Gospel Songstress Koryn Hawthorne Talks Life After The Voice, Staying True to Her Artistry, and Being Taken Seriously as a Younger Artist
At only twenty years old, Koryn Hawthorne is already illuminating the Gospel scene. The Abbeville, Louisiana-bred songstress came into prominence while appearing on season eight of NBC’s The Voice, and, three years later, it’s safe to say that she hasn’t been quieted since.
A finalist of the renowned singing competition and an all-time fan favorite, Hawthorne’s riveting vocal ability and powerhouse range has seemingly kept her at the forefront of the Gospel industry, at the top of her game, and on a winning streak. She has stopped at nothing to let her voice be heard, passionately and compellingly delivering the word of God… time and time again.
Subsequent to finishing fourth place on The Voice, Hawthorne snagged a deal with RCA Inspiration, releasing her self-titled debut EP, Koryn Hawthorne, in August of last year. The 4-track project featured her acclaimed single, “Won’t He Do It,” which was exclusively recorded for volume two of OWN’s Greenleaf series’ official soundtrack. Instantly becoming a breakout hit, “Won’t He Do It” then rose to #1 on Billboard’s chart for Gospel Digital Tracks and gained a top spot at #4 on their Hot Gospel Songs chart and #7 for Gospel Airplay.
“Warriors,” which was also from the Koryn Hawthorne EP, made quite a bit of noise as well, quickly being deemed an “empowerment anthem” as it was later highlighted during a campaign for the National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs.
Without a doubt, Hawthorne’s enrapturing talent and distinctive sound are not up for debate, nor could it ever be denied. She therapeutically uses her art to carry God’s message, engaging audiences of all age groups, all while uplifting, encouraging, and restoring the hope that many may have lost.
In the words of her song, “Won’t He Do It,” her only goal is to continuing showing the world that God will do it, but only if you’d let him. For Hawthorne, she surely did, and you can certainly see where it has gotten her.
Check out our recent sit-down with Miss Koryn Hawthorne below!
Parlé Mag: As we know, you were a finalist on season eight of The Voice. However, since then, your career has really gone to new heights. So, in what way would you say being on the show has helped shape you into the artist that you are today?
Koryn Hawthorne: It was a great opportunity. It taught me so much, from interviews to song choices. It taught me how to be myself. Even America voted me in from me just being myself. They accepted me for who I was and my truth. So, it prepared me for this—interviews, singing, and all of that. But, most importantly, it taught me how to be myself.
Parlé Mag: Following your stint on The Voice, you were then signed to RCA Inspiration and, from there, things pretty much just started taking off for you. So, was it scary at first? Did you ever feel like too much was happening too fast? If so, how did you adjust to everything that came with this newfound success?
Koryn Hawthorne: I feel like it’s just now beginning. [laughs] I don’t think that it’s happening too fast. I mean, when you work for something your whole life, of course, it’s going to be weird, whenever it actually happens. Just like now, I’m still trying to take it all in. But, I’m definitely not going to take this moment for granted; I’m super grateful. It pushes me to work hard, because, just like that, things could go left. You know?
Parlé Mag: Right.
Koryn Hawthorne: I’ve been working for this my whole life. So, I just feel super validated that all of the hard work that not only me, but my mom, put into this is really paying off. Even with the label, so far, all of the hard work that they’ve done; they took a chance on me. We actually got something to work with. It’s all just God, honestly. It’s all God. I give everything back to Him. This is all His doing; it’s not even about me. So, I’m taking the work as He gives it.
Parlé Mag: Your music offers a very unique and contemporary sound. How have you managed to consistently stay true to yourself and your artistry while also not being afraid to sort of push the envelope, musically?
Koryn Hawthorne: Well, I’ve always been a super versatile person. I love all kinds of music. Even now, I still listen to everything! I think that’s just the most important thing for me. I feel like, just because I’m a Gospel artist, I don’t have to sound like typical Gospel would sound. You know?
Parlé Mag: Agreed.
Koryn Hawthorne: So, I’m always trying to remember, ‘Hey, you do still like other types of music.’ Even when I’m creating music, [I like] being able to put all of those things in there… just to make it more relatable to me. Knowing that always helps. I always try to remember who I am.
Parlé Mag: As a younger Gospel artist, do you feel that it’s more challenging to be taken seriously in this type of genre?
Koryn Hawthorne: Yeah, of course! Because you have a whole bunch of old heads. [laughs] A whole bunch of old Gospel heads, legends. The legends, those are the people who are still around. The Kirk Franklins, Mary Marys—that’s who we’re surrounded by. So, I think, being the younger artist, it is kind of hard to be taken seriously. I’m just trying to stay true to who I am. I know my journey; I know everything that I’ve been through. I think the way that I kill that is doing what I’m doing… successfully. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re successfully getting the job done, so, hey!
Parlé Mag: Yes, I love it! So, your self-titled debut EP, Koryn Hawthorne, released last year, which has garnered great acclaim. If anything, what would you say you’ve learned about yourself, creatively, since recording that project?
Koryn Hawthorne: That I can actually write. [laughs] Because, before, I was just a cover artist. Growing up, I did a lot of competitions. So, I was always singing other people’s songs, even with The Voice. That was so in my wheelhouse. All of those things came easy to me. Also, I learned that I love being in the studio. Because I’m a cover artist, I feel like I’m a performer. That’s what I do! Like, ‘Okay, I’ma get on the stage and entertain y’all.’ But, I love creating, also. I love being in the studio, I love writing. That’s when you step into your artistry, you know? It’s great to be able to perform, but I’m a creator now, because I’m making my own stuff. So, it’s a cool process.
Parlé Mag: You worked with the Grammy award-winning Warryn Campbell and Aaron Lindsey, among others, to bring that EP to life. How was that experience? Will you be working with them again on your forthcoming album?
Koryn Hawthorne: That experience was incredible! Just being surrounded by people who are gifted and successful in their gift, it came easy. We finished that EP in five days!
Parlé Mag: Wooow!
Koryn Hawthorne: Yeah! It goes to show you that whenever you’ve been given gifts from God and operate in that and in the spirit, then give it back to God, there’s nothing that you can’t do. Warryn and Aaron are incredible! Just seeing them in their element was amazing. Aaron Lindsey is an awesome writer. Warryn Campbell played every single song! He played every instrument. Every single instrument! In twenty minutes, it was like, “Okay, guys. Bye!” [laughs]
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Koryn Hawthorne: So, it was incredible! It was a good experience.
Parlé Mag: Let’s talk about your single, “Won’t He Do It,” which has since blown up the Billboard charts and even gained you a guest appearance on OWN’s hit series, Greenleaf. Did you expect for the song to become so commercially successful and receive the great response that it did?
Koryn Hawthorne: Nope, I didn’t! I did “Won’t He Do It” for Greenleaf, actually. They wanted for me to be a part of their soundtrack. They had heard other songs that I had done. They played this song, and they were like, “Oooh, what do you think about this?” I thought that the song was lit! The most important thing, for me, was basically trying to push it back and think about how to refer to my life, how to embody it. Like, ‘What has God done for me?’ Honestly, my life is literally that song. There’s no other song that’s perfect for me. It was made for me! Shout out to Makeba [Riddick-Woods], who wrote it! My whole thing was just trying to feel it… on a personal level. That way, when I sung it, it didn’t sound like a cover; it sounded like it was mine.
After we did it, I honestly never thought about it going past the soundtrack for Greenleaf, even though we got to do the episode and stuff like that. I didn’t think it was going to be my single. Shout out to the label for making that good decision. They were like, “This needs to be your single! This is your song!” [laughs] So, I never thought about it like that. I’m just thankful that the job got done, because I really sung it with the intention of people needing to feel this. And people have really been inspired by it!
Parlé Mag: Definitely! It’s a great song.
Koryn Hawthorne: Thank you!
Parlé Mag: No problem! So, you were nominated for ‘New Artist of the Year’ and ‘Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year’ at the 2018 Stellar Awards. How did you find out about the news? And what emotions were running through your head at the time?
Koryn Hawthorne: Well, they were announcing the nominees on Facebook Live, and I was sitting in the bed with my mama and my four-year-old brother. [laughs]
Parlé Mag: Aw!
Koryn Hawthorne: We had gone out and told everybody to vote. When they announced my name, I was just like, ‘It’s lit! Okay, we did it!’ I was super grateful and honored for the opportunity. It’s another validation thing. Like, we’re on the right path, and we’ve worked hard. I grew up watching the Stellars, and I presented last year!
Parlé Mag: Really? The irony!
Koryn Hawthorne: Yes, I actually presented the award for ‘Best New Artist’ last year! My team, they cursed me so much last year. They were like, “Next year, you’re going to be here. You’re going to be nominated!’ I was not only nominated but I performed, too. God did that!
Parlé Mag: You lead a busy lifestyle, I’m sure. Aside from the music, how have you been able to kind of keep that sense of balance in your life? Like, making sure that you allot out time for yourself in the midst of it all?
Koryn Hawthorne: When I’m home, I just be watching Netflix.
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Koryn Hawthorne: I like TV shows, so that’s all I do when I’m home… and eat. I’m just not a needy person. That’s what I like to do for fun. People be doing all kinds of crazy stuff. I just want to get in my bed. [laughs] My mom, she keeps me down-to-earth, for sure, and my family. I just keep myself centered around honest people who have good intentions for me. I don’t really have friends like that, so I just keep my family around. They do that for me; that’s their job!
Parlé Mag: What do you want people to understand about Koryn Hawthorne, as a person and as an artist?
Koryn Hawthorne: That it’s not about me, honestly. It’s about God. I chose to do this for a reason, and it’s because I love to inspire people, I love Jesus, and I want to give people that. A long time ago, I gave it up and said, ‘It is not about me; it’s about Him and what He has for me.” So, I think I just want people to realize that—I’m not even being cliché—Jesus is doing it! I’m not doing it. He’s using me! And He can do that for you, too.
Parlé Mag: At this point in your life right now, how would you describe your journey?
Koryn Hawthorne: It was hard! Of course, I’ve been singing ever since I was two years old. So, it’s been super tough. I got told “no” a lot. Some failures, some mistakes. But, ultimately, I think it’s just grace and mercy and God guiding my steps. Like, purpose, that’s what has driven my life.
Parlé Mag: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a performer?
Koryn Hawthorne: As a performer, I would say, you have to work hard. Take everything as a learning experience. Trust the process. Work hard! If you love music—this is for every kind of music—allow everything to influence you. I would say, even if you’re not trying to be in the music industry, whatever gift that God has given you, I encourage you to please trust God with it! Give it back to Him.
Parlé Mag: What’s next for you? Any details you could give us on the album or a possible tour?
Koryn Hawthorne: Yes! We’re working on the album now, just trying to get some more inspirational things for you guys. Season three of Greenleaf, y’all be looking out for that. I will be on this season, making on a little appearance. Possible tour in the summer. Stay tuned!
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