Artist Spotlight Interview: Caleb Hawley

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As part of our ongoing Artist Spotlight series, we recently had the pleasure of chatting with New York singer-songwriter Caleb Hawley about his music-making, Prince, and finding danceable grooves in the darker corners of life. You can listen to Caleb’s “Minute of Your Love” sketch here, made using the INSTRUMENT 1 for the Ace Hotel AIR program, and read our full interview below.

Artiphon: Can you tell us a bit about your background and music-making journey so far?

Caleb Hawley: I grew up on a mix of a capella gospel music, Raffi, and Randy Newman. My family would take summer vacations to folk festivals, so I started my career path by following what those musicians were doing, touring the solo acoustic circuit. A few years into that, I got bored of myself and gradually started adding other musicians into the mix. Now, I usually tour with a four or five piece band and buy some lottery tix so I can have an orchestra one day. So far, I’ve put out five albums, debuting with “Greatest Hits” a decade ago.

Originally from Minneapolis, you now reside in New York City – can you speak to the impact that these two cities have made on you and your music? You've cited Prince as a primary inspiration; do any other artists/sounds from these cities stand out as influences, personally or professionally?

I went through a Minneapolis phase about five years ago. I was in need of new music to listen to, and I decided that’d be a good place to start since it’s sorta where I’m from. I coulda gone the Bob Dylan or Semisonic route, but I ended up getting obsessed with Prince, as well as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

How would you describe your own sound and larger vision for your work?

Sad songs people can dance to. I love dance music, but I’m jaded, so I reject the overly happy stuff ‘cause it doesn’t feel real to me. I like to make music that grooves while saying something vulnerable – I feel like the two don’t go hand in hand often enough, so maybe my vision is filling that void.

Would love to hear more about your creative process in general. Do you have any specific rituals that you perform before/while creating? Light a particular incense? Always wear the same neon tracksuit? Etc.

I use an essential oils vaporizer thingy, and pump it full of On Guard; it sorta smells like an arts and crafts store, but it helps. I also consume lots of coffee and eat almonds at a rapid pace.


How has the INSTRUMENT 1 aided in the production of your music?

I love its versatility and size. It’s smaller than the MIDI keyboard I used to bring around and is a lot more functional.

Do you have a favorite I1 preset or playing technique? Place to create?

I definitely use the Tap guitar preset. Maybe ‘cause I’ve never been good at tapping on an actual guitar, but I feel like Eddie Van Halen on the I1.

Though primarily a solo artist, you've also collaborated with the likes of Theo Katzman from Vulfpeck. Can you talk about how that particular collaboration came to be and what collaboration means to you as a creator?

We have been good friends for years and were originally introduced through a mutual friend who thought we were the same person, musically. After that, we played in each others band for a few years until he moved to LA. I love collaborating with people; in the spring, I re-released an acoustic version of “Love, Drugs, & Decisions” which was full of collabs.

What’s next for Caleb Hawley? What else would you like people to know?

I’m releasing a single on November 2nd called “Just Want to be Loved,” and I’ve just finished a big batch of music that I'll be putting out gradually until a full album release aimed for early March.

Like what you see + hear? You can find more of Caleb’s work on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes. Happy music-making!

jacob gordon