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American Idol contestant to play in IC

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | FEBRUARY 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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The past few weeks have been a wild ride for musician Caleb Hawley.

Since his audition for “American Idol” was featured in the first 10 minutes of the season première, he’s seen a jump in support for his music, and he was even met by TMZ reporters after one of his New York gigs.

“It’s put life in the fast lane for the past couple of weeks,” said Hawley, 25. “It’s been fun, you know, it’s been a great exposure. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Hawley played Iowa City last year as an opening act. This time, he’s coming back as a headliner. He will play songs on his new album, We All Got Problems, at 9 p.m. today at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $6. Opening for Hawley will be UI student Jonnie Cohen and his band.

“I think [Hawley’s] awesome,” Cohen said. “I think he’s a really good guitar player, and I think he has a lot of talent to be able to play what he plays and to sing at the same time.”

Cohen was excited about Hawley’s story with “American Idol” and said he hopes the producers give Hawley a chance to showcase his ability on guitar as well as his singing voice.

Hawley is still riding the wave of his audition that landed him in Hollywood for “American Idol.” The next episode in which he’ll be featured will air Thursday night. Hawley said the audition was definitely a memorable experience, especially hearing one of his own idols, Steven Tyler, jamming along as he sang.

“It’s was bizarre to stare in J. Lo’s eyes, you know? That’s a moment I thought I would never have.

And Steven Tyler was playing the drums during my audition, which was pretty badass,” Hawley said.

“He gave me this classic scream at the end, and I’ve been practicing to scream like Steven Tyler since I was like 13.”

Hawley feels he’s a unique contestant because he was a touring musician before trying out for the show. Although it may not be an envious profession, he couldn’t be happier.

“It can be a big mix of great shows or mediocre shows, but at the end of the day I’m doing what I love to do, which is to play music. I can’t think of anything better to do,” Hawley said. “It’s not glamorous. I’m not staying in five-star hotels; I mean, sometimes I sleep in my car.”

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music who studied jazz guitar, he has had a firm appreciation for jazz since he was 15. Old soul, R&B, and contemporary music has resonated more with the musician in his defining years as a songwriter.

“I just shifted my gears to what I’m naturally drawn to and what I like to create,” Hawley said.

When writing, he tries to think of notions that most people share. In this, he is continually trying to make the music a product of his background with the art, while still keeping it within reach to listeners. He doesn’t just want to produce “ear candy.”

“I guess in my writing, I always try to keep it musical and interesting but accessible and on a relatable subject matter,” Hawley said. “I’m big on lyrics.”

He said he’s planning his life as if “American Idol” doesn’t work out, but thinks it would be awesome if it did. So, for now, he’s playing the waiting game.

“Everything with ‘Idol’ is up in the air,” he said. “Everything is in flux at the moment.”


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