Making a Scene Present an interview with “The HawtThorns”!
An Americana band whose sun-kissed songwriting, fiery electric guitar, 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.
Before forming their band in Los Angeles, the Hawthorns both enjoyed acclaimed careers of their own, leaving their marks upon the intersecting worlds of rock, country, and pop music. California native KP (formerly Kirsten Proffit) launched her solo career with 2006’s Lucky Girl, a singer/songwriter record whose tracks 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 warm, nostalgic sound nodded to Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and other icons of 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 Kirsten), the band called it quits. Life and the grind of the road had taken its toll. Besides, KP had become excited about collaborating with another musician: guitar slinger Johnny Hawthorn.
As 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 — melodic music that made room for KP’s voice, Johnny’s guitar, and plenty of collaboratively-written hooks. The two became newlyweds, too, their sound mirroring the mutual respect and reverence found in their marriage.
2019’s Morning Sun is the HawtThorns’ official debut, a collection of warm, West Coast-influenced songs that balance the most engaging parts of the bandmates’ different backgrounds. It’s an amped-up Americana album for guitar enthusiasts and singer/songwriter fans alike. Laced with touches of lap steel guitar, strings, organ, and thickly-stacked coed harmonies, Morning Sun also introduces the HawtThorns’ full lineup — a roster that includes drummer Matt Lucich and bassist Eliot Lorango — while making room for additional contributions from Sasha Smith, Kaitlin Wolfberg, and Arthur Barrow. From the heartland rock & roll of “All I Know” to the soulful empowerment anthem “Rebel Road” to the lushly-harmonized highway ballad “The 405,” Morning Sun shows the full range of the HawtThorns’ interests and abilities, with production from Eric Corne (founder of the band’s label, Forty Below Records), Steve Berns, and KP Hawthorn. The album also includes a John Moreland cover, a revamped version of Johnny Hawthorn’s “Give Me a Sign,” four songs co-written with Berns, and the chiming, high-spirited lead single “Shaking.”
In a genre that often trends toward moody sounds, Morning Sun is every bit as bright as its name indicates — an Americana album inspired by the sun-streaked California landscape in which it was written and recorded. It’s a record about intersecting lives and finding that balance, with songs that rely equally on Johnny’s guitar lines (which he approaches with the nuance of a songwriter) and KP’s melodic sensibilities. KP and Johnny aren’t newcomers — they’ve both weathered the ups and downs of the music industry for years, struggling to overcome musical (and personal) breakups along the way — but they’ve tapped into a new beginning with Morning Sun. Here’s to fresh starts.