By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Singer-Songwriter Mat Hawkins aka Wildcat Hawkins recently premiered the lead single “Bleeding All Over The Page,” from his forthcoming full-length debut, ‘Wildcat Hawkins, Rough Diamond’ on Converge Radio 99.9 FM in his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Influenced by the likes of Radiohead, Counting Crows and Mogwai, Hawkins has tried to stay positive and productive while under quarantined circumstances.
“This virus didn’t cause all of the suicide, the opioids and meth, the drunk driving and violence that causes serious damage all of the time. I hope that everyone can gain some comfort in family and friends, while focusing on the good stuff, like faith, mindfulness, community, forgiveness, and practicing peace,” wrote Hawkins on his Facebook page.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with Hawkins about his new single and more.
Music Bugle – Looking back on your debut album, are you proud of the way it came out? Would you change anything if given the chance?
Wildcat Hawkins – I’m proud of it. I let my idiosyncrasies show in these songs, with no audience in mind. I tried to allow the tracking process to guide me to whatever ideas it would. I couldn’t see the end from the beginning. I recorded in Audacity with no click tracks or quantizing. I wish it had a slightly higher quality sound, like I had recorded with a nicer interface or something, but I’m not losing sleep. I think sound quality matters less than quality sounds.
Music Bugle – Which of your musical influences do you feel show the most in your songs?
Wildcat Hawkins – Sigur Ros, The Notwist, Mogwai, Boards Of Canada, Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Sufjan Stevens and Low.
Music Bugle – What inspired you to want to become a musician?
Wildcat Hawkins – As a boy, I liked to sing. When I started writing songs at 14 with my frequent collaborator and neighbor, Drew, we loved Pearl Jam and Counting Crows. We were inspired by a lot of alternative rock that captured moods and tried to make sense of life. Getting a four-track tape deck expanded my vision. I tried to explore different paths, but I’ve always been a songwriter. Most of these songs write themselves. It’s in my nature and I find it therapeutic.
Music Bugle – What is your most meaningful song or set of lyrics that you like to quote?
Wildcat Hawkins – “Bleeding All Over the Page.” This song is an emotional portrait of my struggle to look at myself and my art honestly. It’s a bittersweet song and a love song, but really a self-love song. It’s spiritual to me.
Music Bugle – Has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you in any way?
Wildcat Hawkins – It’s given me some space to ponder what I want to do with my art and my life. I was pretty sad at first. I did a few live streams and a local indie radio station called Converge aired them twice. It was the first time I had been on radio. Those songs aren’t on my album, but they have a unique sound that I created through years of working in obscurity. Finding that people liked my songs was validating. “Bleeding All Over the Page” is playing on Converge now.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder to stand out as a musician?
Wildcat Hawkins – Some people are just good at social media and that helps them. Others aren’t the best, but have a phenomenal product. It makes it easier, but I still want to make an impression on the local scene. I love my town and all of the wonderful artists here. I say, build a reputation where you are and forge connections online. Social ads work really well. Any artist ought to use them. I found some of my favorite new artists through Facebook ads.
Music Bugle – What is the most frustrating aspect of today’s music industry and how can it be fixed?
Wildcat Hawkins – I’d say it’s the tendency to fixate on brand identity too much. I realize that you have to be something to make an impression, but aiming for one niche with the expectation that all of your prospective fans will look a certain way or already like the bands that you do inevitably leaves opportunities on the table. Reaching people can involve both sniping and dragging a wide net. I sometimes list the indie artists that have influenced me. I want to give people an idea of what I sound like, but I know people that haven’t heard any of those artists and they like my songs. I don’t presume to know what my fans will look like if I’m lucky enough to get a few more. I’d like to see more acts cross-promoting. If more acts venture out of their specific sub-genre scenes, the pie will get bigger.
Music Bugle – What are your future plans as far as the rest of 2020?
Wildcat Hawkins – I’m releasing another song in a few weeks, then the album will drop before too long. I have a goal of releasing a few new singles before the year is done. Last year, I organized an event to celebrate Eau Claire music legend Richard Ditchweed’s 70th birthday. We raised money for suicide prevention. He recently lost a son. As soon as things get back to normal, we want to do it again. I’m working on a documentary about Ditchweed’s life and the 1960s. Aside from music, I want to make a number of paintings and incorporate them into digital art pieces. I’m focusing on nonrepresentational abstract art.
Music Bugle – What do you feel people should know about you as a person?
Wildcat Hawkins – Although most of my songs have a meditative quality, I love to laugh and joke around a lot. The songs on ‘Rough Diamond’ were recorded 10 years ago. I never released them because I was afraid to fail or be critiqued. I didn’t want to be in public. They display a very tender emotional quality that I’m actually embarrassed to share. I’ve gone through many shifts in life. I’ve faced a lot of depression and I’m starting to heal. Everyone needs help sometimes and that doesn’t make us weak. Ayahuasca helped me learn to love myself. I love rocks and flowers, animals and art, my mom and my auntie. I’m a sensitive cat and I always will be. I’m just glad this album will be on Spotify rather than buried in my hard drive.
Music Bugle – What’s something you hope to accomplish that you feel you haven’t yet?
Wildcat Hawkins – Having kids with my wonderful wife Brianna. She is my best friend. She is the center of my universe.