West Coast meets country: Marie Wise-Hawkins is bringing the sound of home to the ears of Nashville — and beyond.
Raised in Santa Clarita, Wise-Hawkins has been performing since a young age — entering Country Showdown at merely 12 years old. Making her way through elementary, junior high and high schools in Canyon Country, she has always been aware of the country music prevalence and culture in her hometown.
“I have had a band since I was 18. My mom would drive me around to all [the] shows we had. [We also had] weekly band rehearsals every Friday at my house,” Wise-Hawkins said.
Yet, growing up near the beach, along with her love for country, has fused into Wise-Hawkins’ current brand as an artist.
This year, Wise-Hawkins released a trilogy of three beach-inspired country songs: “Somewhere in Mexico,” “Find Me on a Beach” and “Island Time,” her latest single. Finding inspiration from artists such as Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, she aims to find her way in the island escapism genre.
“I wanted to do something different that would showcase my California roots and my love of the ocean. I love the ocean, that’s my favorite place to escape, and where I feel happiest. I wanted to bring that element of the ocean into my love of country,” Wise-Hawkins said. “There are not a lot of females doing the beach, country thing. I feel like [my work] is kind of unique in that aspect.”
Her songwriting approach is reflective of her own experiences. For example, she wrote “Somewhere in Mexico” in, you guessed it, Mexico. Experiencing a tropical atmosphere firsthand, she wanted to ensure she cultivated the same climate for people who couldn’t find themselves abroad at that particular moment. Her main incentive is to always make her listeners feel like they’re on vacation.
“[It’s my favorite] song because I was influenced by writing that song when I went on a trip to Cabo San Lucas. It was amazing — between the mariachi bands, the Mexican food, the ocean. I wanted to bring all of those elements into my sound with the sound of the mariachi band and the steel drums,” Wise-Hawkins said.
First releasing music in 2017, the latter singles accompanied by music videos elicit emotions of relaxation and vacation due to their rosy hues and hazy aesthetics, a deliberate choice by Wise-Hawkins.
Her latest music video, “Island Time,” stayed true to her appreciation of being a Californian native — she filmed in Ventura Harbor.
“I have that video coming out on The Country Network on July 24. My songs have also been playlisted on the CMA playlist. They’re exciting things.”
Reflecting on what brought her to Nashville, she discusses her 2015 performance at the Ryman Auditorium during Country Showdown, with her biggest inspiration: LeAnn Rimes.
In a venue otherwise known as the Mother Church of Country Music, standing on that stage marked a milestone as an aspiring artist in country music.
“I grew up on [LeAnn’s] music. I taught myself how to yodel by listening to her [album]. When I got up there standing by my idol, and standing on the stage, it was like a dream. That performance was my favorite performance I’ve ever had,” Wise-Hawkins said.
After her favorite performance, Wise-Hawkins was inspired to pursue her dream and follow her passion in country music, even with a bachelor’s degree in classical voice from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Nine months later, she has lived in Nashville ever since. However, she makes sure to not only visit her roots, but also fuse her So-Cal sound as an homage to the places she calls home.
She also hopes to inspire, the way she has been inspired.
“I think what’s really rewarding is when you have younger artists who look up to you: I have this one little girl who comes into Tootsie’s, and you can just tell she’s super inspired by my band,” Wise-Hawkins said. “It really helps me with my drive and my career and [overall] being looked up to in that way.”
You can find Wise-Hawkins and her band performing six days a week at Nashville’s Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, or online at www.mariewisehawkins.com.