After they’ve told you for years to recreate the same hit, but different; to write it better, but not too far away from the original; to do this here, but don’t do that there, what do you create? Whatever the hell you want.
Sophie B. Hawkins is doing just that and, in turn, kicking off a new era in an already storied musical career.
“The change has come,” the edgy, pop-tinged songwriter of ’90s fame recalled telling herself on the night she wrote her latest single, “Love Yourself.” The story told throughout her newly released song actually happened she says, describing “I did go to a party where all these folks were fine and I did eat too much coconut cake and drink too much wine.” On her way home from the soiree, she was thinking about life and how so much good has grown of so much strife. Instead of going to bed only to wake up in the morning and regret the night before, she went to the piano where her thoughts spilled out.
The result was raw poetry, creating a moment in the song that reflects on life, accepts oneself, and celebrates the journey in between. Her spellbinding voice, relatable lyrics, and light jangling instrumentation shroud the soul-stirring single in symphonic pop whimsy.
The gravelly-voiced “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” songstress felt a change in every part of her after she wrote “Love Yourself,” saying a shift took place in her spirit, in her psyche. A voice in her head was telling Hawkins to “love yourself,” she says, adding that to do that involved letting go so that realness and truth could exist. “It’s really rebellious, in a way, to love yourself,” she tells American Songwriter. She has taken up that rebellion and planted it, like a seed, in everything she has done. “I took the leap and it has forever lasted and changed my consciousness.”
Hawkins is the first to admit, the journey to where she is now hasn’t been easy. “It took me till in my 40s to look in the mirror and say nice things to myself,” she shares.
“You know these things when you’re young,” she explains as she’s observed her teen son come into his own confidence and assuredness. “It gets a little convoluted the further you go. The unfortunate part of getting old is we start trying to … justify, we calculate, and we save. We’re not taking the risks anymore.
“Then there’s a point where you have to decide what you’re going to let go of from these adult experiences,” she continues. That’s the process she is using to create her new music, letting go of the adulthood hang-ups, letting go of trying to be the old Sophie B. Hawkins, and letting the new Sophie shine as she holds firm to one truth: “You can always start again, start again with wisdom and self-respect.”
Hawkins has been holding the hand of her younger self through this new era, letting her previous work act as a foundation. But now, notes sung out of tune no longer matter, and mistakes made are welcome ones. “I’m not caught up in it all,” she says. “So now, it’s just free. This beautiful foundation … it lets the new stuff just be.”
A wild freedom in her music has come with her new mindset. It’s no longer about the heartbreak, it’s about using that heartbreak to transcend. “I’ve evolved. I’ve transcended a lot,” she stated, adding she’s letting herself be led by feeling. It’s now just her and the music.
“All my songs are moments,” she explains. “They’re these triggers that happen to me and I absolutely have to write about it. If I were a novelist, it would be a novel, but since songs are the things that teach me the most and they make me work through emotions in the most clean way, that’s where I go.”
Another songwriting moment that triggered Hawkins came 30 years before with her breakout hit, the 1992 single “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” The minute she wrote it, it struck her in the same way that “Love Yourself” did. She knew it would be big and big it was.
“I was corrected in an interview,” Hawkins says, thinking it had only been 20 years since her debut. “I can’t believe it’s actually 30 years.” Currently touring in celebration of the critically-acclaimed, platinum-selling album, Tongues and Tails, she says “I’m really grateful I got here.” She’s finally at a place where she can celebrate herself, and what she’s accomplished and share it with her fans.
“When I’m singing ‘Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover’ on stage, I feel actually more powerful within the song than I felt when I wrote it.” Now, a record label isn’t breathing down her neck saying change this and do that differently. “Now, there are no obstacles in my way,” she says. “And I’m completely connecting with the audience and it’s authentic, it’s so unself-conscious, it’s so fun.”
It’s been a journey to get to this point and if she could send a nugget of advice to her younger self, knowing what she knows now, it would be to shut out the people saying “do better, be better.”
“But maybe you can’t talk to yourself. Maybe that’s the point,” she says. “Would your younger self listen to even you? My younger self wouldn’t listen to me. …[She] would say ‘I got this.’”
“Love Yourself” is out now (Oct. 6) with more music from Hawkins to roll out soon, culminating in an album next year, her first full-length release in a decade. Be on the lookout for more in this exciting new chapter of the prolific artist.
2022 Tour Dates
Oct. 9 – Franklin, TN – Franklin Theatre *
Oct. 10 – Atlanta, GA – City Winery *
Oct. 13 – Denver, CO – Solid Dove Underground *
Oct. 15 – Beverly Hills, CA – The Canyon @ The Saban Theatre ^
Oct. 16 – Ojai, CA – The Canyon @ The Libbey Bowl ^
Oct.17 – Kirkland, WA – Kirkland Performance Center *
Oct. 18 – Portland, OR – The Old Church *
Oct. 20 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – The Coach House Concert Hall *
Oct. 22 – San Diego, CA – Voodoo Lounge at House of Blues *
Oct. 23 – Agoura Hills, CA – The Canyon – Agoura Hills *
Oct. 26 – Phoenix, Arizona – Musical Instrument Museum *
Oct. 28 – Houston, TX – The Bronze Peacock at House of Blues *
Oct. 29 – Cedar Park, Texas – The Haute Spot in Cedar Park *
Oct. 30 – Dallas, Texas – The Hifi Dallas *
Nov. 2 – Kent, OH – Kent Stage *
Nov. 3 – Warrendale, PA – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille *
Nov. 5 – Philadelphia, PA – City Winery Philadelphia *
Nov. 6 – Riverhead, NY – Suffolk Theatre +
Nov. 9 – Fairfield, CT – Sacred Heart University +
Nov. 10 – South Orange, NJ – SOPAC +
Nov. 11 – Chester, NY – Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center +
Nov. 12 – Lexington, MA – Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Building +
Nov. 18 – Tampa, FL – Attic *
Nov. 19 – Mount Dora, FL – Mount Dora Community & Events Center +
Nov. 20 – Orange Park, FL – Thrasher -Horne Center +
Nov. 27 – Concord, NH – Capitol Center for the Arts *
Nov. 28 – New York, NY – City Winery *
Dec. 1 – Evanston, IL – Space *
Dec. 2 – Minneapolis, MN – Dakota *
+co-headline date with Paula Cole
^co-headline date with Judy Collins
Photo credit: Shervin Lainez