Hawthorn came onto my radar a while ago when they played at the Club Passim Campfire Festival. At that time, they were so new to the music scene that it wasn’t that easy to find out information about them…it didn’t take long before I began seeing their name crop up again and again. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I saw that they were nominated as Emerging Artists at my favorite folk festival of the year, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, New York. Their gorgeous harmonies will knock the proverbial socks off the campers at the festival. I guarantee that they will be crowd-pleasers.
Here’s a chance to get to learn more about Heather Scott and Taylor Holland: Hawthorn.
Here’s a video of their NPR Tiny Desk Contest entry, “In the Morning.”
Your website describes why you named yourselves Hawthorn and it’s totally fascinating. Your analysis of the hawthorn tree and the combination of the berries and thorns as representative of the human heart and all its varied emotions. Did you percolate on that name for a while or did it come up because of some deep love of trees? (I note that one of your early recorded efforts is called The Arboretum Sessions.)
When we were naming the band, we asked ourselves “what do we love?” We both are happiest outdoors and take great inspiration from the natural world, so we started looking at plants. ‘Hawthorn’ first struck us because it’s such a strong word, and as we began researching the tree and learning about its role in folklore and herbal medicine, we knew it was the right fit. We love trees so much–our new record is called Maggie Willow, and the ‘willow’ part comes from the fact that we both had a willow tree in our backyards growing up.
Where did you both grow up and how did you become friends and musical partners?
Heather grew up in Central Massachusetts and Taylor grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Taylor moved to Boston for college and we met in Jamaica Plain four years ago. And honestly, our music brought us together! We were in the same friend group and heard each other singing at parties, and finally thought it would be fun to sit down and play together. The first songs we sang together were old Dylan covers…”It Ain’t Me,” “Don’t Think Twice,” etc., but we quickly moved to writing our own material. After three years of creating together we’ve become incredibly close… our friends joke that we’re a married couple.
You’ve described your music as part Appalachia and part Celtic and that does come through vividly on many of your songs. Do you have any musical heroes from those genres and how have they influenced your songs?
A lot of our folk influence came to us through the 60s folk revival–Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell, etc. Heather studied music and classical voice, and sang in as many choirs as she could as far back as elementary school. Taylor grew up playing violin and singing a lot of traditional music from the British Isles. In terms of how our heroes influence us, it’s not something we think about too consciously because we don’t want our songs to be too directly impacted by other people’s music, but our backgrounds certainly come out in our artistic choices: what we find beautiful, interesting, provocative. We both listen to a lot of music from very diverse genres, which we share with our fans in our monthly newsletter’s ‘What We’re Listening To’ section.
The genesis of Maggie Willow is fascinating–you created a character by that name who you imagine as an ancestor who has many stories to tell about her life and you translated those into music. That sounds like it was an extremely fun project. Tell us your favorite parts of Maggie’s life and what kind of wisdom can we learn from her?
Thank you–it WAS a fun project! In writing the songs, we drew on our own lives and those of our families and the ancestors we imagine we have in common. Creating Maggie was a way for us to merge all those storylines and also tell a story greater than the sum of those parts. A woman came up to us after the album release show and exclaimed that she’d felt “all the feelings–laughter, crying, dancing, reflection, you name it” and that was basically the best possible response to the record. What we love about Maggie is how fully and courageously she lives her life no matter what she’s going through. We could talk for hours about the meanings behind all the lyrics, but a good place to start for now is the opening track, ‘Burn.’ In the first verse, the lines “Devil’s in the holding tight to the light / when the breathing’s gone and it just ain’t right / and the fire don’t burn no more” are about how trying to be perfect will rob you of your breath and your creative power. Maggie isn’t perfect, and neither are we, but we are breathing and learning and growing and that’s really the best we can hope for as humans and artists.
What’s next for Hawthorn?
We’re hitting the road around the Northeast next week–check out our website for all the dates! We’re especially excited for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and hitting the contra dance floor after our showcase. We’re really honored to be a part of this year’s Bust Out Boston festival, which showcases female artists in the Boston area, and we were just nominated for the New England Music Awards Roots Act of the Year!
Photo by Ally Schmaling