I know the guys would really like to record something, and I would, too.”
But Hawkins said anytime he tries to do something deliberately, it doesn’t work out, and he gets frustrated. Better to take it one day at a time. “I’m not trying to avoid disappointment. Things just seem to turn out better that way.”
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It’s another hopping night in Benson tonight. Over at The Waiting Room, Fucked Up headlines a show with Dance Me Pregnant. Here’s what I said about FU’s Matador Records release The Chemistry of Common Life back in December:
The vocals aren’t so much Cookie Monster as they are an Andrew W.K. rip — over the top, slightly out of control, in your face. But not Cookie Monster — that term is forever reserved for the vacuous metal-esque goon-rock bands that litter high-NRG Nickelback stations (in Omaha, 89.7 The River). Fucked Up isn’t “goon,” and you would never confuse it with metal or, really, even punk (though it is loud and obnoxious). This is spaz rock in that AWK-vein. Overbearing and sometimes annoying, it’s best served in small doses. That, along with odd tangents like space instrumentals “Golden Seal” and “Looking for God” — that owe as much to Pink Floyd as anything punk –are enough to make this worth checking out.
I think it could be entertaining, if not ear-bleedingly loud. $8, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at The Barley Street Tavern, Brimstone Howl plays with Rock Paper Dynamite and Watching the Trainwreck. $5, 9 p.m.
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