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Interviewed by Mark Johnson
Interview with Fiona Joy Hawkins of Flow

Tell us some of the highlights of touring in the United States, so far. It looks like you had a wonderful time in New Orleans and California.

It’s been a wonderful trip, the people, the food the weather and the music! For me the highlight was winning the ZMR Album of the Year and playing at the Grammy Museum.  The people along the way have been pretty great too.  Fans have flown in from out of state to see us play. Having come from Australia myself, I know the effort that takes, just for a concert!
MSJ: What are some of your favorite songs from the Windham Hill ensembles?
I love all the Windham Hill catalogue (with Shadowfax as the favorite group), but it’s the piano players that captured my attention, mostly Liz Story and George Winston.  I’m a hard-core Winston fan, probably his biggest fan and have worn out three copies of Autumn over the course of my life since I discovered him at age 20.  I was living in San Francisco at the time, and his music made me feel sad with an incredible sense of yearning.  It made me feel like something was missing in my life.  Since I was eight years old I wanted to do what he was doing, but I just didn’t know where to start or if I was going to be good enough. The dream remained tangible and intact until I dared to see if I could do it, and that was much later in my 40s.  It took me a while!  I guess I need a little more life experience to write about.
MSJ: How do you like the Royal Room and our fair city of Seattle? You told me that you’ve been through Seattle on a cruise to Alaska. Has it changed much for you?
I want to come back with more time to explore.  I remember going to a market where they were throwing fish (Pike’s Place Market - ed.). That’s not a sight you could ever forget.  I was pretty amazed they could catch them. It must be a standard trick that they pretend to throw one your way – I nearly had heart failure! The Boeing factory tour was wonderful, too. I was about 33 when I visited the first time, and my children were still quite young. 

The trouble with music tours is that you don’t get much time off, and the inside of a motel room is pretty much all you see. We flew in late and only had the concert day to see around.  I got a good walk in, and that’s about it.

The Royal Room was a really great venue – a nice tight stage so we could dig into our first full-length concert on the tour.  It’s a lovely little venue where people can have a glass of wine and relax.  I really like playing that style of venue. We have a few in Sydney like that, and it makes for a fun night out for the audience –less formal than a concert theatre.

MSJ: You left Australia during fall, only to enjoy one of our best seasons, spring. It’s the reverse of what most Northern Hemisphere bands do. You must love getting that extended warm season. How is the weather in the fall in Australia?
Where I live, (Kendall), is quite temperate snow, high humidity, and the biggest difference between summer and winter is shorts to jeans and a jumper (sweater), over your T-shirt. That’s about it! We do have colder areas – like Little Hartley, where I lived for 16 years, but still nothing as cold as you get here.  We are clueless on snow in NSW.  When I flew over here it was mid-Autumn, ("fall," as you call it), and I noticed when I stepped off the flying kangaroo (Qantas) in L.A., that the spring temperature was almost identical.  I’m hearing tales of woe back from family that there is a cold snap in Sydney.  As you say, it’s pretty much the opposite.
MSJ: You are from Cessnock, New South Wales, one of the more arid parts of NSW and Australia. Seattle must be quite a change?
Cessnock is in wine country – so the equivalent might be Napa?  It’s not a big area and is also a coal mining town.  I have noticed Seattle gets a lot of rain.  It seems to come up in the same sentence a lot when people talk about it…
MSJ: Discuss the inspiration for your music and series of albums. They do magnificent work capturing the quiet moods and feelings well.
I like to write about thoughts, images, emotions, landscapes…. It’s a little like synchronicity – turning one thing into another.  I try to tell stories with music and often start out with a concept before I write an album.  Blue Dream was done as a single piece of music, a little like a film score but with 22 index points to break up the main themes.  600 Years in a Moment was my answer to globalization in a musical sense.  I took ancient instruments from around the world and recorded them with a modern hand-made Australian piano to bridge time, distance and history.  Signature was about modern-day fairy tales told from an adult perspective.  Story of Ghosts was a direct reflection of my life at the time dealing with the reality of death and illness around me.  I wrote about ghosts, insanity and angels.  It's raw and it's edgy, but it's real.  Every album is different.  I go into Imaginary Road Studios with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton in a weeks’ time to record For the Roses.  It’s a direct reflection of putting the ghosts to bed and has titles like "Time Machine" and "The Grass is Green,"  I’m not sure I have quite grown up yet, (at 54), but I have matured.
MSJ: Is the tour over? Are you guys recording the follow up album in Vermont?
The tour has one more leg to it in September. We have a few venues to be confirmed, one of which is Carnegie (Weill Hall) on the 28th September.  We are back in the studio at the end of this month.  I’m not sure how far we will get, but the plan is to record at least two new songs and re-convene later in the year or early 2019 to complete the rest of the album.  That’s exciting for all of us, but even more exciting that the need to go back into the studio has been confirmed by so many fans that it’s a request we couldn’t ignore.  It’s a bit like getting permission to indulge ourselves in recording another album. It's pure 100% fun working with all the Flow members, including our co-producer Tom Eaton (who keeps us on the "straight and narrow").   He is the glue, the voice of reason, the engineer who has to play Switzerland when all of us have a different idea in the studio.  We are very fortunate to be on the same wave length creatively 99% of the time! (laughter)
MSJ: We all wish you well and hope you finally get the recognition you deserve here in America. 
Thanks so much for your support, it’s very much appreciated.  I just hope the industry is able to work out a way to allow musicians to exist in a more viable way.  There are so many issues to work out – like streaming and lack of monetization.  I love this crazy job regardless. It’s my passion, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.


MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at:
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