When did you first get into music? Please explain.
Music spoke to me from the womb. My momma rocked me to sleep to Stevie Wonder. I was always singing as a kid, making songs up on the playground. My parents bought me one of those toy pianos. I’d play it for hours. I took piano lessons as a child. But it wasn’t until the death of my father at age fourteen that I reached for an outlet and asked for an electric guitar. The rest as they say was history. I started writing and recording songs immediately and haven’t looked back.
Who or What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
You know, it was never a question for me. I knew through and through that I was a born musician and that I wanted to make a living doing what I love. I was inspired by my band teachers in High School. They were young performing and recording artists. I wanted to be like them. MTV was bursting on the scene when I was young and I wanted to be like those artists as well. I was a teenager in the ’90s and that was a special time for music. Artists of all types, styles, and genres were making it as musicians and getting signed to major labels. It was all super inspiring.
How has your music evolved since you first started in the music industry?
I think I’ve evolved more than my music. My music has always been powerful and moving. I’ve just gotten better at letting it flow through me and having the skills to bring that to fruition. I also think there’s a maturity in simplicity. I made things complicated when I was younger. Now I try and make it as simple as possible. As the great Thelonious Monk said, “Simple ain’t easy.” Stylistically, I went from a more singer-songwriter sound in the beginning to a more soulful R&B sound later on. Now I’ve arrived somewhere in the middle. I craft moving soulful songs.
If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other, drives you to stay in this tough industry? Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
I’m with Kid Astronaut on this one, it’s gotta be love. Love is the only real reason to do anything. I play music for the love of it. I play music because I love other people and I want them to feel the joy or healing that I feel when I perform or listen to music. Love has the power to transform the world.
Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in an industry overflowing with new faces and ideas?
I am the ingredient that makes me special and unique. Everyone has their unique voice and sound if they can tap into it. Everything I do from beautiful downtempo ballads to gritty upbeat funk and soul all sounds like me. There’s a through-line that is my genuine self-expression. I don’t try and sound unique or special. I just try and sound like myself. That’s where it’s at.
What has been your biggest challenge as a performing artist? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Overcoming the fear and self-doubt that inhibited me from fully embodying my greatness has been my biggest challenge. As humans, we often get in our way. Ego, insecurity. We all deal with this stuff. In my younger days, I could be arrogant as a cover for my insecurities. I believe this hurt my career. Or you could say I was out of alignment and so I didn’t get to where I was trying to go. I’ve since learned to work with my mind and body, to be humble and kind, to be of service, and to align with my purpose, to use the power of conscious music to heal and transform humanity for the better. Once aligned with your purpose the universe conspires on your behalf. Magical things start to happen. It’s beautiful.
A common phrase in the industry is, “you must suffer for your art.” Do you agree with this statement? If so, how have you suffered for your art?
The Buddha famously said, “life is suffering”. But he meant it in the sense that there is suffering in life. It’s part of the human experience. And so coming to terms with that is important. The course of that suffering comes from attachment to desires. When we relinquish our desire suffering ceases. And we can liberate ourselves from suffering by liv
ing rightly or essentially being a good person. So I would say that you only have to suffer for your art if you’re attached to some specific outcome. If you are aligned with a purpose that is genuine, kind, and of service, then no, you don’t have to suffer. You simply give your heart away and the world provides.
How do you feel the internet has impacted the music business?
I think the impact is generally positive, but like everything, there are two sides to every coin. I think it’s great that independent artists can now reach fans anywhere in the world quite easily. There are a lot of DIY supportive services. Musicians can perform, record, and teach remotely. It’s pretty incredible. A downside for me is all the screen time. I’d prefer not to be staring at a computer as much as I am. The DIY approach is also a lot of work for an independent artist. It’s important to get help and build a team.
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I think there are a lot of things about the current model that are outdated. More artists are DIY and labels don’t have the same appeal as they used to. I don’t think artists should have to be promoters and fan builders. For most independent artists it’s hard to afford time in a professional studio. I recently worked with a company that paid us to record an EP. They pay each band member for their time in the studio per track and they pay the songwriter for licensing their material. They work out a percentage deal for their sales, but they also give the artist the masters to sell the material as you see fit. That’s an example of a new model that makes sense. The invention of the streaming platform is genius and a great way for people to consume music, but the artists need to be getting paid fairly for the streaming of their music. Musicians also need to get paid more to perform. We’ve been making the same wages since the ’60s without accounting for inflation.
I’m sure you have shared the stage with many talented artists. Please share 1 or 2 of your favorite stories with us.
I was around 15 years old. Still in high school. I had been playing for a few years at that point. I’d befriended my jazz band teachers. I’d sit in with them at their gigs sometimes. They introduced me to funk, soul, jazz, etc. One of them was offered a gig at one of the major venues here in Boulder, CO called The Fox Theatre. He didn’t want the gig for one reason or another, I can’t remember, maybe he was already booked that night or it didn’t pay well enough, but he rang me up and said, “Hey man, The Fun Loving Criminals are touring through and they like to have local independent acts open for them, they’re looking for a trio or something, can you pull one together?” I jumped at the opportunity. I said yes even though I didn’t have a trio. My teacher put in a good word for me and coached me on what to say when I talked to the venue. I called them up and told them about my trio and we got the gig. This was hands down the coolest thing that had happened to me at this point in my life. I put together a power trio with a bassist and drummer and me on guitar and vocals. We rehearsed like crazy for the gig. At the show, we were underage and stuck in the balcony till we went on stage. We played our set of mostly covers. I remember playing I’m Tore Down in the style of Eric Clapton. His blues album had come out recently. When we were done, the Fun Lovin Criminals were side-stage watching us, cheering us on. They said to keep going. We didn’t have any more material rehearsed so we busted into a jam for a while. It was crazy. We were teenagers and this venue was packed. Afterward, the band invited us backstage to hang with them. They were so supportive and generous. The takeaway from all this is how important it is to be supported by older more established musicians when you’re starting out and how important it is for older more established musicians to support younger up and coming artists. That’s one reason why I offer music lessons and artist coaching. It’s important to lift each other up.
What are the 5 albums that have helped make you the person you are today? And why?
Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. Stevie is the best in so many ways. He’s extremely talented. He has lead the way for so many of us. He has a positive and important message. His style is super versatile. I take after Stevie more than any other artist. Grace by Jeff Buckley. Jeff unlocked something in me I didn’t know was there. I took after Jeff a lot in my early years as a singer-songwriter. His style is unique and his vocal technique is unbelievable. I learned a lot from emulating Jeff as well. Wildflowers by Tom Petty. Tom is one of the greats. He appeals to almost everyone. And this album is just so special. A lot of that also has to do with the production of Rick Rubin, one of my favorite producers. I appreciate the variety on this album as well as the use of simplicity or minimalism. Labcabincalifornia by Pharcyde. I love hip-hop, especially what came out in the ’90s. Bands like Pharcyde, The Roots, De La Soul, all showcased their jazz roots in their music which is the backbone of neo-soul and all black music. I love when rappers use melody in their verses as an ode to scatting in jazz. I appreciate conscious hip-hop. Brown Sugar by D’Angelo. D’Angelo and Badu paved the way for the resurgence of soul music as seen in the neo-soul movement. I love soul music, focusing on peace and love and positive relationships with a heavy jazz swing and a dope backbeat. Neo-soul is my jam.
These artists and genres have deeply influenced me and helped bring out my true self-expression through music.
What is the best advice you have received?
Be kind. It’s really that simple. Be kind and be of service to others. Life can be hard. We don’t know what other people are going through. There’s so much pain and confusion in the world. And you have the choice to be the light, the joy, the encouragement, the happiness in someone else’s day. You can make a profound difference in someone’s day by simply smiling at them, by seeing them, acknowledging them. Be flexible and centered in who you are. And be kind.
How did COVID-19 affect you and your music career?
Whoosh. What a year. So much challenge. Learning to adapt and change. How to be resilient in the face of the unknown. And so much beauty and opportunity. My friend called it the great pause of 2020. It truly was a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect. To stop and take stock. I questioned everything I had been doing. I got in touch with my purpose. Realigned with my mission. Studied a lot. In the end, I came out stronger, clearer, with so much more appreciation and gratitude. I’m so inspired by people’s innovation. We had a musician in town here in Lyons, CO with a flatbed trailer that he could town behind his truck. And he started putting bands on the back of the flatbed trailer with a generator for power and driving around town stopping in each neighborhood for people under quarantine to still get to hear live music. People would come out of their houses, gather masked and socially distanced, dance in the streets, and tip the bands. It was beautiful. And we can keep these innovations even as things change. I think there will continue to be a lot of streaming performances now that that has become a normal way to enjoy music. So the overall effect on my career has been positive, growthful, clarifying, strengthening, and inspiring.
What’s next for you? Please explain.
I’m taking all these gifts that came out of this last year of challenge and growth and putting them into action. I just released a new single that I completed during quarantine. I’m out in the world performing again with my band. I’m connecting with my fans on a deeper level. I’m spending more time rehearsing and tightening up the band. I’ve got more recordings in the works. I’ve been offering music lessons and artist coaching to musicians and songwriters who need some help with direction or if they’re feeling blocked. I help them unlock their full potential. I’ve got a bunch of gigs lined up for the rest of summer. Mostly outdoor festival-type shows. I’m just grateful to be back in it sharing my gifts and love of music with others making a positive impact in the world.
Tell us about your inspiration for your new single, Lady Divine. How did it come about?
The new single, Lady Divine, is available on all platforms!
Click here to download & stream: https://dechenhawk.hearnow.com/
Lady Divine is a devotional love song to Music herself personified as the divine feminine. Dechen Hawk takes us on a journey through his life as his relationship with music grows and evolves. Hawk gives us the opportunity to reflect on our lives and the relationships that matter most to us.
Lady Divine - Written, Arranged, & Produced by Dechen Hawk
Dechen Hawk - Lead & Backing Vocals, Electric Piano, Electric Guitar Jesse Hunter - Electric Guitar Tyson Bennett - Organ, Synthesizer Ben Rubin - Electric Bass Eric Imbrosciano - Drum Kit Zach Lucas - Saxophones/Horn Arrangement
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
My website dechenhawk.com has my most current releases, videos, blogs, and more. People can sign up to my fan list and get an exclusive free download of my performing one of my newest singles live at the Belly Up in Aspen opening for Bruce Hornsby. People can also find my music on all streaming services.