Kaz Hawkins describes herself: Feisty, Fun and Fabulous and we can only agree. She is an multi award winner from Northern Ireland becoming a performing icon across UK, Europe and the United States. Besides performing, she also lectures students at Boston University on how she used music to survive trauma and depression. We had a chance to ask her some questions before she hits the road again and we can’t wait to share them with you!
Hi Kaz, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. How are you today?
I’m great thank you so much for having me, I am just riding the wave of music as usual.
You were previously compared to Etta James and Janis Joplin and can also call yourself a multi award winner. Do you feel any pressure coming along with your success?
Not yet, but there is still time haha. I guess pressure is part of being an artist, getting bums on seats, making sure everyone gets paid, travel organised. That is all pressure on a normal day, the performance is when I get a break from it all really.
You are originally from Northern Ireland. Would you say it influences your music?
Yes home grown and proud. Early underground blues has been my favourite for a long time, my idol is Miss Peaches, Ettal James, my life changed when I heard her sing, I knew there was hope for me being a singer, she made be believe that by the sound she made.
You use music as a mental health tool besides being an ambassador for Northern Ireland’s national depression charity Aware NI. In your opinion, would you say the conversation around mental health has changed throughout the years?
It is slowly changing, but only because there are so many on the ground pushing for open minds and hearts. Pushing to stop the whispers and judgements. NI has always been a place that keeps it’s business behind closed doors and I think that is changing. I would like to say it was because it is becoming a less taboo but the statistics around suicide here tells a different story, it is sadly a necessity now as we are losing so many people.
The mission of our website is bringing people together with the power of music and letting them share a story to a song that is connected to something special in their life as a song that helped someone might be able to help someone else too. Is there a specific song that helped you and would you mind sharing the story?
The only fitting story to tell is the reason you found me. Lipstick & Cocaine is the ultimate fight for survival. I wrote it to say thank you to a policeman who saved me from an abusive relationship, a doctor who knew in the hospital that I hadn’t cut my own throat and secretly got me the help I needed to get free. To my own mother who’s face came to me when I lay dying, wanting to give up. She said come on honey, one more fight you can do this. Somehow the depression I had suffered most of my life was lost and I fought to get up of the floor and call for help. It’s my survival song, I still can’t perform it without breaking down. I made it out the other end, but it takes all my strength on stage to sing it. The reason I sing it though is to show others that there is hope, it’s not something you see on Oprah or those shows to get the ratings up. I am just a working-class girl from Belfast who got dealt the wrong deal in the beginning. I now want people to be inspired enough to fight their own fight and follow their own dreams because that is what I done.
Do you use other artistic expressions next to music and in your opinion, what makes music so unique?
Oh, I wish I could paint or draw but stick men are the best I can muster up haha. I am a columnist at Chatterbox NI Newspaper and have had my own show presenting on BBC Radio Ulster, I like to challenge myself, it keeps me occupied. I believe music is unique because it’s emotive. There are not many things in life that are truly pure. A new-born, an animal in its natural habitat, unconditional love are just some that spring to my mind and for me music is up there. When I was in my darkest hours, not knowing who I was, it was music that took me to a safe place where nobody could hurt me, I still feel that way the minute I walk on stage.
It seems like on the one side there are people who say: “music saved my life” while on the other, people deny that music itself has the ability to save someone. Would you mind sharing your own opinion on this?
I think both can and do work, what really is the difference. Music is the core of the healing and that is what matters most. It is what it is, truthful, something to lean on in any mood you have, a best friend, an ex, a funny situation. Whatever your taste in music you can skip through genres and identify any situation in your life with it. A lot of people haven’t suffered trauma or depression but they will understand the writers pain and that is why music is special. It transends into realms we don’t even understand ourselves. It’s like our brain, we don’t know everything about it but we know we need it to survive. What a boring world it would be if we had no music? Try it someday, I did it as an experiment and lasted 3 days.
Before we come to an end. Is there anything you would like to say to people who are struggling at the moment?
When you think you are at rock bottom, you are not, more trials will come but you do have the strength to conquer it. When you think all is lost, it isn’t because you have the passion to create your own future for nobody else knows more than you, what you want. I have always said to myself, Kaz if you don’t make it happen you will fester away and that is not who you are, so put your big girl panties on and belief that anything that comes your way is because you want or make it happen. I also look in the mirror as much as I can and say to myself YOU ARE DOING THIS, it’s just one more fight!!