After more than fifteen years as a recording musician and touring performer, Amanda Hawkins is no stranger to the stage. But eight years ago, she had her first daughter. Four years ago, she had her second. She decided to take a few years off from the music industry to raise her kids and work as an insurance agent.
Now, after just releasing a music video for her song "Trust You're There," she feels like she's starting over — at least in the eyes of her fans and friends, who'd been asking for years if she'd ever return to making music again. She was always puzzled by those questions, because she'd never stopped making music.
"Music has been in my life since I was eleven," she says. "It’s in my blood. It keeps me sane. It’s how I express myself.
And she's ready to perform publicly again — even if the world of live music is largely shut down over COVID-19. The music video for "Trust You're There" is one of her first releases as an independent solo artist.
"This song I wrote about seven-ish years ago," she says. "I wrote it about a situation where I ended up finding strength that I never knew I had to leave a toxic situation. This song has always been one of my favorites to play live."
It's a painful, desperate song, with lyrics like "Why didn't you love me when you had me?" But it erupts into a powerful climax with a full-blown choir — transforming grief into community power.
As she worked on the music video with Denver director Jeremy Pape, they talked about their daughters and how they wanted them to experience life — not as victims, but as people with full agency.
"We both agreed that we wanted our girls and everyone who watches this video to leave feeling empowered, not defeated," Hawkins says.
The shift to independent recording and releasing has been liberating for Hawkins. During her previous stint working as a musician, she spent years singing on other people's EPs and hip-hop tracks, and was a member of an indie-rock band called Della. But eventually she decided to go out on her own, signing up with a New York label that she left to focus on her family.
In the years that she took off, the way musicians spread the word about their music changed.
"It's a blessing and a curse. Social media has taken the forefront with everything," she says. "It used to be — when I was involved in music with my band and my mixtape — the more publicity you got, the larger the following. The more people who got to hear you, the more people you reach. Now your following on social media determines how much you release."
To promote the new project, Hawkins has been performing online streaming concerts, using them as fundraisers for good causes, including the Colorado Artist Relief Fund, a collaboration of Denver Arts & Venues, Colorado Creative Industries and RedLine Contemporary responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While she's happy to be doing her part in supporting the struggles of artists and is eager to get music out, spring has been something of a disappointment.
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"I was supposed to play my first Red Rocks gig," she says. "Red Rocks was doing Local Sets. I had two of them lined up. We were going to play it, and two days before, it was the no-more-than-ten-people-in-a-room situation. That got canceled, and then I had one lined up in early April at Red Rocks. Those have been canceled."
She's eager for things to open up again so that she can hit the road.
"The touring thing is going to be looked at differently," she says. "There is something out there with women, specifically, where if you have kids, your career is dead. I’m excited to break through that stigma and show that we can do it. We might go crazy, but we can do it all and still do what we love."
Find out more about Amanda Hawkins at her website.