The Apprentice offended singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins. Mind you, she didn’t actually watch Donald Trump’s popular NBC reality series, but she also didn’t feel inspired to after catching an interview with its stars.
“They kept talking about taking over the world,” she says. “Literally one said, ‘I want to take over New York City,’ and the other said, ‘Take over the city? Why not take over the world? You’re thinking so small.’
“I was so disgusted only by the fact that not one of them in the whole show mentioned doing anything good for the earth, for animals, for the environment,” she continues. “And I thought, these people could completely have us already in electric cars. I mean, they could really subsidize a whole industry of automakers to make the switch. And it’s only money stopping people from making the switch.
“Right there, immediately they could heal so much of the earth’s problems and they’re not even talking about it. It really stunned me that it was never mentioned.”
Hawkins is always thinking about what she can do to help the earth and its inhabitants. But she’s best known as a singer-songwriter, not an activist. Hawkins had quite a run on the pop charts a decade ago, with two big pop hits and two successful albums. She even inspired a filmmaker to make a film-festival-favorite documentary, The Cream Will Rise, about her life, recently released on DVD. She might have had more success — and certainly more albums — but she ran into resistance every step of the way. “[If the first album’s sales] had gone as great as the first single went I would have just been making records every two years like everyone else,” she says.
Instead, it was a struggle just to get Sony to release her second album. And that only came about because of the success of its first single, and all told her biggest hit, 1995’s “As I Lay Me Down.” “[That song] had to prove itself in Europe for like two or three years before they would even consider releasing it as a single [in the states],” she says.Â It was an even bigger battle to get her third album released by Sony.
Now in her mid-30s, Hawkins is happily free of Sony’s pressures. She’s just released her fourth album, Wilderness, the first on her own label. Its songs are capped off by folk music but based in pop. Besides singing, Hawkins handled guitar, keyboards and percussion.
She’s touring this year more than ever, including an appearance this year at Capital Pride. She’s finally reaching what she calls a “creatively sexual audience,” an audience she never reached while on a major label.
“The minute I got off Sony I was getting all these great gigs,” she says. Foremost among them, of course, are Pride festivals. “Pride is always the most fun because everybody’s partying and just kind of happy,” she says. “It’s a great audience for me, it’s mixed. And I’m very mixed as a person. I think for a long time my omnisexual status alienated me from a lot of the gay world.”
“Omnisexual” is the term she flippantly threw out when asked about her sexuality by the New York Times. This was back in 1992 while her first single, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover,” was a much-talked about hit. Much talked about in part because she resisted her label’s request to change “Damn” to “Darn” in the title and also because the lyrics include the pronoun-convention-busting line, “I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear.”
Hawkins still identifies as omnisexual. To her, omnisexual is less about sex, or a person’s gender, and more about the spirit inside.
Hawkins is very spiritually focused. Her new single, the ballad “Walking on Thin Ice,” is about God. But its lyrics are vague and generic enough to work as a typical love song: “Give me your hand/I’m walking on thin ice, and I know you can deliver me.” Hawkins prefers to be vague and unspecific about her religious beliefs as well.
“Talking about it cheapens it,” she says. “It’s more of a feeling,” she says. “If people talk about it too much, it’s crap. It doesn’t need to be talked about, it’s there.” When pressed, she elaborates a bit on her belief in God, or as she calls it, “God energy,” which, she says, “you can bring out of almost anyone. You can tap into it in almost anything, it’s a presence. It gives people either strength of character or courage or purity.”
Her religiosity animates her activism, from fighting to protect sea turtles to environmental concerns to same-sex marriage. She views the current discussion about same-sex marriage as a part of evolution.
“I don’t think it’s just a political issue, I think it’s happening because it’s meant to happen. This is our evolutionary direction, and it’s very, very positive and very healthy.”
Still, the idea of settling down with one person “scares me a lot,” she admits. “You know, marriage has never appealed to me.”
And if she were forced to choose just one cause among the many she supports, it wouldn’t be fighting for same-sex marriage. She’d like to “really, really, really make enough money or channel enough resources” to protect the oceans and wildlife.
“I think the earth has to have more reserves for animals that are in trouble, like elephants and gorillas. Same with the ocean. And there are so many great people working on things but they don’t have enough money. I want to be able to make enough money with what I do and be able to support them.”
Sophie B. Hawkins is scheduled to perform Sunday, June 13, at approximately 5:52 p.m. at the Capital Pride Street Festival Mainstage located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 3rd Street NW. Schedule is subject to change. For more information visit www.capitalpride.org. For more information about Sophie B. Hawkins, visit www.sophiebhawkins.com.