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Hawk Nelson

On Monday, April 3rd, 2006, the eve of the release of their sophomore album Smile, It's The End Of The World, we sat down with the foursome at GMA Week 2006 to talk about their new record, band changes, and their Hollywood experience...
This interview took place on: 4/3/06.

  • (John DiBiase): Your sophomore record comes out tomorrow? How does it feel?
    Jason Dunn: I don't know. I guess I'll find out in the morning. *laughter* Wow, I guess our sophomore record's coming out. I think we're all super excited for sure. It's long overdue, you know? We've put alot of work into it and I'm a little nervous. A lot of people are speaking highly of it, but talk is cheap.
    Daniel Biro: Talk is cheap and numbers don't lie.
    Jason: Numbers do not lie. Honestly I'm really excited. Even if it doesn't do well. The fact we have another record out is really exciting for me, and for all of us I think. We get to play new material now. It's like a whole new phase in Hawk Nelson.
    Daniel: If I may interject. I couldn't fall asleep two nights ago. I was lying in bed and getting really excited about it. Right now I'm kinda tired, it's mid-day and time for a nap, but two nights ago it's two in the morning and I'm so excited I had to write a little journal entry. I don't know if you saw it. I sent it to our manager. (Jason: I heard that you wrote one) I was like, "I can't fall asleep and I'm really excited." It was kind of the feeling I guess, a little bit like when the first one came out. (Aaron Tosti: Like Christmas really.) *laughter* We don't have that in Canada. (Aaron: They have Christ Mas. It's a different holiday. *laughs*) It's amazing that we've made it this far and been able to do a second record with Tooth and Nail. Some bands don't get to. It's an honor.

  • JFH (John): Why the title? Because you seemed to have it last year before you really started writing most of the record, right?
    Jason: Switchfoot Yeah. No actually, no. Well I guess we did. It was during the writing process. Before the songs were recorded, for sure. We wanted to bring a positive response because of all the things that go on in the world - hurricanes and all that jazz. Things obviously aren't the best with 9-11. *phone rings twice and Jason answers, sounding like he just woke up* Hello? *pauses* Yeah, that-that's fine. *giggles around the room* OK, bye. *laughter* (Daniel: Who the heck was that?) That was Margeurite from house cleaning. She's like, "Would you like your room cleaned everyday at five?" I'm like, "Ok..." *laughter* Anyway where were we? So as people started having all these things happening with the hurricane disasters and stuff and started getting freaked out about it being the end of the world. "The end of the world is taking place in 2006, I totally called that in '97!" *laughter* You know people actually do that. My own mother does that, "It's not til 2008." They're planning dates on the return of Christ. Which I think is a total joke. In the Bible it says Christ doesn't even know when He's coming back, only God the Father knows. It's funny how people all of a sudden start putting dates. It's almost like a superstition, you know? So we just kind of saw Smile, It's The End Of The World as not a slap in the face, but almost a sarcastic remark. But a lot of bad things are happening to say the least, but when things come we just need to have a positive attitude. We need to not worry about things that are gonna happen. We always need to be aware of them. But you just smile and don't worry about it because things are under control. And if the end of the world happens that's awesome. We're ready, but nobody knows, you know. It's funny that people put a date on that.
    Daniel: I think that's the major thing and the minor thing like examples with each of us in our lives sometimes we feel like it's all gonna end with your own personal conflicts and problems and even with this band we went through a lot of stuff in the last few years. I'll be honest, sometimes I thought we were gonna have to pack it up and go home. But it didn't end. Just like the world, it's still turning. I saw the sun rise this morning. It was beautiful. Happy to see the sunshine stay. (Jason: I thought you were talking about breaking up in 2008.) *laughter* And totally just having that positive approach.

  • JFH (Amy): We didn't know if you actually came up with the title for the album and didn't have the song "Fourteen" yet or if you wrote the song "Fourteen"...
    Jason: Yea the song went after. We wanted to have a song that went with the theme.
    Daniel: There was actually a song "Smile, It's the End of the World," the title track, that didn't make the record.
    Jason: It may be for sale on iTunes. I don't know if you buy the record online or not you'll get that actual song. I don't know if it actually went through or not.

  • JFH (John): Why is "Fourteen" called "Fourteen"?
    Jason: I've always wanted someone to ask that question. *laughter* I've been waiting for this. It's partly due with laziness. *laughter* Originally we were gonna have 13 tracks and we wanted to have it kind of wierd, like skip number 13 because it's unlucky. So were were gonna go "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14. But we only ended up having 12 songs and I couldn't think of anything else so I'll just leave it at "Fourteen". So that's really why.

  • JFH (John): Your new record is distinctly more mature, more raw effort.
    Jason: Thank you. What if we're still really immature? *laughter*

  • JFH (John): What do you feel lead to this? What were the ingredients for this result?
    Jason: Easy. These two guys right here. With two members right here. Jonathan and Aaron. They're better musicians than the last guys. *everyone goes "Oooo!"* I'm not saying that... You guys are awesome. We played together since we were 12 but didn't have a lot of time to grow. But for these guys, music is their passion. They put everything into playing and that was their passion like us. And I think their ability really made us grow stronger as a band.
    Jonathan Stiengard: I have a lot more pedals. *laughter*
    Daniel: Jay, I'm gonna go on a limb and say, these guys, that they're better musicians by far. Far better than me and you. They're amazing.
    Jonathan: I have at least like 20 pedals.

  • JFH (Amy): How bout your influences for this record?
    Jason: During the whole writing process, I really liked the All American Rejects new record. It's a really really good record, I think. Every song on there is a good song. It's not very often you find a record that you can listen to every track without being bored, you know? That record really did it for me.
    Daniel: I think there's some songs that have a Sum 41 influence. I don't listen to them all the time, but I really like their stuff.
    Jason: I remember before doing all the vocals, every song had a different influence behind it. If I knew I was doing one song, for instance "The One Thing I Have Left," I'd spend like an hour listening to Sum 41 and The Used. Just to get some... obviously it'd still be my own voice but still have a little bit more of that influence. It's a really neat process to see how some songs are different than some songs like Green Day or All American Rejects or Goldfinger or Blink 182 or something like that just to get different feeling I guess for each song.
    Daniel: I think because we all appreciate so many different kinds of music and these guys brought that to the table so that there's more diversity on the record. Not every song sounds the same.
    Aaron: It's not so much pop-punk rock. It's just pop rock.
    Daniel: But it's still Hawk Nelson totally. So a song like "The Show" is... I love that song and the quartet that we got to sing on that. I never thought I'd like Southern Gospel music but I really do like it. And when they sang on it it was like proof that... let's do a whole record like that!

  • JFH (Amy): What's the story behind the market? Do they sing at a market?
    Jason: It takes place at a market downtown. They're like street performers.

  • JFH (Amy): Have you guys gone to see them play there?
    Daniel: They sang at the first Starbucks that ever existed and we were getting stuff there and they had a couple CD's so we bought a few and listened and they were really good. So we went to see them play or sing I guess and they were great. So they came up.

  • JFH (John): What was your inspiration for "Everything You Ever Wanted?"
    Jason: "Everything You Ever Wanted" was a song about a father who walked out on his family, abandoned his kids Jason Dunn, courtesy of and his wife and his whole family. And it goes from his son's point of view - how he was just a kid when his dad walks out on him and it's a tough life. And he realizes his dad's a jerk and can't believe he did that. It's sad that a lot of kids are dealing with that. Even kids in our own church. I guess for kids growing up, all of us had this fairytale view of, "OK, I'm gonna grow up and have the best wife and the best job and I'm gonna live in the biggest house and drive the nicest car." And that's like everyone's dream and something like that comes and falls apart and slowly one by one things just start crumbling. "This isn't what I pictured it being like." It's like my dad just left me and you get fired from your job and all these things start crumbling and he starts building up all this hatred and resentment towards his dad like a lot of kids do. It's like a spiral effect. Because of that one thing, depression sets in which leads to cutting and suicide which a lot of kids are dealing with and this song is kind of telling kids that crappy things are gonna happen in your life, but you need to forgive and forget and move on. Things aren't perfect but that's life and we just need to know that. And this song says there is hope and you need to find resolution by forgiveness. And forgiveness is so essential, you know?
    Daniel: Happened to me and my mom. I'll be honest. She left when I was 13 and those were some hard years. And just a couple of years ago things worked out. I think that's a good song that a lot of people can relate to even if it's not specifically a father. It can happen in your own life to anyone.
    Jason: A brother, a girlfriend or a boyfriend. There's so many scenarios. It doesn't necessarily have to say your dad. It can be anyone, like your best friend. So many kids are dealing with that.

  • JFH (John): Between "Take Me" and "Zero" you seem to have a real heart for people that are struggling with suicide. What brought about this passion?
    Jason: Seriously I don't know how it came about. "Take Me," one night I was going through the song and through my heart just brought back memories of when I was a kid how one of my friends had committed suicide when he was 19. I hadn't forgotten about it and moved on with my life, but I didn't really focus on it a whole lot. I just remember one night it hit me. I had to say something. So literally I talked on stage. It was probably ten minutes, but I knew it was something that had to be said. I didn't know why or anything right before that song. That song "Take Me" is about God and how He'll never leave you. It doesn't really have a whole lot to do with suicide, but it can. I don't know why but I just sang with all my heart. That night 7 or 8 kids came up to me and they were just bawling and saying "I've been struggling with suicide." Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening. I didn't know what to say. I'm like, "Wow, ok... uh?" And it was awkward. That obviously was from God for me to bring that up so I started realizing that kids were hurting and kids in our own church were hurting with things and struggling with that. Like pastors' kids even are struggling with suicide and we tend to ignore them because "the kids outside the church need help, but it's not the kids in the church that need help." And we kind of forget about them and "the kids in high school need our help." And I just think it's really important that every kid knows that they are here for a reason. I've been reading this book by Victor Franco. He's a psychiatrist and how everyone is here for a reason and man's search for meaning is in the book. Everyone's here wanting to know why they're here and they spend most of the majority of their life trying to figure out why they're here. I just think it's really important that every kid knows that they're here for a reason and they all have a passion inside of them and they need to get that passion out on the table and start exploring what they need to do to change this world. Because some of those kids that are suicidal don't realize it, but maybe deep down inside they wanna be that doctor that cures cancer and if they're not here that person's not here to do it. Someone else can do it, but it's not directly what they're called to do. It's an ongoing thing and I could keep going on for hours about this.

  • JFH (Amy): Were you 19 when your friend committed suicide?
    Jason: He was a couple years older than me. I was I think 16 or 17 but I worked with him. I worked in a hospital and we worked together for over two years and his life... He was a really really funny guy, like he'd always make jokes and he was on his football team - one of the top guys on his football team and I could make up theories as to why he decided to do it. I remember he had a pretty serious girlfriend and I remember him always on breaks and always fighting with her on the phone. You know things like that.

  • JFH (John): What do you hope to get across to your listeners with your new album?
    Jason: We wanna remain as positive as possible. We're a pretty positive group of guys. But really honestly they are here for a reason. They have a meaning to be alive. And they have passions and they really need to get those out of them and really follow their dreams and to really give everything they've got into fulfilling their dreams to make them possible.
    Jonathan: There's a little tag at the bottom of our artwork on the inside and it says... What does it say exactly? "This album is a positive response to a negative world?" (Jason: I've never actually seen the artwork. I've never looked at or read it and everything.) That's kind of like the whole idea that everyday we have so many moments where we have an opportunity to make a choice and there's always gonna be tough things that happen in life. Every time something like that happens we have an opportunity to take it negatively and let it affect us in that way or we have an opportunity to turn around and try to make the best of it. Obviously the second one is the harder of the two to tackle.

  • JFH (John): What was it like being in a film (Yours, Mine, & Ours)? And how is it working with the cast? Were there any standout moments?
    Jason: Oh for sure. It was awesome, you know? We did the American Dreams [TV] thing and then going to Hollywood again for the second time was just like... American Dreams was awesome but this was huge compared to that. I can't believe like the stage and the whole house was actually just a prop. It wasn't a real house.
    Jonathan: It was filmed inside a sound studio, but the house was built inside a studio. It was massive.
    Jason: It was literally bigger than the one my parents live in. It was like, "Holy Smokes."
    Jonathan: And everything was kind of oversized. The doors were bigger. And I think that's partially to make... What do you think Jason...? Was it to make the people look small? And also so the cameras can get around easier.
    Jason: But it was so neat meeting Dennis Quaid and Renee Russo and the whole cast. It's like "Oh my gosh, this is so surreal." Y'know? Just being a part of the whole thing was just literally a dream come true for all of us. I mean every kid wants to be in a movie. *laughter* Why we got to do it I'll never ever know, but right now I think God's been opening a lot of doors for us and we have the choice to walk through them or say "no thanks." So every opportunity we're just jumping on them.

  • JFH (John): How did that evolve? Did they come to you and were you one of a couple of bands that had to audition?
    Jason: Well they knew of us. We have awesome management. They totally hooked us up for sure. We gave them the record Letters to the President. They were listening to it and it was alright but it wasn't exactly what they were looking for. But they were like, "We do like that interlude part the 'Recess' part, that quick 30 second part there. Would you be able to make a song with that?" So we kind of took that and kind of branched off with that and wrote "Bring 'Em Out," and they liked that. (Amy: You almost had to know what the theme of the movie was gonna be about too.) They called and like told what the whole scene was. It was like a party scene.
    Jonathan: We talked to the director on the phone and it was kind of funny. It's a family film so it's kind of like the audience is fairly young and so the director was like, "Can you include phrases like 'party on' and 'party all night' and 'rock on?'" And we're like, "Alright." Some of that stuff made it in there. It's kind of funny as far as "Bring 'Em Out" being on the new record. That song sticks out a little bit to me because, lyrically, I think that the new record is a bit more mature than the first and it's taken a step up for sure and Jason did an awesome job with that. And then you have this one song "Bring Em Out" that's like, "Everyone move to the beat" *laughter* "Everyone move to the beat, come on." It's kind of funny.
    Jason: It's like an aerobics song *laughter*

  • JFH (Amy): How has God helped you with the challenges posed with changing members?
    Jason: I think it's been really awesome. The two guys before Jonathan and Aaron are awesome guys, but honestly I think it was that we all have passions and passions shift and change and as we started going on the road most of our passions stayed the same, but others' didn't you know. The guys, a lot of their passion was to be at home with their family and proceed to live a normal life. Because this, by no means is a normal easy life and it is challenging at times and it's not normal and I think they were starting to see... They were keeping in touch with all their friends back home and were missing out on a lot of stuff. What they weren't realizing was all their friends back home were missing out on this and this is something we dreamed about doing when we were kids, but like I said, they had girls in their lives that they were more passionate about, which is totally fine and they wanted to be with them. Which I totally respect and I'm so for that for them because that's what they need to do. And we're really happy for them. We miss the guys a lot touring. They were my two closest friends in high school so having to say goodbye to them was really tough for me especially because me and Dave started this band together.
    Jonathan: I kind of feel the first couple years in a band's touring life is kind of a testing ground for a lot of things and you see a lot of bands go through member changes in their first couple years because some people just don't like the lifestyle because you're away all the time. You're sacrificing your family time if you're a real family oriented person. So people who are in that sort of a vein usually... Sometime they'll get kind of weeded out. Not to make them sound like they're not contributing. Sometimes people just decide it's not their type of thing after the first couple years.
    Jason: It was hard especially because like I said they were my best friends back in high school and when you start a band when you're 14 years old, you don't know it's gonna end up like this. You're just having a lot of fun. But it sucks then because you become friends, then it becomes a business, and you don't wanna break their hearts. It sucks, but they're really really happy. Dave and his wife are actually expecting their first child and I'm super happy for them. Matt's happily married too. Almost married for a year now. (John: That's why he left the band?) Well he actually got married in September, so it's been half a year and he knew it was something he wanted to do. We're super stoked for them for sure. It's tough but it's life.

  • JFH (John): Any last comments?
    Jonathan: Thanks for talking to us!

    Hawk Nelson


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