Sam Hawksley
It's a long trip on the lost highway from Orange in the guts of NSW to New York and Nashville via the Central Coast but Sam Hawksley has made the journey a winner.

Hawksley has written songs with and for a brace of major Australian artists diverse as
Melinda Schneider, Felicity and Adam Brand.

And he has expanded his music and support base by writing and recording with roots acts aimed at rock radio.

His songs have been performed on TV soapies Neighbours and Cooks and covered by Nana Mouskouri's daughter Lenoua and brace of Australian artists.

But the singer, supporting expatriate Australasian country superstar Keith Urban on his national tour, has not flown the coop.

"I'm still sitting in a 1990 Toyota Camry as we speak," the singer told Nu Country TV as he prepared to strut his stuff at the historic St Kilda Palais - Saturday February 26,
"I'm not jetting off to the Bahamas yet."

With Urban's concert almost sold out and the superstar in huge demand in the U.S. it seems Sam has two-stepped into the promo breech.

But the prolific son of a toolmaker and draughtsman has flown overseas frequently to write with peers plugged into the star making machinery.


Hawksley, 36, wrote with Jesse Harris - guitarist for a then unknown Nora Jones - on a New York sojourn in 1999.

The song Lay It Down ended up on Hawksley's second solo disc Anything You Want on Roadshow Music.

"Jesse I met in New York on a writing trip," Hawksley revealed, "he was just another struggling singer songwriter like me. He told he had just started working with this girl called Norah Jones. And two years he's up on stage accepting a bunch of Grammy Awards with her. We recorded the demo of the song, Lay It Down, in New York as an acoustic track, When I came to record it back here I couldn't get close to the vibe that the demo had so put that on the record."

The Texan temptress and March tourist expanded her jazz music to embrace country and is a staple with acts like Shotgun Willie Nelson on concept and tribute discs.


Hawksley also wrote his entrée song Adelaide with prolific award winning Ohio born Nashville songsmith Kim Richey whom he met at festival in Allentown, New Jersey.

"I saw her sitting under this tree in the park having a milk shake and sat down and had a chat," the singer recalled.

"I met up with her again when she came out and toured here with Jim Lauderdale in 2002. But we wrote the song at her home outside Nashville on a writing trip in 2002. I had a couple of her albums from 1996. She was the person I most wanted to write with so I planned my whole trip around writing with her. We only wrote the one song as she was doing the CMA awards that night with Brooks & Dunn and was involved in legal battle with a former manager and the phone kept ringing."

< Kim Richey

Richey was born in Zanesville - a Dayton, Ohio, suburb named after the great, great grandfather of western writer Zane Grey.

She has lived in Colombia and Sweden and U.S. cities Boston, Denver, Bellingham, Washington and Nashville but now calls Austin home.

She joined Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd in a college band, earned an environmental education degree, worked in Colorado and headed to Nashville and became a popular vocalist.

Richey, 47, cut her fourth album Rise in San Francisco with producer Will Bottrell of Shelby Lynne and Sheryl Crow fame.

She has written hits for Trisha Yearwood, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, Radney Foster and Cyndi Thomson.


Sam's writing sessions with local artists diverse as Melinda Schneider, Felicity and Adam Brand are less frenetic.

But he says As The Crow Flies - penned with Russell Morris - was inspired by murder in the Melbourne underworld wars.

"Russell wrote most of the lyrics in that song," says the singer who won't need body armour or body bag at the Palais.

"It's more what he cooked up in his own mind. I'll have to quiz Russell about it."

Although Hawksley likes to keep his songs open ended he confessed that his single Into The Blue was inspired by summer holidays at The Entrance on the NSW Central Coast when he was living in Orange.

"It was about growing up and spending a lot of time on Central Coast where dad was a member of the surf club."

Although his biggest earners are country songs his eclectic roots music is aimed at the mainstream market.

But, like country peers, he is a victim of the insular formats that have killed so many music careers.


"I wrote Count To Three with Melinda Schneider and it was played on high rotation on Pay TV channel CMC," says Hawksley.

"But the pop radio formats are so narrow - the amount of songs they add is so small. There are so many pop acts from around world up for two add spots a week. You're betting off going in the lottery. But there's lots of passionate people in community radio and that is a huge help to country acts who have to rely on TV. My songs Some Kind Of Miracle and Always were among mine used on Neighbours.

You never know how many people watch Neighbours until your songs are used. People will ring you who, never in your wildest dreams would admit to watching Neighbours. One of them was used in a big wedding scene."


Hawksley has also written with Felicity who is in Victoria with the Feral Swing Katz for Tamworth On Tour.

He wrote Western Lullaby with the Tamworth born singer for her swing album New Shadow and Goodbye for her previous disc Nothing To Hide.

But their collaboration Tomorrow - destined for one of her albums - landed on his new disc.


"I wrote Tomorrow with Felicity with banjo in mind,' Sam revealed.

"But we rock it out more, it's kind of Beatlesque so I cut it instead."

Sam plans a video clip for Come Back Baby - a tune penned with Brooke McClymont - but not Beautiful Girl.

Hawksley's tune depicts a show biz belle flying high in movies but battling with fame in the tabloids.

"Its about a Winona Ryder type figure," he says.

"On the surface they should have it all together but maybe they don't. It's an amalgam of several of those characters."

Which means it could be about any of the transient flock of instamatic belles that ring loudly and briefly in the unlucky radio country.


Although Hawksley makes a healthy living from his writing and performing for local artists his treasure trove may be over the ocean.

"I have had two song covered in France, one by girl called Elsa who is the wife of former captain of French soccer team."

"She is France's version of Posh Spice. I have had another one cut by a girl called Lenoua who is the daughter of Nana Mouskouri. They have to change lyrics as they don't translate and rhyme in French. So you have a translater who changes the slant and takes percentage of the royalties. One was called Can't Get Over You."


Although Sam has written in Nashville he has been advised that, like other artists, he needs to move there to be accepted as a writer.

"I had a meeting with Sony publishing and was told 'you have to live here and be part of the scene to get cuts.' Keith Urban had told me that."

So how did Sam get the support on the Urban tour?

"It's fantastic, I'm honoured he picked me," says Sam.

"Keith's tour promoter Rob Potts was driving Keith around in his car last year and playing my previous album. Keith said who's that and asked for Rob's copy. I then landed this tour."

Hawksley tours nationally with Urban and kicks the dew off the glass at The Palais in St Kilda at 8 p m on Saturday February 26.

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