Sophie B. Hawkins
About Sophie B. Hawkins
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"Freedom and independence means happiness," says Hawkins, who opened for Sting in January 2001 and whose previous gold-certified album featured the Top 10 Adult Contemporary track "As I Lay Me Down," the longest running single (67 weeks) in the history of any Billboard chart. "Now I can make and release records and reach my audience in their most powerful unadulterated state. This is a real challenge as an artist and as a human being."
For Timbre, the musically accomplished Hawkins not only sang, played piano, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, udu, djembe, vibraphone and marimba, but produced the album. Led by the new single "Walking In My Blue Jeans," tapped for a Calvin Klein promotion premiering a line of jeans for women, the Rykodisc enhanced CD of Timbre also features several new elements. Along with the previously unreleased songs "You Turn Me On" and "Traveling Light," demos of songs on the 1999-released version and alternate versions of "Lose Your Way" (one Spanish, the other the remix for the Miramax film "Bounce"), Timbre includes the videos for "No Connection" and "The One You Have Not Seen," and The Sundance Channel promo ad for "The Cream Will Rise." The revealing, critically acclaimed documentary on Hawkins directed by her manager and label partner Gigi Gaston has been a film festival favorite and enjoyed its television premiere on The Sundance Channel this past fall and will air again in April 2001.
"It's not so much a career I've had but an experience," says Hawkins. "I operate on passion; I can't function any other way. Everyone has a way of being in the world; my way of being is to be truthful."
Following a major bidding war, Hawkins' passionate and challenging 1992 debut album, Tongues And Tails, went gold, featured the Top 5 hit "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The song's groundbreaking video, which reflected Hawkins' unique artistry in pushing the envelope, was banned by MTV. Responding to popular demand, however, the network requested a more conventional performance video, which nevertheless boosted her profile. Her second album, Whaler, went gold and "As I Lay Me Down" earned unprecedented success after she persuaded her label to let her tour with just a piano.
If not for a grassroots campaign by fans on the Internet, Timbre might not have been released at all. "Whaler was a huge success in Europe so I spent two years touring there," she explains. "Then I toured two years here (including the 30-city Moxy Tour in 1996 chronicled in 'The Cream Will Rise'). So that album really took four years to come to the surface. By that time, Timbre was ready. Let's face it," she adds with a laugh, "with me there's always a long and unusual story."
Hawkins' story began in her native New York City where at age fourteen, she began studying African drums with a protege of Babatunde Olatunji and eventually moved into the Ansonia to study with Olatunji. She studied classical percussion at the renowned Manhattan School of Music and left after a year to form her own bands, writing all the parts and singing from behind her drumset at such clubs as CBGB's and the Bitter End. She also played jazz vibraphone with little groups on the upper West side. She then moved into performing in the artsy East Village scene, supporting herself by playing her djembe for dance classes at NYU, and acted in off-off-Broadway plays. Later, while working as a coat check girl, she gave Mark Cohn the 50 song demo tape she had recorded at a home studio while its owner worked the graveyard shift driving a cab. A jingle producer called back and soon Hawkins' voice was heard singing the well-known jingle for the Nestle's Sweet Dreams white chocolate bar. The demo tape which included "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" and most of the songs from Tongues and Tails, led to a stint as a percussionist on tour with Bryan Ferry and her record deal at Columbia, at which point she decided, with a typical Hawkins individuality, to add her middle initial to the marquee.
The mega-hit "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" instantly became her signature song. "What better song to be associated with? It's still my favorite song to perform. It represents the part of me that rose up from the street, pure emotion."
Today, in the midst of penning a novel and writing and recording new songs, Hawkins is excited about touring to promote and bring TIMBRE to audiences around the world. Sophie B. Hawkins is as natural, intuitive, resilient and unexpected as ever.
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