Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins: ‘My music career started with women’

Taylor Hawkins discusses his upbringing, career and the women who have influenced him.

Occupation: Musician
Age: 49
Relationship status: Married
Best known for: Being the drummer with Foo Fighters

Taylor Hawkins: “Mum was always there for me emotionally. She let me open up to her and showed me it was okay to have a gentle side.”

My paternal grandmother, Josie Hawkins, grew up in the Great Depression and lived in Jackson, Mississippi. She’d throw us grandkids into the back of her old Buick while wearing giant sunglasses and listening to Kenny Rogers. She was a sweet woman who cooked amazing soul food. She didn’t know how to sit still. She lived almost to age 90 and was the matriarch of the Hawkins family.

My mum, Elizabeth Ann Hawkins, had her demons and a dark side. She was full of love, sweetness and tenderness and the total opposite of my dad [Terry]. She always believed in me. I would stand in front of her as a kid and sing, impersonate or dance for her. When I first got drums, she was the one who would watch me play. She was a big supporter and told me I’d make it. She counteracted Dad’s stony coldness, typical of a ’70s man.

I remember going to my first rock concert in 1982 to see Queen. I told Mum, “I’ll play that stadium one day.” She looked at me with eyes that matched my ambition. Mum was always there for me emotionally. She let me open up to her and showed me it was okay to have a gentle side.

Mum was a little absent sometimes because of her demons and my older sister Heather took up a lot of that slack. When dinner didn’t get finished because Mum had passed out on the couch, Heather was the one who made sure everything ran smoothly.

My mum died from an aneurysm, nine months after Dad died in 2011 from emphysema. They loved each other, but for the last five years of his life it was Mum who took care of him. I saw this great release in Mum’s eyes after he died because she’d been carrying his oxygen tank everywhere they went. They were like best friends; they lived a full life. But there was tragedy, too.

Heather is the toughest member of our family. She’s the middle child and can still boss us all around. While my dad worried I’d live on his couch for his whole life because I was some loser musician, he never had to worry about Heather. My older brother, Jason, followed in Dad’s footsteps and became a businessman.

My celebrity crush was Olivia Newton-John. I noticed her in Grease, but even earlier than that I fell in love with her country songs. I was around three when I heard Have You Ever Been Mellow. There was something in her voice that I loved before I saw her.

“I only speak for myself, but the man will always lose because the woman has the power.”

I remember having a crush on a girl in my street called Stacey. I was five and she was 14. I was totally in love with her.

My first kiss was in the fourth grade with a girl called – wait for it – Kelly Butts. I had my heart broken in high school by a girl called Danielle Nelson. I remember that feeling of sadness.

My music career started with women; I first came to Australia playing in Alanis Morissette’s band –
I owe so much to her. I recorded with many women on my most recent album with the Coattail Riders, Get the Money: Chrissie Hynde, LeAnn Rimes and Heart’s Nancy Wilson. I did ask Olivia Newton-John but her management never got back to me. Maybe one day.

I married Alison Hawkins in 2005. We have three children [Oliver, 13, Annabelle, 12, and Everleigh, 7]. There’s a song on Get the Money called I Really Blew It, which is for those men who think they can win an argument with their missus! I only speak for myself, but the man will always lose because the woman has the power.

I wrote a song about Annabelle called Middle Child. There’s a line, “you clean your mess up almost every night”, and she does. It’s tough being a middle child – but she is my win and I love her so much.

Medicine at Midnight by Foo Fighters is out now.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale July 18. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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