By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – The coldest time of the year always brings a glow to Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman’s cheeks. Donning his best woolens and dashing into the great outdoors with all the zeal of an eight year old brandishing a new GT Snowracer, Workman relishes the extremes in temperature and temperament that typify the holiday season. His poetic prescription for beating the short day blues? A modern Christmas cabaret featuring a hearty dose of Canadiana.
BeatRoute: It’s been 16 years since your album “Almost a Full Moon” was released. How has your relationship with the material on this album evolved over time? Have the songs taken on new significance for you?
Hawksley Workman: Sixteen years ago my grandma Hawksley was still alive. I wrote this record to let her know how important she was and to celebrate the rituals and excitement she brought to the season. Sixteen years on, her ghost is always around me, and those songs are like a time capsule. So, these songs have locked in a nostalgia, not just for my childhood remembrances, but for the wide-eyed kid from rural Ontario who was on the cusp of a moment of fame. “3 Generations” and “Merry Christmas (I love you)” still make me cry to play them.
BR: There’s a lovely illustrated children’s book to accompany the track “Almost a Full Moon.” How did that come to fruition?
HW: The “Almost a Full Moon” picture book came to be after I was asked by somebody at Random House if I’d be interested in putting my stage ramblings into book form. I reasoned that it’d be nearly impossible to sit and write what comes out of me on stage, because the context would feel so different. I suggested the children’s book idea and they thought it was great, so we went with it.
BR: How do you get through the long, dark, cold winter months?
HW: I feel like I’ve lost touch with hobbies, but certainly not distractions… there’s more of them now than ever. I ski and snowshoe. I’m getting ready to not see winter this year. To not care of its robbing me of mobility. To roam the streets unfettered. To not even notice it, except deliberate moments to notice its beauty. I will outsmart it this year, as I’ve attempted to do so many times. I will think myself into a warm, forgiving bubble while the Montreal winter rages.
BR: Do you keep any special Yuletide traditions of your own?
HW: Winter is beautiful. Winter is a test. Winter lets you hunker down in the candlelight without the guilt or thought of engagement. Winter is an ache. My tradition is to rise at 4:30am and retire early too. To see through the steam rising off the tea cup.
BR: Tell us about the style of performance you have planned for this tour.
HW: I’ll have a brand new piano genius with me for this tour. His name is Leith Fleming Smith, and he’s from Halifax. It’ll be the two of us playing. I’ll be playing an old Martin guitar that used to be on the Don Messer Show. Leith will play trumpet. I might play harmonica or recorder. Mostly gently, but spirited too. With the Almost A Full Moon Tour, we do the record in full plus other sad/happy songs about weather and family.
BR: What kind of atmosphere do you like to create during your holiday performances? What can people expect when they come to experience Almost a Full Moon live in concert?
HW: At this time of year we feel the envelope closing. We feel the light of the days slipping away. We write a contract with ourselves to honour the dark. It’s a beautiful time to gather and sing. Our hearts are readying themselves for it. Winter is when you sit and repair, darn the socks, count the seeds. You let the darkness conceal your dreaming. You want to feel the fire’s glow. Communities gather to remind themselves they can’t get through alone, and that they’ll all be needed to survive till the thaw.
BR: And, finally, what does Hawksley Workman want for Christmas and what is up in 2018?
HW: I’d like to feel less dissatisfied.
Hawksley Workman will be bringing the Almost a Full Moon Tour across the country, playing Dec. 7 & 8 at Theatre Junction Grand (Calgary), Dec. 9 at The Exchage (Regina) and Dec. 10 & 11 at the Emmanuel Anglican Church (Saskatoon).
Almost a Full Moon, Emmanuel Anglican Church, Hawksley Workman, The Exchage, Theatre Junction GRAND