WHO WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: CHESNEY HAWKES
Most well-known for his incredibly catchy 1991 hit “The One and Only”, Chesney Hawkes has experienced the exhilarating highs and the less-than-pleasant lows of the music industry. But he survived the fall from having champagne one day to Lambrusco the next. And you know what? He’s better for it.
When I found out that he’d be in town, I quickly set the gears in motion to snag some time with the musician whose hit song never fails to get my toes tapping.
“I am so sorry, my phone battery died so thanks for coming to meet me and apologies for being 30 minutes late…” Pra babbled to Chesney Hawkes who earlier had been thrashing out some awesome tunes at the WOW That’s What I Call Brunch event at Le Meridien.
Chesney had hoofed it over to the other side of the hotel just to meet me after my phone debacle left me late getting over to him. If that doesn’t already give you an indication of what a friendly and down-to-earth guy he is, I’m here to tell you—he’s exactly that along with a healthy dose of a zen attitude.
We took a seat, Chesney cross-legged and relaxed, and started chatting. It’s hard to believe that he’s 45 because he still looks 25…note to self: the zen attitude looks like it actually works, especially within the rollercoaster music industry where you’re sparkling and dazzling on a Monday and yesterday’s news by Friday.
So how did the crazy ride begin for him? Well, for Chesney, he was born with music and performance pumping through his veins. His father is Len “Chip” Hawkes, former member of The Tremeloes, and his mother is the beautiful actress Carol Dilworth. With that kind of lineage, is it really any surprise that he wanted to get into the crazy world and life of being a musician?
Like any artist who is ‘born with it’, he finds musical inspiration all around him and has the kind of talent that mere mortals like us can only dream of! David Bowie and Prince were massive influences but it’s John Lennon who has really stuck with him through all of these years.
Chesney’s voice is incredible. It’s deep and gravelly and, although it’s not really classy to draw comparisons, it reminds me a bit of Bryan Adams (in the best way possible!). On stage, he deftly switched from keyboard to guitar whilst belting out some epic tunes, including the one we’ve all hummed or danced to at some point—“The One and Only”.
I was sitting with Rozalla (who I’d just interviewed earlier) during his performance and at one point we had an absolutely priceless, you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up moment. We turned and stared at each other, and in perfect unison said “Bloody hell he’s good—I wish I could do that”.
By now everyone knows the story about Chesney, his father, and Nik Kershaw.
“Nik was my idol and my dad brought home a cassette of his songs.”
Thus began the entire adventure. This was how “The One and Only” was born in Abbey Road Studios with Nik, who is one of Chesney’s dearest friends today. The climb to fame was fast and furious from that point and for a wide-eyed Chesney, it also opened up a life of fast and furious living.
And just as quickly as he became a superstar with his name, face, and voice plastered everywhere, it all came crashing back down to earth. His producers dropped him and “The One and Only” was dubbed a one-hit wonder.
Was it really a crash, though?
Maybe financially it was a pain but when I asked Chesney about how he tackled the lows, he gave a legendary answer.
“Mmm, well, what would the alternative be…depression?”
He dusted himself off and simply continued whipping through life. Chesney met his wife Kristina, who is American, and they now live in LA with their three children. Blissfully married for 20 years now, Chesney is content with where he’s ended up in life. These days, you’ll still find him gigging a great deal, ranging from festivals like Rewind to UK acoustic venues, but his hard-partying days are in the past. He’d rather be dropping his kids off at school, working with emerging musicians, and contributing to the non-profit A21, an organisation that seeks to end human trafficking.
His take is that if you’re in the limelight, then you’re in a prime position to give back to the world. What better way than to join the efforts in abolishing the fastest growing crime in the world?
Chesney really is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. His humanity emanates outwardly into a beautifully calm and open presence and you can just tell that he’s right where he’s meant to be.
He has a new album out now entitled Real Life Love, which is just gorgeous. Give a couple of the tracks a listen and see if his voice doesn’t transport you somewhere else.
What do you think about when you’re driving alone?
Song lyrics mainly
Describe someone outside your field of interest who inspires you and why?
Stephen Fry, I love his mind. If anyone could turn me, it would be SF x
What was the last gift you gave someone?
Flowers for my wife
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Falling over on stage in the middle of singing “The One and Only”. It was captured on video and is now on YouTube. My kids found it and thought it would be hilarious to show all their friends…
(Editor’s note: go on, we know you want to look for it, too…We’ll wait.)
What makes you angry?
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done for you?
Rolled a coconut on stage for me to sign
If you weren’t a musician, what career would you have liked to have?
I’ve really thought about this one, it’s so hard to see past everything music-related, but if I have to…A painter.
What would your ONE superpower be?
The power of flight
Who would win a fight between Spiderman or Batman?
Batman is a badass
Where would you go in a time machine?
1962, I have always wished I was around in the pop pioneering days before it all happened
Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to invite to a dinner party?
John Lennon/Nelson Mandela/Stephen Fry