Artist Interview: Claire Hawkins on touring European youth hostels and performing new music

  1. How did you get started with the tour of Europe?

I spent a year studying in Europe during college, and I just fell in love with the continent. There’s something really amazing to me about having so many vastly different cultures existing so close to each other. It’s different in the States because you can travel for days and never leave the country. From a language standpoint, too, I found it incredible that you could take a two hour train ride and end up surrounded by people speaking a completely different language.

When I got back from Europe in 2018, I found myself writing exclusively about travel. It was all I could think about. I also started experimenting with the world of travel blogging while I was abroad, and I knew I wanted to find a way to combine my two passions of music and travel. At that point in my life, I knew it meant going back to Europe.

2. What made you decide to focus on youth hostels?

It’s funny because I remember the exact moment I came up with the idea. I was on a run and thinking about ways to promote the travel-themed EP I was working on, when I realized the reason that my time in Europe was so special was because of the people I met in hostels. Hostels are made for meeting new people, and that’s the same goal I have when playing music – it’s all about sharing stories with new people. Once I made that connection, everything fell into place. Well, that’s not entirely accurate – there were months of hard work and planning, but eventually I had booked my first tour.

3. When did you get your start with music?

I’ve been writing lyrics since I was a kid – I’m pretty sure the first song I ever wrote was a co-write with my younger brother about living in a magical castle – but I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 15. That’s when I was able to start taking music seriously. I spent most of high school performing at any New York City venue that would allow minors to play. I ended up studying music business and production in college, which was a great introduction to all the things I’m doing now.

4. When you get back to the US, will you be going on a tour?

Right now I’m living in Ireland as I tour around Europe, and I have to say I’m really loving being based here for the moment. One of the best things about this abnormal tour is that it doesn’t have to follow a typical tour timeline. I definitely want to continue finding ways to incorporate my love for travel into my music, so if that means another hostel tour in the US, I’m all for it! I was able to kick off the Foreign Voices Travelers Tour with a show at a New York City hostel, so the option is definitely there.

5. What’s the biggest thing you learned on your European adventures?

This whole experience has been extremely empowering. From producing my new music, to editing my own video coverage of the tour, to getting my first brand partnership with Journey Instruments, I’ve had a lot of reminders that I am capable of running the show (so to speak) myself. I remember thinking recently as I was adding new tour dates, “If I can book shows in Bulgaria, I can do anything!” I’ve pushed myself so far beyond my comfort zone on this tour and it’s made me realize how much I’ve accidentally limited myself in the past. My new single ‘Foreign Voice’ is all about that idea of leaning into your discomfort and allowing yourself to try new things. It really is the mission statement behind the tour.

6. What’s the best food you’ve eaten on your trip?

I’m a big sweets person, so I’m constantly searching for the best desserts everywhere I go. I especially love ice cream, which is a problem because dairy is not good for singing, so I try to wait until after a show to celebrate with ice cream. Murphy’s Ice Cream in Ireland is a favorite.

7. Is this something you would recommend for other “emerging artists?”

For me, it’s been an incredible experience, so I would definitely recommend it to other musicians who really want to travel, not just tour. It’s a great option to get to see the cities I’m performing in, and playing for audiences in hostels means you’re connecting with people from all over the world. For those reasons, it’s been amazing. It might not be the most practical option for all musicians, but if travel is something that’s important to you, this is a good way to do it.

8. How has your music been received in different countries?

Every show on this tour has been incredibly different from all the rest. I’ve learned that I can never predict what audiences are going to be like, so I look forward to finding out every night. I had a particularly great experience at Grand Hostel Classic in Berlin, Germany. It was only the second show of the tour, and the first in Europe, so I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember being terrified that no one would show up. They hosted the show in their library bar, which was very exciting to me as a huge book nerd, but I wondered if people would really want to hang out in a library listening to folk music on a Thursday night in one of the party capitals of the world. It was a wonderful surprise when a few minutes later, the room was full of people quietly listening to me play. Everyone was so attentive and respectful and kind. After the set, I ended up going for drinks with some of the audience members who I had just met. It was one of those stand-out moments that wouldn’t have happened the same way on a regular tour.

You can find several links to Claire’s music here.

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