Dissecting Workman’s Meat

Have you recently had your heart broken? You could eat your weight in Ben and Jerry’s, or maybe the new Hawksley Workman record might hit the spot. Meat is the indie rock singer’s 12th album and, from the sounds of it, the lyrics are about as angst-ridden as getting dumped at the prom. It’s a bit of a departure for an artist known for his typically-romantic pop serenades. It’s also going to be followed-up by Milk, a digital release that Workman is premiering one track at a time through his website.

Coming off a fairly significant breakup, the singer/songwriter found himself torn between emotions when writing new material for the dark, edgy Meat and the more optimistic Milk, and, as a result, two distinct records began to take shape.

“After a trip to NYC to work, and then chance meetings with writers and producers in Stockholm, I realized that I had two very different records evolving,” Workman explained. “They were very much different pieces, with different motivations and very different textural landscapes; interestingly, these two records also find me between emotional despair and head‐over‐heels in love.”

Over the last decade, Workman has become virtually synonymous with Canadian indie rock. After finding success with 2003’s Lover/Fighter, he said he lived a pretty “rock and roll” lifestyle — plenty of touring, playing live and partying — but currently, Workman is trying to balance a healthier way of living.

“I guess I’m somewhat in-between both worlds in my life now; there is definitely a bit more moderation I suppose,” Workman said. “But I certainly [have not been] successful in taking rock and roll completely out of my life.”

Not that anyone is asking him to. With song titles such as “Animal Behaviour” and “Stay Drunk and Keep Fucking” featured on Milk, the Juno award winner is still the same guy who sang “Jealous of Your Cigarette” and has been known to exude a little sexual prowess from time to time in his songwriting.

“I’m not very good at censoring what I say or write. I always think that there is no such thing as too personal in terms of what is fair game for songwriting,” Workman explained. “Honesty is the most important thing; I would guess that if you know my music, you know much of who I am, save the laundry/dishes/teeth‐brushing part.”

Workman, who plays almost all of the instruments on his albums, recorded Meat in several studios, but said that “the lion’s share of the record was actually done in [his] garage.” He also self-released the album on his own label, Isadora Records, marking an official departure from Universal.

“My initial honeymoon with [a] major [label] was an incredible time, you know, fancy dinners and lots of promise of great things to come,” Workman said. “But then later, when things had gone a bit dry, I felt very much like I was on the back burner. Doing things on my own has really given me back my strength and sanity.”

The Ontario-based singer has also recently begun producing work for numerous Canadian artists — Sarah Slean, Hey Rosetta! and Tegan and Sara, to name a few — and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“Production is just a completely different muscle than being the artist. I love working alongside great people, learning from them and helping them find the way to see a vision through,” he said. “I definitely only work with things that I really believe in. It’s hard to produce something that your heart isn’t really into.”

Workman has a full Canadian tour planned for March and April, which includes a stop in Winnipeg, a city he claimed a personal kinship with, saying it “was the first place that [he] ever had a sold-out show in Canada.” He’s slated to perform at one of the city’s most historic venues, which also happens to hold a special place in the singer’s heart — the Burton Cummings Theatre.

“Sometimes when you are touring about, you just find rooms that speak with a certain wisdom. That room just has a magic.”

Hawksley Workman plays the Burton Cummings Theatre on March 20.