Pictured Sophie B. Hawkins.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins brings her show to Chicago Thursday May 18 at the House of Blues at 9 p.m. Best known for her Top 40 hits 'Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover' and 'As I Lay Me Down,' Sophie talks about her love for the Windy City, her new live CD and wearing other people's clothes, with the same fervor and passion that define her performances.
Windy City Times: You've been to Chicago plenty of times before. What do you like best about it?
Sophie B. Hawkins: The people are what I like the best. The Midwest was one of the first places I toured. There is a simpatico. I have a sense of humor about things, Midwesterners have a sense of humor and are more tolerant. They are less judgmental about the superficial stuff. I always feel that the audience is really easy to relate to, so they expect more and I give more. I also love the architecture. It blew me away from the beginning, I can grow here, because there is so much room. Oh my god, it opened a new world for me. I love Chicago so much. There, I started to take visual art seriously—and this is coming from somebody from New York City.
WCT: You have a live double-disc CD coming out.
SBH: It has a really cool enhancement, too. It is very different, something a little more special. I am really excited about this live mix. It has the hits on it, but I am really different live. The mixer put it away for a couple of months and I thought I would hate it, but I was blown away. There are two versions of 'As I Lay Me Down' and they're totally different, which can happen depending on the night. Both are real and got soul. When I heard it, I said, 'I have got to get it out there! This is so unusual, so naked, so musical.' The musicians and I did not know we were being recorded, so there were plenty of mistakes. We pulled it off. This is a special record for me. It is an uninterrupted show. Right now I am hoping to get it distributed through Warner Brothers. But at my shows I will be carrying the live CD, starting in Chicago.
WCT: Over the years, I have seen you perform with a full band, as well with only two other musicians.
SBH: The band will be just the three of us—Darius Holbert on keyboard and Rock Deadrick, who was Tracy Chapman's drummer and has a voice like an angel. These are the same as the guys on the live record. Before hearing the live record, I was apologizing there were only three people on stage. There is so much room to explore and we really know each other.
WCT: You solely produced your third album Timbre. How different was it working with the Berman Brothers ( Amber, The Real McCoy ) as co-producers on your 2004 album Wilderness?
SBH: Wilderness was so low budget. I made Wilderness on my own and my demos were like an album. I didn't stop until I felt like I got it. I gave the Berman Brothers 32 tracks. What they did do, they made the sounds glisten more and redid the strings. I didn't have any money or a label, so they used musicians who were working with them on other sessions, pulling favors. This gave the album a more rounded sound.
WCT: What other projects do you have coming up?
SBH: I have a lot of songs for a new record. I am struggling on another song, which is always good as a writer. It's a big pain in the ass. It takes forever to finish a song because I can do 10,000 versions and none of them are right. Something new is coming, possibly later this year. Right now I am producing other artists, but only as much as I have to. It's good for me to write for other people because I love writing. I wrote some songs with John Neilson. He was really fun to work with. He's really weird, scruffy and artistic, like a young Tom Waits. He is so incredible, but he didn't get a record deal even though the songs are good. He's a real artist. I love this guy so much. I couldn't believe he didn't get a deal.
WCT: You were terrific on The Chris Isaak Show.
SBH: [ Chris ] is extremely sophisticated. He goes out of his way to make you comfortable. He really treats you like a guest and has an old-fashioned realness to him. Then I opened for him in Chicago. The shirt I wear when I perform live is a light blue shirt with ruffles and it is his. He was so jealous that he couldn't wear it anymore. I've worn it at every show since. That, and I wear my brother's jeans on stage until I wear them out.