In the middle of this year Mandy Hawkes, a singer-songwriter from Byron Bay, NSW/Arakwal country, released the single ‘They Say Love’, her first release since the 2017 EP, The Water Was Deep. It reintroduced audiences to Hawkes’s lyrically direct and vocally compelling style. She is not, shall we say, paddling in a shallow pool when it comes to subject matter for her songs – and that is true of her new song too.
‘We Were Just Kids’ sounds like it is a straight-up reminiscence about childhood, filled with details that help us clearly picture Hawkes and her sisters traipsing around Brisbane in the 1980s.
‘I always viewed growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane as not very exciting or worth singing about,’ says Hawkes. ‘When I was dwelling on the idea of nostalgia, I realised it’s okay for everyone to own their version of it. Stories of where we’ve come from are part of our make-up and provide common ground on which we can relate and understand each other better.’
As seen on the page the refrain ‘We were just kids’ seems like a plain descriptor. As it’s delivered by Hawkes, though, and especially as the song builds toward the end, it is freighted with a sense of urgency and a hint of fear of what lay beyond that time of being ‘just kids’. Beyond that time when, as she sings, they ‘didn’t know’ about a whole lot of things.
‘I was fortunate to grow up safely with a religious framework that made life easy to understand,’ explains Hawkes. ‘Now I’m navigating all the complexities of life as an adult, taking stock of who I am and my own beliefs. I can’t help but sometimes feel like crawling back to the comforts of that old simplicity again. Just follow and when required “get down on your knees and pray”. If only that’s all it takes.’
So it is that the apparently straightforward memories of a suburban childhood mean so much more, all of it conveyed in Hawkes’s performance in a perfect example of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’.
‘We Were Just Kids’ was recorded and co-produced by Jordan Power in Byron Bay and is the second single from Hawkes’s forthcoming album.