Here to shatter Calgary's weekday languor is the theatrical glory of one of contemporary music's rising stars. Canada's own Hawksley Workman is fast gaining an international reputation as a dynamic showman, matching the prodigious talent that is so obvious in his recorded work. One London, England-based reviewer remarked the following regarding Workman's live show: "He was so brilliant I felt sick and had to go and get some air."
What is it that separates Workman from the musical pack? Fresh from a European tour, the Canadian Workman reflected on the success of his stage show that makes music and headlines all the same.
"I did a lot of theatre when I was young, and I end up draining some of that 'theatreness' into what I do when I play this rock and roll music," explains Workman. "Those are really magical moments when a willing audience and a willing performer come together, so the artist can't take all the credit."
Owing to his quirky wit, superlative musicianship and the high energy that characterizes his shows, Workman's crowds become willing, regardless of expectations. His return to Calgary is eagerly anticipated by those who caught his last show at Mount Royal College's Wyckham House, again the venue of choice.
"I love playing on stage and I love the whole performance element of making music," notes Workman. "Calgary's always been a great place to play, too."
New material from his critically acclaimed second album, The Delicious Wolves (Last Night We Were), will feature prominently in the new tour, but Workman has been venturing in a new direction with his writing. Notably, he is composing Christmas music that may even make it onto Workman's setlists.
"I have a small batch of Christmas songs, so I was half thinking while I was in the shower today that I might try to do some of those," says Workman. "It's fun, Christmas music is very powerful music, even though it's used to commercial benefit and you're usually tired of hearing Christmas songs before Christmas."
As for in-studio plans, Workman says that he's been working on new material, but doesn't have an album planned yet.
"When I make a record it's almost like each record comes from a town," says Workman. "I feel sort of like I'm between towns right now."
Workman plays most of the instruments on his albums, and produces them himself in his home-studio, a fact all the more surprising given the lush sound on most tracks.
"The strength of my music is that it is done with such limitations," he says. "In art and music, limitations sometimes force your creativity to be on high alert. If you had a million possibilities you could get lazy."
In terms of touring , the showman brushed closely with fate heading to New York for a date on September 11, when the attacks occurred on the World Trade Center.
"I was on a plane [for New York] that never took off from Pearson International," recalls Workman. "My band had driven to New York the day prior, and didn't stay in Manhattan as planned, they were in New Jersey with it all going down."
"It was devastating. If there's any good to come out of it, it's the sense of being closer to our mortality," Workman speculates, searching for meaning from the events. "Our goals in the modernity we have created suddenly seem, in comparison to this situation, rather useless."