Zander Hawley is an American songwriter truly coming into his own with this, his debut album, When I Get Blue. Having first come across his music a few years ago (he is one half of LA’s Honeywater with Amandla Stenberg), I’ve been keeping track on Hawley’s solo releases out of Nashville since. There’s a poignancy that permeates throughout Hawley’s writing and with When I Get Blue, we see this young songwriter absolutely flourishing in delivering lyricism that hits hard with the listener.
Melody and acoustic delicacy form the spine of When I Get Blue – some may think the two are basic elements of most song structures but as Hawley wraps heartbreak and tenderness and a thriving confidence in throughout, you realise that this debut effort runs much deeper than a simple acoustic-folk venture.
The vulnerability that drives much of the album will draw the listener in, while those who have been following Hawley since 2015, say, like we have, will notice a distinct maturity within his writing and delivery. An outpouring of emotion following the end of a relationship and the snatching away of the possibilities of a future, now relegated to the ‘what if’ pile of plans, is a striking takeaway from When I Get Blue. Not because it’s depressing, but it’s in the glimmers of hope and insightfulness Hawley injects into each song. It’s a period of time for anyone that is going to hurt and hurt badly for a period of time, but being able to recognise and pull oneself out of that situation is just as important. It’s this vibe and sense of warmth that we cling to as Hawley croons, a warmth that soon fills all those spaces without vocal on the record.
Highlights of When I Get Blue include album opener “Don’t Call Me Back”, “At My Age” and the brilliant “Until We Both Get Old”, featuring the talented Phoebe Bridgers (named as one of our Artists to Watch in 2017, too). Representing a wave of young American songwriters connecting with growing audiences independently, a coupling of Hawley and Bridgers is an example of a musical partnership on the precipice of bringing this wave to the wider market.
Overall, an impressive debut effort from an artist with so much more still to come.
Review Score: 7.9 out of 10.
When I Get Blue is out now.