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Energetic folk music

BY REBECCA KOONS | FEBRUARY 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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mp3 sample: Caleb Hawley

"Other Side of it All"

A career in music wasn’t in the cards for Caleb Hawley — that is, until he realized he would never become a professional athlete.

While he wasn’t born with the physical stature of a linebacker or the arm of a pitcher, at age 12 he discovered his capacity to play songs by Nirvana, Metallica, Pink Floyd, and Dave Matthews Band and knew he was onto something. Though he knew it wouldn’t be an easy road, he was compelled to follow it.

Hawley will display his folk-music prowess at 9 p.m. today in the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $6.

He cut his musical teeth playing in clubs all over his hometown of Minneapolis as a youth. After high school, he set off for Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, earning a degree in jazz composition. He now resides in New York City.

Despite his music being heavily rooted in folk, his formal music education still made its mark on his work outside of the classroom. His début album, 2007’s Greatest Hits, is a reflection of his college mindset.

“I can tell that I was in a Berklee frame of mind,” Hawley said. “Back then, a song wasn’t good unless it had 37 1⁄2 chords. With my most recent CD, Steps, I’ve tried to be as musical as possible while still being accessible to nonmusicians.”

In addition to his education, he said, some of his other big musical influences include Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, and Randy Newman.

When it comes to the creative process, he is considered to be a mouthpiece for the human condition.

As a self-described people watcher, he is intrigued by what people do and why they do it. There is no set methodology as far as creating new material is concerned. For Hawley, spurts of penning several songs are often separated by a period of time where no writing occurs.

“I haven’t written a song in months, which always gets a little stressful,” he said. “However, I know that at any point I might write three or four songs in a week. I don’t know what it is, but somehow, it just comes and goes.”

Despite the occasional writing drought, he puts out enough material to be able to tour the country.

Overall, he enjoys the experience of touring, especially having the opportunity to see and meet new people everywhere he plays. He admits, however, that “living like a bum” and “missing friends back in NYC” are definite downsides to life on the road.

Hawley is an ambitious performer, primarily concerning himself with how the audience is reacting.

Because much of his music catalogue is positive and up-tempo in nature, it’s not uncommon to have a pleasant crowd energy. He is always grateful toward his fans for coming to gigs, because there are many other things they could be doing with their time. In that respect, he said, he thinks of himself as an entertainer first and a musician second.

“I just want them to have a great time,” Hawley said. “I hope they laugh, cry, scream, smile, and walk away at the end of the night glad they came.”


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