Making a Scene Presents an Interview with The HawtThorns!
An Americana band whose sun-kissed songwriting, versatile guitar work, and lush vocal harmonies evoke the California coastline as much as the Bible Belt countryside, the HawtThorns are rooted in the collaborative chemistry of husband-and-wife duo KP and Johnny Hawthorn.
That chemistry reaches a new peak with Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars, the pair’s second collection of country-rockers, acoustic ballads, and southern soul songs. Written and recorded during a global pandemic that brought the HawtThorns’ touring schedule to a halt, it’s an album the finds its creators counting their blessings and finding silver linings during an otherwise dark time.
Before forming their band in Los Angeles and relocating to Nashville, the Hawthorns both enjoyed acclaimed careers of their own, leaving their separate marks on the worlds of rock, country, and pop music. California native KP (formerly Kirsten Proffit) launched her solo career with 2006’s Lucky Girl, whose songs found their way onto TV shows like Friday Night Lights and Dawson’s Creek. By 2012, she was also touring the country with Jaime Wyatt and Manda Mosher as a member of CALICO, a trio of songwriters whose music paid tribute to California’s country-rock golden days. The group hit the ground running, playing 200 shows during their first year together. CALICO was a true collaboration, too — a group whose members shared songwriting and singing duties — but after two albums together (both of which were co-produced by KP), the band called it quits. The grind of the road had taken its toll. Besides, KP had become excited about collaborating with another musician: guitar slinger Johnny Hawthorn.
A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, lead guitarist, and record producer, Johnny had already performed with bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Everclear by the time he crossed paths with KP at the Cinema Bar in Culver City, CA. He’d also released three albums as a solo artist, with Guitar Player Magazine likening his phrasing to Jimi Hendrix and his vocal melodies to the Eagles. The connection between KP and Johnny was immediate, and the two spent their first date playing songs together. Before long, they were writing songs of their own, too — melodic music that made room for KP’s voice, Johnny’s guitar, and plenty of collaboratively-written hooks. The two soon became newlyweds, their sound mirroring the mutual respect and reverence found in their marriage.
Morning Sun marked the HawtThorns’ official debut in 2019. An amped-up Americana album for guitar enthusiasts and singer/songwriter fans alike, the record balanced its creators’ backgrounds, finding room for fiery fretwork and heartland hooks. It also showcased the HawtThorns’ emphasis on community, with co-production from Eric Corne (founder of Forty Below Records) and additional contributions from Sasha Smith, Kaitlin Wolfberg, Arthur Barrow, Steve Berns, Matt Lucich, and Eliot Lorango.
When the KP and Johnny moved to Nashville in early 2020, they carried that communal spirit with them. As owners of the independent record label Mule Kick Productions, they championed other artists whose music — like the HawtThorns’ own songs — blurred the boundaries between genres. KP, as a creator of the upcoming documentary “Palomania,” is working to highlight the long-lasting reach of an historic music venue. And with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” — released in 2021, following a year spent indoors due to the Covid-19 pandemic — they said goodbye to the challenges of the past and looked forward to a bigger, brighter future.
Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars marks the band’s second collection of hook-driven country-rock and amplified Americana. Recorded in both L.A. and Nashville, it nods to both sides of the group’s geographic and musical roots. The Nashville sessions took place in KP and Johnny’s home studio, sandwiched between walks around the couple’s new neighborhood, with cicadas chirping outside the studio doors. The southern culture and Tennessee humidity seeped its way into the music itself, adding gospel-soul grit to “Let’s Get Together” and Allman Brothers-worthy swagger to “On The Way.” A lush, layered album with diverse arrangements, Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars finds the group embracing its new home without forgetting its roots.
“There’s been so much darkness lately,” says KP, who found herself unable to tour behind Morning Sun due to the global pandemic. “I understand why artists feel compelled to write about that, but I wanted our record to feel like a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a happy-ending story to a tough year.”
KP and Johnny are musical lifers, having weathered more than a decade’s worth of the music industry’s ups and downs. They’ve tapped into a new beginning with the HawtThorns, a band whose music blurs the boundaries between genre and geography.
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