Claire Hawkins ’15 brings new life to the term “troubadour” as a traveling singer/songwriter. Her rapidly-growing YouTube channel has amassed over 15,000 subscribers and more than a million views from people all over the world who follow her global adventures as an independent musician.

Hawkins first launched her international music career with a DIY European tour. Using Dublin, Ireland as a homebase, the Foreign Voices Travelers Tour supported the release of Hawkins’s EP ‘Foreign Voice,’ and the tour took place in youth hostels, channeling the special moments of connection that these travel spaces provide. Most recently, Hawkins spent a month in Southern France as part of the government-funded Odyssée Artist-in-Residence Program, where she worked on an original songwriting project centered around the theme of intercultural connection.

Community and connection are the heart of the work that Hawkins does. Her strong belief in the unifying power of music is a driving force behind her art, and it shines through in both her narrative lyrics and her eclectic folk-pop melodies. As she travels the globe with her songs, Hawkins hopes to bring people together, in the way that only music can.

She is currently preparing to release her third EP, due out later this year.

Can you describe your process for writing music and where you find inspiration?

I try to live by the belief that you can’t just wait for inspiration to strike, you have to actively seek it out. Often, this takes the form of jotting down ideas on my phone while I’m going about my day, but sometimes it means sitting down with my guitar, setting a timer for an hour, and willing a song to come out in that limited time. Learning to take a more active approach to songwriting is one of the most significant ways I’ve grown as a writer in recent years, and it’s led to some songs that I’m especially proud of.

How did you become interested in vlogging about your travels? What do you hope people take away from your videos? 

For me, vlogging feels like a form of public journaling. Especially as a solo traveler, I really value the opportunity to share my adventures with other people. My music has brought me to some pretty incredible places – playing with a violinist in Bulgaria, shooting music videos in Ireland, recording demos in Thailand, writing songs in France – and capturing these special moments on camera allows me to invite my following to be part of the experience. Vlogging has turned my “solo” career into a communal endeavor, which I hope feels welcoming to anyone watching my videos.

How did you come to learn about the artist residency program in France? How did you benefit from that experience?

I’m always exploring opportunities to travel with my music, whether it’s performing in youth hostels across Europe on an independently-organized tour, spending a summer in Berlin participating in the local music scene, or temporarily moving to Ireland to record with local Irish musicians. When I read about the Odyssée Artist-in-Residence Program on a travel opportunities site, I knew I had to apply. The 25 days I spent in Canet-en-Roussillon ended up being some of the most rewarding days of my music career so far. The residency was completely self-guided, which was challenging, but also taught me a lot about myself, both as a writer and as an extrovert who didn’t know she could go nearly a month all on her own! I really pushed myself, writing 20 songs, giving a final performance and artist talk for the local community, and speaking almost exclusively in French. The experience gave me a new level of confidence in my abilities as a writer that I’m exceedingly grateful for.

In what ways did your time at Riverdale impact you after graduation?

My time at Riverdale taught me how to seek out opportunities. I got to take mini-courses on songwriting and music production and even lead a songwriting activity group during my senior year. The Parents Association Summer Grants Program provided me with funding to record in a studio for the first time, release my first single, and build my artist website. As early as the summer after 9th grade I was already learning how to write grant proposals and network with music industry professionals to make my career aspirations a reality, lessons that are still incredibly relevant to my career today.

What are some of your favorite Riverdale memories? Were there any specific teachers that influenced your time at Riverdale?  

One memory that always sticks out to me is spending free periods in Lindenbaum playing the acoustic guitar there and singing with friends. We had so many nice little jam sessions there throughout high school. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite teacher since I had so many great ones at Riverdale, but the French poetry analysis class that I took with Madame Hoffman was extra special. That class really changed the way that I approach songwriting, and it’s something I think about often. It also inspired me to continue with French in college, and I don’t think my French would be anywhere near as good today if I hadn’t taken it.

What are your summer plans?

Now that I’m back from France, my focus is on releasing my next EP! I have five new songs that I’m incredibly proud of and can’t wait to share. I have a couple of NYC shows coming up in June, and I’m working on scheduling more local shows later in the summer to celebrate the release of my new music. I’ll be posting more on my social media sites as the release gets closer, and I’m of course still sharing weekly videos on my YouTube channel as well.

What are you currently listening to?

Anaïs Mitchell is one of my biggest songwriting inspirations, so I always have her music on. She’s also in a band called Bonny Light Horseman, who are really fantastic as well. CMAT is an Irish artist I’ve been listening to quite a lot recently, and Noah Kahan’s “Stick Season” album was a great soundtrack for my recent train rides through France.