Singer-songwriter, Kiyomi Hawley, has made a comeback in music with the release of her new single, “Miss You Love You,” from her recently released EP, Meet You There. “Miss You Love You” showcases Hawley’s poignant songwriting, reveling in the knowledge that sometimes it hurts to pursue what you love, but never giving up.
“Miss You Love You” is the first single from her new EP, which was produced by Kevin Bents, who’s known for his with with artist Tina Shafer and Marius Muller Westernhagen, among others. The EP was recorded at Bashville Studio in NYC. The inspiration for the EP comes from Kiyomi’s upbringing in a cult – something that left her feeling confined and restricted. Now, her comeback is strong, resulting in an empowered musical female prowess that’s here to stay. We chatted with Hawley about her new EP, the writing and recording of it, music influences, and our classic fun favorites.
Your new EP, Meet You There, debuted on September 28. What was it like writing and recording; what are some of your most memorable experiences from writing and recording the EP?
Kiyomi Hawley: I was in the middle of a music break, so the songs that I wrote for this EP ended up being about subjects that were more serious since I wasn’t writing on a regular basis. I only wrote them because I had to, to get through certain incidents. The first was the Sandy Hook school shooting, it was just so awful that I had to write “Little Angel” to get through it. I also wrote “Wedding Song” to sing for my wedding reception. “Shine” I wrote because a part of the reason I took a musical break was because I became affected by a lot of negative voices in my head and also by criticisms I’d received during the years I did put myself out there musically. I became afraid of being my best self and this song is about trying to overcome that. “Miss You Love You” is my love song to music. Yes, I was on a break but in the end I just can’t not do music because it is my love. And “Meet You There” is about a subject I’ve kept hidden mostly – I was raised in a cult (that I’m now removed from), but I went through some tough and interesting times because
of it. It’s about wanting to go somewhere where I can be accepted for all that I am. It’s also inspired by the Rumi quote “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Recording the EP was a dream. My favorite thing to do musically is to be in the recording studio. It’s satisfying to lay down all that I’m hearing in my head into something tangible that others can also physically hear. Of course this needs to be done with the right producer who is on the same page as you. And I had the most amazing producer, Kevin Bents. I didn’t go in there with the goal to put out an EP and do this all over again. I only did it because it made me feel alive and so incredibly happy to do so. I think that may be one of the best reasons to do something. And because I did that I was able to come out now with an EP that I feel very proud of.
How did you meet and connect with your producer, Kevin Bents?
Kiyomi: I met Kevin through my wonderful teacher, Tina Shafer. During my musical break, I sought out things I might do to make me happy. I remembered that in college I was so fulfilled because I was surrounded by music constantly. I especially loved my voice lessons. So I decided I’d start by taking voice lessons again but this time belt singing instead of classical. I had no idea how to even find a teacher that would be excellent because I’d already taken years of lessons, plus I’m a voice teacher myself. And one day Tina wrote me an email out of the blue – she had mistaken me for a former student of hers. It was such a timely coincidence and I feel coincidences often show you to paths that someone, somewhere over the rainbow wants you to take. She is not only a beyond excellent teacher, she helped me to find my music again, and came into my life when I was searching the most. When I asked her if she could recommend a producer, she
gave me a couple of names but as she did, she also told me that she felt Kevin might be the one for me. And he was. Not only is he a musical genius that knows how to translate my oftentimes ineloquent thoughts (“Kevin, I want this part to have a big booming drum sound but with crinkly paper sounds!”) into beautiful music, he helped me to not feel afraid during a time I mostly was.
It’s funny because with his credentials, I thought he’d be intimidating to work with!
Not so. Working with him put me at ease and not only is he usually on the same musical page as me, he has such a big heart. His thoughts and suggestions were always on point to make the songs the best they could be. So rare to find someone like this, the EP wouldn’t be what it is without him.
You were born into a musical family…when did you know you wanted to pursue music?
Kiyomi: I don’t remember a time I didn’t know I wanted to be a musician. One of my earliest memories is when I was about 4. I was in a classroom and we had to go around saying what we wanted to be when we grew up. I had my answer prepared and ready, way before it was my turn when I said, “When I grow up, I want to be a singer!” And as for my family being musical, my parents’ genes were passed down and I’m so grateful for that. My mother and paternal grandmother both went to one of the top music conservatories in Japan and I was raised mostly hearing classical music. My parents also made sure I took piano lessons from an early age and I’ll always be thankful for that.
Who or what has been the most influential impact with your music?
Kiyomi: Life has the biggest impact on my music. As a child I was scared and sad a lot, and music was my comfort. When I sang it was like I could breathe and not be afraid anymore. It was like a stronger version of myself came out and I was almost stepping out of the frame of the lonely little child I was.
As a woman in a mostly male-dominated industry, what do you feel are the most difficult obstacles to overcome pursuing music?
Kiyomi: Hmm, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that being a female has ever made me feel like I had to jump through hoops. But then again, I haven’t really dealt with the males that dominate the industry first hand. I do know that back in college when I was doing some musical theatre here and there, I always felt like I’d never be able to play the roles I wanted to no matter how good I was or hard I tried, simply because I was Japanese! But that is no longer an issue as that lead me to write my own songs that I could sing, and I find this to be more fulfilling.
Who was your first concert, and who has been your overall favorite concert since?
Kiyomi: Sarah McLachlan and Lilith Fair were a couple of my first concerts – I loved every second of them!
What was your first album on vinyl, cassette, and/or CD?
Kiyomi: I loved my Madonna Like a Prayer album on cd!
What five albums or artists would you not want to live without?
Lana Del Rey – Lust for Life
Sarah McLachlan – Mirrorball
Jewel – Pieces of You
Across the Universe Soundtrack (I love and admire The Beatles’ music but I prefer these renditions)
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
I also love Cindy Lauper, The Body Acoustic, Lorde, Sara Bareilles, Eva Cassidy, Tori Amos, Michael Jackson, musical theatre and some classical!
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
Kiyomi: I watch some of “The Real Housewives”! I just find it great that you can be fabulous (but possibly a little crazy haha!) in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s! And I’m a total and utter bookworm.
What are you currently listening to on Spotify, Pandora, etc.?
Kiyomi: Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and my students love The Greatest Showman soundtrack so I’ve been listening to that often.