Artist Spotlight: Jim Hawkins
Jim Hawkins was born in Wyoming and raised throughout the West. He got a business administration degree in Phoenix after dabbling in architecture.
He got a job as a firefighter in Arizona, found he liked it, and ended up making the cut for the Denver Fire Department.
Hawkins now runs the Four Mile Bed and Breakfast with his wife, Sharill, and writes songs in his spare time — one of which was featured in the Post Independent’s award winning “Price of Paradise” documentary.
PI: When did you start looking for creative outlets?
JH: It was always there. My mother did some oil painting, and I kinda did that from time to time.
After college, I got into basic silversmithing. I ended up doing more and more of that.
At the fire department I had a built-in clientele. Most guys on their day off are carpenters or construction workers, but I was the only guy these guys knew to bring their broken chains or unused wedding rings to.
Later, Sharill and I and a bunch of friends started a Co-Op in Cherry Creek North. To this day, I think there’s still firemen who think we had a macrame shop or something. They never did quite get that it was one-of-a-kind handmade stuff from all over the country.
PI: How about music?
JH: When I was a kid I learned parts of three songs on a guitar. Then I’d keep the guitar in my locker at the fire station, and it would come out when things got a little too weird. I’d get back from a call where I’d seen something nobody should see and sit down in the bunkroom and play “House of the Rising Sun” 13 times in a row. It was therapy, pure and simple, and it didn’t go past that.
I didn’t even have a guitar at home.
PI: When did that change?
JH: We started the B&B 19 years ago and started being here all the time. I just slowly but surely started getting it out once in awhile.
Then one day about six years ago I was sitting strumming a chord progression which didn’t really go with any song and started thinking about putting words to it. I sat down and in a couple hours I’d written a song.
I figured it was my first and only, and about a week letter I was writing stuff down on my hand. Now I’ve written almost 70 songs, and I don’t think any of them sound exactly like the last one, which means I have to stretch out a little. I’m starting old, but I’m loving it.
PI: Do you feel late to the game?
JH: I’m just glad I did it. Everybody’s so supportive. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at.
You have to take all these emotions and thoughts and boil them down to a few words that say something that grabs somebody. That was harder than I realized, but everybody’s real supportive.
I also know people who can take my songs and make them sound like I hear them in my head. My friend Fred Hamilton in Florida has been part and parcel to this whole adventure. He was already a really good musician and technician, and I sent him a couple of my first songs — just to hear somebody else do it. Within a year, he’d produce a dozen or so songs, so truly he’s the only reason I thought I could do this, and on the second and third CD he had me sing.
PI: How would you define your genre?
JH: I didn’t have anything in mind. I guess I’d call it New Western Folk. A lot of the songs have a Western theme to them because it’s what I know, but it’s not Country Western or Pete Seger folk. It’s somewhere in between. Every bit of this is an adventure.
PI: Do you still do silversmithing?
JH: Not at all. The last thing I made was my older son’s wedding ring. That was about 10 years ago, and then I dug out all the equipment and realized it wasn’t quite like riding a bicycle.
PI: What’s next?
JH: We have an album that’s about three quarters done. I’m going to keep making CDs. I’m hoping it will be done by late fall.
Then I did that song about Trump, “Just Say Hell No” with Frank Martin just as an aside before the fall election. It’s on YouTube.
All our albums are on iTunes, too.
I pick this guitar up about 12 times a day sitting here. If we have a little downtime, I’m rehearsing a song or writing one. I think I’m stuck with music.
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