It didn’t come without a leap of faith.
“I was shocked I was writing a full-on country record,” Hawkins said. “I still don’t have a clear idea of what my process is. It just sort of happens. I was shackled with self-doubt in the early phases. Almost nothing comes out of me that I don’t think, ‘Is that too much of this?’ ”
He strove to get to the roots of a genre that has gone from gritty and stripped-down to polished twang-pop. In addressing “The Devil Went Down” he recalls wondering whether the song had achieved that goal. Upon showing it to a collaborator, he got the vote of confidence he needed.
“When I was finished, it wasn’t a new country song,” he said. “That would be awful.”
Hawkins has played countless shows in Western New York between the Low, which formed in the early 1990s, his new band The Rusty Nails and his solo work.
He has cultivated an intimate and dedicated following here that still turns out, even if the “Rosy and Grey” heyday of the Lowest of the Low has passed.
(The band played their final show together here at Club Infinity in December 2007.)
So why all the love here?
“Buffalo embraced us,” he said. “You get the Canadian Edge (radio station). We went down and had some early success (with Lowest of the Low). Really, we were creating a relationship.”
Hawkins sees parallels between Buffalo and Toronto that make his point of view as an artist relevant in both of the cities, despite the obvious disparities in size and status.
“They’re similar towns. Industrial base, northern cities. ... For some reason, (Buffalo audiences) seem to find Canadians exotic in some way. I literally feel like I’m in England or some of the other places I’ve had to play.”