For actor Maya Hawke – you know her as Stranger Things’ Robin or the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke – becoming an album-making musician was something of an accidental process. As a child, she loved writing poetry and soon started to write songs, but lost focus when acting took centre-stage in her life. But while working on the BBC’s adaptation of Little Women, a new creation prompted Hawke to call her dad’s friend – Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse Harris – to get his advice. With Harris impressed, they wound up making an album together, her debut ‘Blush’.
It’s as wonderful a result of an accident as you can get. She wrote all the lyrics for the record while Harris took charge of the music and, together, they’ve created something gentle, inquisitive and fun. On the atmospheric folk-rock swells of ‘Coverage’, Hawke questions what’s real, holding up memories to the light to check if they’re fakes. ‘Animal Enough’ has a subdued glam air that strips away the glitz and pomp to put the focus on the singer’s expressive, rich voice.
Lyrically, Hawke has said this album contains “hidden communications with the people in [her] life” and these tackle love in its various forms. “I have nothing to say about love anymore/Love is nothing, I am yours,” she sighs softly on the tender opener ‘Generous Heart’. The timeless ‘Hold The Sun’ at first seems like a tale of devotional romance, Hawke explaining how she’d “hold you like soft water holds the sun against the sky”. But then, over a melancholy thump and delicate guitars, she reveals pain: “I know that she loves you/So I wouldn’t dare to try.” ‘Goodbye Rocketship’, meanwhile, is a sweet, forgiving letter to a parent who “didn’t know how to raise me/Anymore than I knew how to grow up” that reinforces Hawke’s forthright writing style.
That descriptor could easily be used to the music contained within ‘Blush’ too. It’s an understated listen, but one that draws you in and envelopes you in Hawke’s cosy world of self-reflection. Harris isn’t the only one supporting her lyrical explorations – Okkervil River’s Will Graefe (guitar) and Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass, piano), and drummer Jeremy Gustin help build lush foundations for her storytelling. There’s also an appearance from Norah Jones and her piano on the beautifully contemplative ‘Bringing Me Down’, and Hawke’s young sisters Indiana and Clementine contribute backing vocals to a handful of tracks.
‘Blush’ shows the work of a songwriter who, even as something of a rookie, can command your attention and emotions with the most effortless of lines and make you consider your own life and relationships with the gentle encouragement of a close friend. Hold ‘Blush’ close – it’s a special one.
Label: Mom + Pop
Release date: August 21, 2020