You’d never except to meet a possible pop star while you are both repetitiously steaming secondhand designer clothes, but that’s how I met Hazel English. I’ve had a lot of weird jobs in my time, and through out them all there were always creatives beside me. Sometimes it was obvious, sometimes I knew, but sometimes I really was a total oblivious fool.
The first time I met Hazel English was when we both worked at a secondhand e-commerce start up, where conversation stuck to smalltalk and bad jokes and activities included listening to playlists, podcasts, and audiobooks, so we could stay as sane as possible. We all knew we had different lives after we clocked out, but it all became very obvious when the company dismantled and all of us were set free with a decent severance. We finally had the room to work on things we wanted to. I got deeper into writing and, soon enough, later Hazel English’s name began to pop up everywhere I looked.
It was a happy surprise, seeing someone that you would have called a friend at an old job be accepted into the world you’ve dove into yourself. Now every time her name pops up in conversation, it’s beside somthing like, “She’s going to be a star.”
So of course I had to doodle with her. It was a necessity, because there is still no doubt in my mind that she truly is going to be a star. Not only that, but I got to speak to her just before her new video premiered. And before it was announced that she would be releasing her forthcoming EP Never Going Home via House Anxiety/Marathon Artists.
Hazel decided to move to San Francisco three and half years ago while she was still in college. She was in an exchange program to San Jose State, but commuted there from the Inner Richmond District of San Francisco. “That’s how much I did not want to live in San Jose,” says Hazel. “I had visited before, and I just kind of knew that I wanted to live here (SF). So I chose a school that was close by.”
Hazel grew up in Sydney, Australia, but had been studying Creative Writing in Melbourne (still Australia) before she moved to San Francisco. She got into music ten years ago, but the first instrument she ever played was the euphonium at 10 in school band. “It was pretty much bigger than me. I wanted to play the trombone, but my arms were too short. So I played the euphonium. Later I picked up guitar, when I was about 16,” said Hazel. She starting writing her own songs two years after that.
“I met Jackson (Phillips of Day Wave), my producer, at a bookshop that I worked at and it just worked out that we would make music together after that. Felt really natural. I didn’t have any expectations, it was all really for fun. I did not expect anything to happen.”
Hazel is someone you’d expect to work in a bookstore, she’s a little timid, always adorned in vintage pastels, usually very to herself in her nature. Even when we worked together, she spent most of that time listening to audiobooks and I always had admired that about her. The whole time I just knew there was something larger than our world in her head, and that’s not because I also knew she wrote fiction. “I’m really not someone who likes the spotlight, so all the attention is a bit overwhelming, but I’m stoked that people are into it. It’s all I can hope for. All you can hope for as a musician is that people will connect with your music. That’s like the best thing and that’s all I really want out of it.”
I told how I believed that she was coming into the scene at a new golden age of Bay Area music, and she agreed. “I think everyone is freaking that everyone is leaving, but I am constantly being introduced to more and new local music.” We agreed about how welcoming the scene really can be. “That’s why I moved here, I felt that from day one. I was drawn here from that inclusive, open vibe San Francisco has,” she said.
Hazel currently lives in Oakland, but she still defines herself as a San Francisco musician. “I don’t really think people back home know where Oakland is, so it’s kind of easier to just say that I live in San Francisco. It was a pretty big adjustment moving here from Melbourne. I didn’t know anyone when I first came, so that’s why I started to get involve with the music scene and meet people that way. It seemed to work for me. It felt like a very open place, it wasn’t that hard to get started. I felt the transition was easy, maybe that’s just because I felt I belonged here. Things just started to fall into place as soon as I moved here.”
There’s a lot more to the conversation: We spoke about how annoying tall people are to stand behind at concerts, how they always have to be in the way even though they can perfectly see from the side. We discussed how unfair it can be to be a woman in music, because you have so much more pressure on you. You have to look stunning all the time and the moment it comes out that you collaborated on a project, your artistic integrity gets questioned. We talked, we pet strangers’ dogs, and we doodled. I could keep writing about what we spoke about, but for now check out the doodle.