I'm a multi-genre piano player, composer and band member. After playing in cover bands across Europe, UK and Ireland for many years I'm now concentrating on creating and releasing piano based pieces to calm and relax. This experience has allowed me to develop piano playing in various styles covering Rock, Blues, Ballads, Country and Neoclassical.
Born and raised in the clay villages of Cornwall, I first sat on a stool at a piano aged 7 and started classical training. At 12 or 13 I started teaching myself to play modern rock/pop piano and by age of 14 became a semi-pro. The main live project has been a duo called 'The James Brothers' playing covers in pubs and clubs (although we have written a couple of country songs which we also love to play). We continue to enjoy the live experience. Having performed, across Britain, Europe and Ireland for 40 years I'm now concentrating on creating and releasing piano based music to chill, soothe and relax. The inspiration for the new music emanates from artists such as Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and Ludovico Einaudi. I've taken the sound and created music incorporating my own feeling and expression.
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Interview with James Hawken
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I arranged all the music, played all the instruments, composed some tracks and recorded an album of multiple genre songs in the Cornish language for children. I worked with numerous singers from the UK and abroad, selecting the right songs/keys with them and recording mainly in my home studio.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: A piano/ambient composition with the subject of 'loss'.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Not yet.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both have their merits depending on the desired outcome.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will listen!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Using my ability and experience to provide something not achievable by the customer. Using my creativity and passion in a constructive way.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That it's glamorous. That it's my inate 'talent' that means I can do this, not the years of practice, gigs, self tuition, drive, determination and continuing strive to learn.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Do you have a vision for the music? What's your desired outcome? What's its purpose? What are you as an individual investing into the project? What's your expectations from this agreement? What's your expectations of me?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Research their credibilty, their ability and assess their honesty if you can. Look for the right 'fit' for you over their technical ability.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: I would only need one, a piano.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: Started Classical piano training at 7 years old. First professional gig at 14 years old. Cover bands for 40 years. Started home recording producing backing tracks late eighties with the Atari and the first Cubase. Started arranging and producing for others mid nineties. Creating and releasing my own compositions since the COVID pandemic.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I'm bit of a musical Chameleon, I can adapt to whatever the song needs. I've been in cover bands for several years where you have to play in numerous styles and genres. But probably 'ballady' piano would be my main style.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I think he's called 'Puddles Pity Party'. A singer brimming with emotion.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Listen to your head!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I usually work on piano based music. This has included neoclassical, soundtrack and ambient but also country, blues and rock.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I have the personal skills to communicate and talk with people at all levels and get an understanding of the desires of the client. My friendly, personal approach makes me easy to work with.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: My main contribution through the years has been as a pianist who is expressive, sensitive and plays with character. I can also 'hear' arrangements and have the technical ability as a musician and studio operative to create what I hear.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Firstly I like to get to know the person asking me to help them. It helps me to understand the overall concept and desired outcome of the project. It also helps me to discuss the expectations and to reference my abilities to provide the service they would like. Honesty is key! If I feel I'm not the right person for them I will say so explaining my reasons. I will try to imagine the story the client wants to tell with the music. If the client already has a concept of the sound/arrangement I will consider my ability to do it and discuss the methods and ideas how to produce the desired outcome. If it's a 'blank' project I will compose arrangements i think suit the brief. Here, communication is key with updates and discussion being to the fore.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I'm now working with Logic Pro for the iPad, but have used Cubasis 3 and Auria Pro. I also like working with Presonus Studio One when I feel a more quality driven sounding instrument is required using VSTs or sample based instruments for pianos or orchestral elements. I also prefer to mix using this DAW.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: From a production point of view I admire T-Bone Burnett with a real back to basics, real instrument approach recorded with the emphasis on the 'feel' of the playing rather than techical perfection. Mark Hollis is another in the same vein. As a pianist I love the work of Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Philip Glass. Again, artists creating something with 'feeeling' as the main ingredient.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most of my 'client' based work has been as an arranger/producer/musician taking the basic elements of a song, just a guitar/vocal demo for instance, and transforming them into a full blown track. I can play any keyboard based instrument and the guitar, anything I can't do I've asked others more accomplished than myself. Having had twenty years experience of DAWs in the home studio environment I know my way around the recording system including audio.