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The story of Canadian singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman is equally compelling whether you take it as fact or fantasy. Workman, who would eventually launch a celebrated career as solo artist and indie rock producer, was born and raised in Bay Lake. From this point on, however, the tale gets somewhat hazy and wholly bizarre, owing in large part to the short, ongoing biography published on his website. Self-styled by the artist himself, it seemed to be a partially invented, quasi-fictional account of his first 24 years and created quite a buzz (and a fair amount of conjecture, scuttlebutt, and intrigue) from media and fans even before his music had a chance to become widely known. According to the autobiography, his upbringing included a variety of jobs, including ice-cutting in the Canadian wilderness, polishing rental shoes at a tap-dance academy, and eventually becoming one of the school's top dancers. Workman's bio also included a series of letters to a fictional ideal lover and muse who lived underwater, Isadora (which doubled as the name of his record label), that originally appeared in the personal section of Now Magazine. The letters were eventually collected into an actual book, Hawksley Burns for Isadora, and published in the spring of 2001 by the Canadian alternative, experimental Gutter Press.
Even if much of his life-story is fabricated, it bespeaks a man of deeply felt impulses and a broad imagination, someone willing to make art even out of his own life — and with a sense of humor to boot. His debut album, For Him and the Girls, found Workman playing virtually every note in addition to recording the songs in his own home studio. Released in Canada in 1999, it received critical raves in that country and in the United Kingdom, where Workman spent considerable time touring. An American release followed the next year. 2001 brought a second self-produced effort, (Last Night We Were) the Delicious Wolves, released on Universal in Canada and the U.K., again with Workman producing and playing almost every instrument. He supported the album with more shows throughout Canada and a second U.K. tour, this time through Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as a trip to Paris. His wild taletelling also began to extend to the stage, where he circulated stories as wide-ranging as his time spent in the circus as a "mad-maker" (the one who goes into the cages to make the lions mad before their performances) during his youth to help his family get by economically to the stage musical that he has been working on.
In addition, Workman played on and produced albums for fellow Canadian artists John Southworth, Sarah Slean, Tegan and Sara, the Cash Brothers, and Paul Macleod.