Scott Hawley may be a “rocket scientist” by training, but he is a folk singer-songwriter at heart. A Nashville, Tennessee transplant by the way of Austin, Texas, Hawley is set to release his sophomore album titled How You Ache in August 2017. Hawley’s artistry personifies the dichotomy between his cognitive demeanor as an astrophysicist and emotional side as a musician. As he explains, “I tend to process my life experiences for love and personal development through the metaphors that are at my disposal as a physicist, professor, natural philosopher, bachelor, and self-proclaimed geek.”
Hawley’s journey and passion to become a musician started early in life. Born in Hong Kong, his family soon returned to the U.S., where he spent his childhood in Northern Virginia. Hawley grew up on a steady diet of R&B, rap, classic and progressive rock music. However, it wasn’t until he went to graduate school at The University of Texas that Hawley became fully immersed in the sound of the acoustic guitar. His musical education was profoundly influenced by fingerstyle guitar greats including Michael Hedges, Monte Montgomery, Pierre Bensusan, and David Wilcox.
Hawley was finishing up a Ph.D. in Physics while in Austin, and began to use his music as a way to express his emotions. He found that playing music flowed easily to him, but crafting song lyrics took a bit more work. That concern aside, Hawley started playing out regularly at esteemed live Austin venues as the Cactus Café and Saxon Pub. He found that he had a knack for connecting emotionally with audiences, and began building a strong local following. However, the reality of Hawley’s academic career soon entered the equation and he took a two-year position as a researcher in Berlin, Germany. While there, Hawley developed a European following playing to packed audiences in clubs, including Berlin’s famed Checkpoint as well as the Bebop Bar.
Upon Hawley’s return to Austin in 2003, he returned to playing the live music circuit once again. Hawley met the well-known producer, Stephen Doster, who was intrigued by Hawley’s unique artistic perspective. Doster, who worked with well-known artists including Lyle Lovett, Dr. John, and Double Trouble, helped Hawley to craft five vignettes in the time-honored tradition of Austin’s “roots flavored” music. The resulting 2004 EP, “Partial” began to garner radio airplay while Hawley continued to develop his energetic stage presence, both individually as well as with his band.
Fate intervened once again with Hawley’s academic appointment as a physics professor at Belmont University in 2006. Hawley made the move to Nashville, Tennessee, spending the next decade dedicated to the scholarly pursuits of teaching and research. Hawley continued to play music in his spare time at such Nashville venues as The Rutledge and Edgehill Studios. However, it wasn’t until Hawley gained tenure in 2013 that he was finally able to devote more time to his beloved craft.
With his new album, How You Ache, Hawley once again shares his stories of searching for love and meaning through the lens of science, geek culture, and faith. The album brings Hawley’s cognitive side into play across a range of complex themes. The album moves from the space-time paradoxes of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno with the breakup song “Can’t Move On” to love and personal growth based on lost civilizations with the album’s first single “Atlantis.” Not to be forgotten, themes focusing on superheroes (“Diary of a Superhero”), cowboys (“Windy Places”), and plant life (“Live It On the Line”) are featured predominately in the album as well.
As for the immediate future, Hawley plans to tour around How You Ache. Interestingly, Hawley used his scientific know-how to build a binaural audio player to help promote the album. He has plans for future projects, including an album based on “silly science songs.” As Scott explains, “I’ve been so fortunate to use my two loves – music and science – to share my voice as an artist. Nothing getting me so excited as when my music makes an impact on others. It has been a privilege to share my struggles with identity, technology, and transcendence to affect others in a profound way.”
-- Sarita Stewart