SONIC STORIES (INTERVIEW) W/ EVAN HAWKINS- THROUGH THE ROOTS
Through The Roots- Grown From Humble Beginnings
It all began circa 2008 in a Guitar Center practice room, by coincidence that’s where Evan Hawkins (Vocals/Guitar) shared his musical vision with Taylor Boatwright (Drummer/Vocals)- both had similar music tastes and both were very moved by reggae. They believed TTR would provide them the perfect vehicle to spread their message. Later that year the band added Brady O'Rear (Keys/Synths) to round out the group's core. Through The Roots became a staple in the San Diego reggae scene and if you frequented backyard house shows in SD from 08-10’ there’s a good chance you saw them play. The band began to tour in 2010 and was soon opening for national touring acts like Tribal Seeds and Iration. That’s when TTR seized the monumental opportunity to engage thousands of new listeners at every show. All the band had to do was turn them into fans. No easy task but for the guys in TTR the message has always stayed the same, Cali-Reggae vibes with positive messages. Lyrics from their 2013 song “Higher” sum up their approach from the band’s inception- “I believe that life is a canvas its all part of something bigger, constantly changing with the times, an ever evolving figure…I believe that if we come together, we can get higher, I believe that if we stand together we will rise higher”. Additionally, “Dancing In The Rain” provides a staple singalong- “On the path to growing stronger, you must endure the pain, ‘cause life’s a thunderstorm, I’m just dancing in the rain”. It’s the consciously driven lyrics throughout their music that attracted the attention of Rebelution, who recently asked TTR to join them on their second major tour together. Through The Roots is currently supporting Rebelution on the Falling Into Place Summer Tour with The Green, J Boog and Stick Figure. We caught up with frontman and founder Evan Hawkins before the epic reggae tour comes to town, August 18th at The Mandalay Bay Beach.
SS: How do you describe yourself to someone who’s never heard of TTR?
EH: We’re 5 guys trying to help people believe in things that they’re passionate about.
Collectively the sound is a reggae fusion. Roots reggae, hip hop, alternative guitar work, even gospel. Generally our message (on top of the music) is to encourage people and to help people believe that this life is really worth living. We’re trying to inspire people to find their purpose, why they’re here and how they can serve to help other people believe as well.
SS: What are your personal music influences?
EH: I grew up listening to all sorts of stuff. My Dad was a musician, he played guitar with Marvin Gaye and a bunch of Motown artist. My brother and I kinda just explored different sounds growing up. My Dad would leave records out for us to listen to and it kind of just went from there. I definitely think it was in my blood to to be a musician. Influence wise, I latched onto the reggae stuff at at early age. My Mom used to play Bob Marley, UB40 and Steel Pulse tracks all the time. I never knew what it was but I knew that it made me feel good and I liked the sound. Reggae is just something that stuck, the cause and message. Back in High School I listened to a lot of metal, which got me more involved with playing the guitar. Initially I started with picking up the saxophone in sixth grade. I didn’t really know exactly what kind of music I wanted to play but I was an all around musician, so I just kept playing. Time went on and I had a friend (passed away in a drunk driving accident) who introduced me to new California reggae. That was my first introduction to bands like Slightly Stoopid and Rebelution- all that music was something new to me at the time. It’s crazy that we’re (TTR) playing with all those bands now, it’s really cool because they definitely influenced me.
SS: Describe what it’s like to be playing with those bands that influenced you.
EH: It’s surreal, Eric (Rebelution- Vox/Guitar) and I were actually talking about it on the bus the other day. I saw them (Rebelution) play at one of the last backyard shows they ever did at my friend’s graduation. It’s just a crazy story- from that backyard, me seeing them play and thinking I like this sound, it’s really cool and I think I can do this, I can make this music too… Now to be playing 6-10k person sold out shows with them, it’s just a trip! Six to seven years later, here we are. The Universe works in crazy ways (you hear that all the time but it’s true), when you’re supposed to be doing something, life will put you there. Just believe in yourself and you’ll definitely end up there.
SS: Tell me about to new music, what can fans expect as far as style and message?
EH: We get inspired to write different styles of music in different times in our lives. The new release “Miss Lovely” is influenced by most of our band members being in relationships at the time we wrote it. We were all feeling something special that influenced the track. Being that it’s a love song, it comes off a little bit different than something like “Higher” (a more worldly message) but I definitely think people can still relate to that. Everybody has something to love.
SS: Love is relatable. It’s a dreamy summer track.
EH: Yeah and with relationships since you mention the summertime, they usually start (and stop) in the summer. [Both laugh]. The song has a smooth, lovers feel to it and I think people will really dig that. We worked with some great musicians in our genre on this new stuff. JP Kennedy (Guitar/Vocals) of The Green and Leslie Ludiazo (Drummer) for J-Boog both helped us produce the track “Miss Lovely”. They really brought that Hawaiian influence, since they’re from Hawaii. The drums really have that true Island Style groove that hits really hard.
SS: Will the new album have that sound collectively?
EH: We really like working with those guys and may explore some additional help as well. At the end of the day we just really like to push our musical limits. I think bringing some people in to help do that is a pretty cool thing. I know we’re (TTR) is fully capable of doing it on our own but why not see what else we can do and how we can make these new songs a little bit different than our music in the past. I know our fans will really appreciate that, it’s something to look forward to.
SS: When can they expect to hear some more tunes?
EH: They might hear a few more tracks soon. We’re working on our music even while we’re out on the road right now. Of course, we’re playing “Miss Lovely” on this tour as well as a conscious ganga song called “Bloodshot Eyes”.
SS: Speaking of bloodshot eyes, describe your perfect time in Vegas?
I’d be sure to grab some Wing King (4465 E Sahara Ave), that guy has some amazing wings. If not there, I’d definitely visit Sushi Bay (2603 Windmill Pkwy) for the all you can eat. It’s unreal. We always make sure that’s a stop when we come to town. Whatever hotel we’re staying at, I’d probably jump in their pool and go for a swim. Maybe have a few drinks and check out a show or something but probably call it an early night. I can handle Vegas on my birthday or something but other than that I keep it chill.
SS: The Mandalay Bay Beach is a pretty chill venue for a gig, are you familiar?
EH: I’ve heard of it before and saw some pictures- it looks like an awesome venue. We played at The Cosmopolitan BLVD Pool on the Rebelution Count Me In Tour (and that was great), so we’re excited to play a bigger version this time around. I’ve heard it’s a really cool venue and we’re stoked to be back in Vegas. We get a lot of love out there.