Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins is performing in the City of West Hollywood this Sunday, June 25, 2023, beginning at 4 p.m., at Plummer Park, as part of the City’s first combined Lesbian Speakers Series and Summer Sounds event. The City’s Art Division (WeHo Arts) will host “Free Myself: A Conversation and Concert with Sophie B. Hawkins” to wrap up Pride Month in West Hollywood.
The singer behind favorite hits like “Damn I wish I was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down,” sat with yours truly for this Q&A in WEHO TIMES to chat about pride, new music and her special upcoming WeHo performance this Sunday, which you will not want to miss.
Where are you living these days?
Now I’m in New York, on the East Coast again where I was born and raised.
Do you like East Coast or West Coast better?
I love them both, but my family is here; my family of origin, as they say. So, I got to be with my mother for many years and got to be with her when she died. None of that would have been easy if I were still living on the West Coast. I was also reunited with my sister. It’s nice to get back with your family and to resolve all the issues and realize how much you love each other.
How did you get involved with West Hollywood’s Arts Division?
Well, I got involved through my friend Sheri Lunn who works with the city of West Hollywood and is quite an activist. She recommended me and they seem to be really happy to have me perform and speak.
You were the winner of West Hollywood’s Rainbow Key Award in 2021. How was that for you?
It was so cute. It was on Zoom, so it wasn’t as fun as if we were all together, but it’s such a nice thing to be honored. It’s wonderful being honored at this point in my career and brought into the fold. Although in 1992, I did come out and say I was omnisexual, and spoke about my sexuality not being linked to my gender or not defined by someone else’s gender, so I was a little ahead of the curve, or a lot ahead of the curve.
How excited are you about performing and chatting with us this Sunday as we wrap up Pride month?
It’s an exciting opportunity. I haven’t been able to do anything so all-encompassing for Pride yet, so this is nice.
Can you share us what you have planned for your setlist this weekend?
I know that we’re going to play the hits like ‘Damn I Wish I was Your Lover’, ‘As I Lay Me Down’, and ‘Only Love.’ And then we’ll do at least four songs from the new album, ‘Free Myself,’ which people are really loving. ‘Free Myself,’ the single is doing incredibly well on Spotify and Apple, and it represents the spirit of the day. It’s wonderful to be able to play that song. So many people already know it. Also, ‘Love Yourself’ from the new album is doing very well and it too is in the spirit of the day for Pride. It’s going to be a really exciting, upbeat set.
I listened to your song ‘Free Myself’ and it seemed very personal, but it also seems it could be an LGBTQ+ themed love song…
Yeah, I thought so too. I was really excited when it came out. I hoped it would be an LGBTQ+ love theme song. At least a song that people would give to each other to say, ‘this is how I feel.’
The other song off the album ‘Better Off Without You’ is a little bit different than ‘Free Myself’. What was your experience doing this new album?
‘Better Off Without You’ is sort of a really positive song because the lyrics aren’t putting down the other person and telling the story of what they’re saying at the end and that hopefully you will heal your heart. This was a long relationship that ended and enabled me to go off and complete the rest of my life. That person is incredibly positive and joyful, and I think the message is that you are better with you. Yes, it’s funny and it’s fun to say, ‘I’m better off without you,’ and in many cases, it’s really true. People think that they are better off with someone, when the truth is, they’re not. The truth is, they are better off without them.
To realize how much power you have alone, and how much self-love you have alone, and how much you can achieve alone, even in jest. In your quiet alone time, you’re not freaking out and not being hysterical and not wishing to have this person back. It’s really a triumphant song. Once I was free of this relationship and free of all the expectations, then I could go and try new things and then get back to some old things, and realize now I am on a journey of self-love.
It’s true. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anybody else.
It’s true, fortunately, or unfortunately. We realize this as time goes on. So basically, this other relationship story is in “Better off Without You”. It’s as painful and searing as that. The song ends triumphant, and it ends happy, and not with any malice for the other person, but with joy for my own future and my children’s future.
What have you done to celebrate Pride this month?
Well, I’ve done a lot of shows and walked a few red carpets. So that’s just being in the community and talking, connecting, and supporting. I know this sounds silly, but I made a Pride and Happy playlist. I sought out artists that were LGBTQ+, and it was fun to realize how many I didn’t know were out, and who I already loved. It was fun to put them on my playlist. As far as personal stuff, I think this will be my celebration, coming out there. It’s been really busy getting off tour and getting my kids off to camp and everything. And now coming to LA, which is my other home–l lived here for 17 years–this Saturday is going to be my real pride celebration.
With political climate and all the new laws against LGBTQ+ and Drag Queens, why do you think Pride is so important this year?
Well, because it strengthens our knowledge that we have this brilliant message in this brilliant life, because otherwise, no one would be against us.
I also did another thing. I created a drag character called Dragin. I did some of my shows in drag in Florida and in Nashville. I wanted to go against the anti-trans and anti-drag queen laws specifically. So I got up and I performed, “Damn, I wish I was Your Lover” & “Fairy Tales” in drag as Dragin. It just makes us realize that, because we are so strong as a global community, and because we are so truthful, we’re going to get a lot of backlash from people who are afraid. And what happens is, it will always go five step forward and a couple of steps back, but we’re always making so much progress.
When I say ‘we’, I mean all humans, even people who are against, will realize someday that they were just afraid of their own self and they won’t be against us anymore. But you must be strong in the face of it and hopefully as intelligent and communicative as possible, because otherwise, people never get it. They just keep resisting. But the activism is really important.
What is your favorite song that you love to perform?
My song I love to perform and was not written by me. It is ‘I Want You’ by Bob Dylan. I put it on my first album, and I usually include it in most sets. Yeah, that’s my favorite.
And what about your own personal songs?
Geez, that’s hard. My songs are really hard. I think lately I’ve been loving “Before I walk on Fire.”
So what is next for you after performing at Plummer Park this Sunday?
Well, I have to get out another album because I have so much material. I’ve kept writing, so that will be next, probably out by next summer. Then I have this musical that I wrote and I would love to start working on that in a team-oriented way, not just on my own, and I’m always painting. But I think the next real push will be another album because it’s the easiest to get out and I’ve made the pathway again.
To learn more about Sophie B. Hawkins and to download her music, visit: https://sophiebhawkins.com/.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @therealsophieb.