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Q & A with Sophie B. Hawkins

Chart-topping singer-songwriter-musician Sophie B. Hawkins will be performing in San Diego on Wednesday, May 19, at Anthology, 1337 India St. downtown.

Sophie Ballantine Hawkins was born Nov. 1, 1967, in Manhattan, N.Y. She is best known for her first big single, "Damn! I Wish I Was Your Lover" which made it to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Her "Tongues and Tails" album, which produced that single, also earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Her next Top 10 hit was "As I Lay Me Down," which enjoyed one of the longest rides ever on the singles pop chart.

Hawkins is now on tour after some extended downtime. She recently had a child and just completed her sixth studio album "Dreamstreet and Chance," set to release early next year.

She promises this show to be a combination of exciting new material from the upcoming album as well as plenty of her old hits to keep fans entertained. You can also expect a lot of interaction with the crowd; she loves to talk to her fans.

She recently announced her affiliation with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Four Gulf coast regional member organizations (Louisiana Baykeeper, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper, Emerald Coaskeeper, and Apachicola Riverkeeper) are the first line of defense during the BP oil disaster recovery efforts, an issue important to Hawkins.

So important, that part of the ticket sales for Wednesday night’s show, as well as sales of "The Land the Sea and the Sky" - her new eco-message CD single offered for $3 that night and soon available through iTunes - will all go to support these first responders of this catastrophic oil spill.

After Wednesday's show, Hawkins will make herself available to sign the CDs and meet with her fans.

The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN) is the media sponsor for her appearance and is giving away tickets to see her perform. SDGLN recently got the chance to sit down with Hawkins and have a casual, conversation-packed Q & A, with some of the questions even being submitted by Facebook fans. Here is what transpired.

SDGLN: Let’s start off with a BANG. Christian rock artist Jennifer Knapp and country music star Chely Wright have both come out in the last month, but this is still not a common occurrence and yet you did it almost 20 years ago. Why is it still so hard for female recording artists to come out?

Sophie B. Hawkins (SBH): For me, the issues were more internal and not about the media. It was also right there in the lyrics of my song all over the radio [“I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear”].

For women today, it could be shame. My mother was with women and she felt a lot of shame. They may also just need their space. If they are afraid of the fans, that’s confusing, because there is so much acceptance today and they shouldn’t limit themselves.

I always heard, “she’s not gay enough.” It isn’t like are you Democrat or Republican?, but that’s what people want, one or the other [straight or gay]. When "Damn!" first came out, I’d had a long-term relationship with a man, but was currently with a woman [so I identified as bisexual]. Now I have been with a woman for 15 years, so can say I am a lesbian and committed.

What people need to realize is that sexuality and spirituality are connected; we don’t change, we expand. If I’d never been in love with a woman, I wouldn’t be such a good songwriter. It opened up my deeper heart. When we can all get to the point of love - in other words, if we could all come out, out of a place of love - we would be protected and the world would be healed.

SDGLN: How did you first get into performing and do you remember your first gig?

SBH: Yes. I was an F student and into drugs at the age of 14 and then I met an African drummer. He taught me the African drums and then I began playing the marimba and the vibraphone. We played at Gate’s Seven in the Berkshires (in New York) when I was 17. I played the drums with many bands during that time. One day I just sat down at a piano and began writing songs.

SDGLN: (Fan question) You’ve been playing instruments since you were little but did you have professional lessons or did you teach yourself?

SBH: The only thing I ever studied was the African drums, and that really was a lesson in music – it was full of stories. I wanted to catch up because I started so late. I’m very neurotic. Everything else has been self-taught.

SDGLN: (Fan question) You are scheduled to play some gigs in Arizona – will the new immigration law give you second thoughts about performing there?

SBH:I was just there. I think it’s great to go to the heart of the controversy. I don’t feel one way or another [about the law] but I don’t think we should boycott the state. It’s a complicated issue.

SDGLN: (Fan question) How do you feel that “Damn!” is rumored to be a popular song with strippers?

SBH: I want to see THAT video – I would die for that. It would make me current again!

SDGLN: You re-recorded "Damn!" as a tribute to Hillary Clinton called "Damn! We Wish You Were Our President." Were you pleased when Obama asked her to be Secretary of State?

SBH: Sure. I loved her so intensely as a candidate – I didn’t want to get into the whole political support thing, but Gigi really pushed me. Then I began following Hillary, I met her, talked to her, campaigned for her – she was so brilliant that I fell in love with her. I know one thing – she would have been drawn and quartered. They took her ideas anyway. I look at it this way, black people got to vote before women, too. It is the way it is supposed to be. Hopefully she will run again.

SDGLN: You had a son in 2008, how has that affected touring and your song-writing?

SBH: It has had a positive impact, absolutely. Giving birth – there is nothing that compares to that moment. I understood the deepest sense of spirituality and humanity. It took me to a whole other level – that child came right from God (however you understand that to be) and created a sense of magic. I’m definitely more tired and must be much more scheduled, but I have a nanny – [which is] outrageous but thankfully I can afford it. I have a fabulous support system.

SDGLN: How long has it been since you have played in San Diego? Have you ever been here as a visitor?

SBH: It’s been a long time. No, I’ve only played there – but I can see how people love it. It’s so beautiful and is definitely on my list.

SDGLN: I saw you perform at Dinah Shore Weekend about nine years ago – can we expect to ever see you play there again?

SBH: Sure if they ask me. That was really a fun gig.

SDGLN: Your longtime manager and life partner, Gigi Gaston, produced and directed a documentary about you in 1998, called "The Cream Will Rise." Tell us about that and will it be available at the show?

SBH: It is so intense. Even if I wasn’t in it, I’d tell you how good it is. They use it at abuse centers because there are so many nuggets [in it] to learn from. It’s not even about me, really, it’s about the truth. A very intense, poetic film about the mother / daughter relationship. Everyone can relate. It began as me on tour, then [Gigi] took a left turn and began to focus on my lyrics and it became a real story about all of us. It is about why some people pursue the truth and why others kill it. We’ll have some available at the show, yes.

SDGLN: Was this when and how you met Gigi?

SBH: I met Gigi in passing and said to myself, “Oh, that’s the person I’m supposed to meet.” The documentary actually makes you see that everything happening [in your life] is leading up to specific events and you don’t even know it’s happening.

SDGLN: Some of the proceeds from this gig are going to first responders of the Gulf oil spill.

SBH: Yes, we will be selling CDs at the show and soon will have the single available on iTunes for download and all the money will go this amazing organization called the Waterkeeper Alliance. I knew I wanted to do something, but it had to be in keeping with where I am in my life right now. When I learned about the waterkeepers, I knew it was the right thing [to do]. We have all got to do something about these environmental issues. Einstein said it right: We must expand our circle of compassion. The plankton, the dolphins, the birds – we are all connected. Dolphins are so loyal to humans. It is horrible what is happening to them in Japan.

SDGLN: Are you into the whole new social networking thing? Like, do you tweet?

SBH: No damnit and I want to. I want to learn how to do it. (She does have a Facebook page but it is almost at its limit.)

SDGLN You’d be a great tweeter I can tell by our conversation.

SBH Well then I’ll start soon and attribute it to you!

Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor of SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, ext 710 or by email at morgan@sdgln.com.