When you’re a teenager, life can seem like a whirlwind of emotions and experiences as you learn how to make sense of all the pressures and expectations of approaching adulthood. At the same time there can be the overriding feeling of living in the moment and taking chances.
NSW Central Coast native Nathan Hawes has certainly done that, building confidence in his performance and songwriting abilities in a few short years before independently releasing his first EP which rose to the top of the iTunes charts in 2015 and expanded his social media following to more than 60,000 Facebook fans and 125,000 Instagram followers. With his final school year concluded he has embarked on his first national tour of Australia, giving those thousands of fans the opportunity to see this rising talent grace their local stages.
There is the sense of an old soul and a considered and mature songwriter already crafting songs far beyond his years. Nathan soaks up contemporary influences as seen with his You Tube covers of Edward Sharpe (Home) and Drake (Hold On We’re Going Home) which, in combination, have already exceeded 400,000 views. He also displays a clear debt to 60s folk music as filtered through the ensuing decades.
Clearly possessing an ear for arrangements that focus on his voice and melodically rich guitar playing Nathan equally understands drama, tension and the power of an uplifting chorus in popular music. His ability to infuse his own personality into the craft of songwriting explains his burgeoning popularity and air of authenticity.
“I don’t make a set time to sit down and write new songs, it just happens as a result of something happening in your life. You write it down and it evolves into a song. It’s such a strange process releasing new music to everyone, not knowing what they’re going to think about it.”
Nathan’s major label debut EP I Wasn’t There is the songwriter appearing fully formed yet still on the cusp of exploring a hugely promising career. With all songs self-penned, he conjures a soulful, melancholic sound comparable to indie artists such as Bon Iver and James Blake as well as the emotive stylings of Ben Howard and rousing soulful folk of Fleet Foxes.
The EP begins with Leave It Alone, which finds a wonderfully intimate sonic space before the pace quickens into a glorious summery dance—a clever play on the quiet/loud dynamics of rock music. The title track is a perfect example of Nathan’s creative phrasing where words are shaped, cut short and stretched across the shuffling rhythms and where positivity shines through the melancholy like sun breaking through grey skies. I’ll Remember possesses a playful and infectious bounce as the singer pledges to never lose sight of those who’ve supported him. The intro to Left With The Wolves shines a spotlight on Nathan’s percussive guitar playing before weeping slide guitar soundtracks an emotionally raw tale of two lovers heading in different directions. The rhythmically intricate Warmth concludes the EP, leaving the listener with a heart-warming affirmation of love and devotion.
Australian producer Jan Skubiszewski (Jackson Jackson, Way of the Eagle, Dan Sultan) has perfectly captured the songwriter’s compositions, framing them with his own additional slide guitar, synths and organ. Indeed, the pair have again been working together to shape new material Nathan has written and which he has begun sharing with audiences on his 2016 national tour.
As Nathan Hawes heads into his final years as a teenager, the world beckons and his experience of it will form the basis for his music in the years ahead. Hawes clearly already has a strong sense of self and craft yet one senses the best is still to come.
“I want to be as mature as I can be musically, to release an album and it be my best effort.”