Birds - Sam Hawksley
Sam Hawksley’s “Birds” album is a surprise in that it flies in the face of tradition, with Sam not singing any of these songs himself. Instead the album features female singers from Australia, New Zealand and the US.
Hawksley began this record at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, when he, like just about every other musician in the world started thinking, “What in the world am I going to do?”
Then he thought, “What if I? What if I? … What if I made a record of songs I’d recorded and or written but sung by women….?”
“Nobody was asking me to make a record like this, fans weren’t crying out for it, there was no record label wanting it, I’m not even sure my mum even thought it was a good idea… I just wanted to do it, so I did.”
The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter said he started imagining whose voices would bring the songs to life or give them a new lease on life, which he described was similar to casting for a movie.
“I say this is the record for people who like my songs but aren’t so keen on my voice,” Hawksley laughed.
“I’m a guitar player and producer by trade and in my work with The Bodeans, Adam Brand, Kim Richey, Richard Clapton, Cotton, Keays and Morris etc I’ve always sung. I’ve made seven solo records singing my songs. My first album (2000) was reviewed in Drum Media and the reviewer said I had a ‘more than serviceable voice’ – I was never really sure how to take that.
“Some of the singers are the writers of the songs who always sang these songs better than me anyway. Some are artists that in my wildest dreams I imagined singing these songs.
I had a blast making this record and it’s filled with some incredible singing – none by me.”
The album features Wendy Matthews, Brooke McClymont, Jonatha Brooke, Wendy Page, Nina Ferro, Danielle Deandrea, Felicity Urquhart, Alyssa Bonagura, Shanley Del, and Amber Rae Slade.
“I called this record “Birds” because …..what else would an Australian living in Nashville, who misses the Aussie vernacular, have called it?” Hawksley said.
“Making this album kept me artistically alive during the live music COVID coma.”
Recorded between Hawksley’s studio in Nashville and studios in LA, Minneapolis, Franklin TN, and back in his home country, Australia in Leichhardt, Coffs Harbour, Melbourne and Tumbi Umbi.
"Birds" Track By Track with Sam Hawksley
WE ALL NEED LOVE – Wendy Matthews
Canadian born Wendy Matthews is an Australian icon. I’ve always loved Wendy Matthews’ voice. I think I first heard her on Kirk Lorange’s Album, then with Absent Friends, then her solo albums.
Her voice is genre defying, slipping easily between soul, pop, folk and jazz.
Not long before I left australia to live in Nashville I got to play some live shows with her which was a thrill.
Wendy actually sang a featured backing vocal part on my song “I’m sorry now” and I’d played guitar on a recording Wendy did of Buddy and Julie Millers song “Rivers Gonna Run”
I thought Wendy would sound great on this song and she does ! She recorded the vocal at a friends studio in Coffs Harbour -Wendy and the engineer face timed me once Wendy had sung it to see if I was happy. I had goose bumps
COME BACK BABY – Brooke McClymont
Brooke and I wrote this song in the early 2000’s – we were working on a different song and I left the room for a scheduled pit stop….i came back she had come up with the chorus…
I found the multi tracks for the original demo Brooke and I had done of this song way back when and I fleshed it out a bit.
Brooke is the most natural singer I’ve ever met . Music just flows out of her. When I opened this session after not listening to it for 15 or more years just out of curiosity I looked to see if there were other vocal takes……there wasn’t… one take was all that was needed.
COME TOMORROW – Jonatha Brooke
I’ll get this out of the way….i’m a total Jonatha Brooke fan boy.
Her album “Plumb” is possibly my favourite record ever. I still remember where I was when I first heard it. I thought this record has everything! Its sonically perfect, great songs ,great singing….anyway….
My friend Ben Butler (Sting /Bruce Springsteen) who I used to take guitar lessons from in Australia, plays with Jonatha a bit. I rang Ben after too many cups of coffee and said “do you think Jonatha would sing a song on my “birds” record?” – He said “let’s pick a song and I’ll ask”.
My first thought was a song “Come Tomorrow” that I’d written years ago with Kevin Bennett. Ben agreed and sent it to her – She said yes !!
A week later she’d sung the vocal- I still have to pinch myself when I hear it. She made the song her own
WHO’S SAVING YOU – Wendy Page
Wendy Page is a voice you might not be familiar with, but you will love.
She and her husband Jim Marr co-wrote the songs “Honey to the Be” and “Because we want to “ for Billie Piper amongst other hit songs . Wendy had a big time record deal back in the day and made an album with Don Was that sadly never saw the light of day.
While Wendy and Jim were living in LA, we wrote a bunch of songs that ended up on my records. They are possibly my favourite people to write with.
“Who’s saving you“ is one of the songs we wrote but Wendy sang it so well I couldn’t imagine singing it myself. This song has always haunted me
KIND HEART ANGRY WORLD – Nina Ferro
I did a version of this song on my last record , essentially because the song had been sitting around for years and it needed to get out into the world. I think my version is ok but THIS is the fully realized version of it. Nina is a world class singer and has shared the stage Tony Bennett, the Zac Brown Band, Renee Geyer , Gilbert O’Sullivan and you might see her singing as on Dancing with the Stars.
A few years ago I produced a record for Nina called “ Into the Light” . The record was filled with songs that Nina and I co wrote. It’s one of my favorite musical moments in my life.
We wrote “Kind Heart “ with Travis Meadows after the “ Into the Light” record was finished.
I get about halfway through Nina singing this song and every time I get a lump in my throat .This is how this song was supposed to sound.
I AIN’T GONNA WORRY – Dannielle DeAndrea
Nobody sings with a better groove than Dannielle. She has recorded and performed with Sting Jackson Browne, Scary Pockets and many more. I knew I wanted to have her on this album, I just had to find the right song and I think this is perfect for her. If you could solo the backing vocals Danni did on this song, it would blow your mind…. I did and they did – the vocal scat that she doubles half way through with her “mouth trumpet” is awesome even if you don’t like scatting.
This is pretty much the exact same track as the version i did on my album but fully realized with Danni singing it
NOTHIN’ IN LIFE – Felicity Urquhart
Felicity is one of my dearest friends and has one of the purest , from the heart voices.
I’ve always loved this song that Felicity and I wrote. It’s kind of a blues but with a twist.
Felicity and I wrote it fairly quickly as I remember. She had read this quote from Madam Curie (who invented the X-ray) “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.
Again another song that had sat around for a few years till I decided to dust it off and record it.
Fliss takes this song to another level
BROADWAY – Alyssa Bonagura
Alyssa and I wrote this with Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss and it appears on Ian’s last solo record.
The day I moved to Nashville my friend Jedd Hughes picked me up at the airport , I dropped my bags at the house I was moving into and went straight to a gig Jedd was doing. Alyssa was the opening act. She was awesome then and is even better now. She grew up in a musical family and music is at her core in a way I’ve never seen . Alyssa has had songs recorded by Steven Tyler , Hunter Hayes and Morgan Evans and more.
Alyssa is a superstar in my mind , she will be soon enough for the rest of the world…i’m lucky to get her on this record while she
I’M JUST A LITTLE SQUARE – Shanley Del
So much to say about Shanley . She’s smart and funny, is married to a goofy bass player, has a famous sister, was more or less my neighbour for a few years, has won an Aria award and has one of the most underrated voices . Her song “Your own sweet time” kills me every time I hear it . I knew she would bring the right personality to this song about being less than hip in a world so concerned with being hip
LAY IT DOWN – Amber Rae Slade
The last song on this record was the last song on my first record.
I wrote this song with Jesse Harris – who wrote half of Norah Jones’ “come away with me” album including “I don’t know why”. I knew Jesse before all the Grammy’s !! I wanted to re record “Lay it Down” for this record and it took me a minute to think of the perfect voice for it.
I’d known Amber for about 3 years or more before I heard her sing, she said she sang … I thought it was just a story or that she wasn’t any good!
When I did hear her sing I did the ear equivalent of rubbing my eyes.I couldn’t believe my ears ! In a great way .She sounded nothing like I imagined she would sound like.
Her voice takes this song to the Appalachian mountains or somewhere I could never dream of taking the song to.
WE ALL NEED LOVE – Wendy Matthews (S.Hawksley/K.Ross)
COME BACK BABY – Brooke McClymont (S.Hawksley/B.McClymont)
COME TOMORROW – Jonatha Brooke (S.Hawksley/K.Bennett)
WHO’S SAVING YOU – Wendy Page (S.Hawksley/W.Page/J.Marr)
KIND HEART ANGRY WORLD – Nina Ferro (S.Hawksley/T.Meadows/N.Ferro)
I AIN’T GONNA WORRY – Dannielle DeAndrea (S.Hawksley/S.Williams)
NOTHIN’ IN LIFE – Felicity Urquhart (S.Hawksley/F.Urquhart)
BROADWAY – Alyssa Bonagura (S.Hawksley/I.Moss/A.Bonagura)
I’M JUST A LITTLE SQUARE – Shanley Del (S.Hawksley/A.Moran).
LAY IT DOWN – Amber Rae Slade (S.Hawksley/J.Harris)
Sam Hawksley, Bryan Sutton, Matt Fell, Glenn Wilson, Chris Autry, Jared Kneale, Bill Risby, Peter King, Ben Butler, Wes Little, Steve Mackey, Eamon McLoughlin, Camille Te Nahu
Produced by Sam Hawksley
Mixed by Josh Reynolds and Matt Fell
Mastered by Jeff McCormack
Artwork Jeanne Petersen
Graphic design Stacie Castleberry
This record could not have been made without the generous and genuine support of Ed and Peggy Bonach and the love of Amanda and Poppy