Early on, guitarist CJ Hawley learned to find solace in music. Starting piano at a young age, his grandparents provided him with the structure of hard work and practice. But he learned passion and heart from his mother.
Though she passed away from a long-fought illness when he was 18, Hawley remembers that despite dealing with chronic pain, “she always found peace and freedom at the keyboard.” He adds, “So much of everything in me I consider to be good came from her. Not least of all is a deep and beautiful love for music. Just like her, in my darkest moments, music is usually the thing that brings me back to life.”
Touched by tragedy, Hawley would return to music again and again as a form of healing. When his older brother passed, he found comfort in mastering his brother’s instrument of choice, guitar. And when his marriage of seven years fell apart two years ago, Hawley recalls rediscovering music at a crossroads. “[I was] standing in a dark, quiet house, overthinking everything, directionless, distraught, searching for answers... to my left, a liquor cabinet, to my right, my lovely Taylor hanging on the wall, lit by the fireplace. Dare say I made the right choice there. Again, music saves the day... It was then that I immersed myself in fingerstyle.”
These days, Hawley is experiencing a renaissance of artistry. “Collision,” performed at The Rye Room, is the final song from his debut EP, Roots. “This [EP] is really the beginning,” says Hawley. “This is the first time I’ve felt that what I am writing is a true expression of what I'm feeling, not just duplicating other writing formats... the core of my style is trying to capture raw emotion in sound form. I don’t sing or write lyrics often, but I feel so much more can be said through the pure expression of simple notes. These sounds [or] feelings can be applied to anyone in any situation. No specific words or themes to distract from what you need to hear. If you feel it, you understand.”