Born in 1975 in Huntsville, Ontario, Ryan Corrigan moved to Toronto to pursue music full time. He started using the name Hawksley Workman, and busked on the streets in between gigs around town. His inability to land a major record deal early on was coupled with the fact he preferred doing things his own way.
He formed his own label, Isadora Records in 1999, and set up his own studio in the basement of a friend’s recently deceased grandmother’s house. He not only worked on his own material there for the next few years, but also honed his production skills while working with other artists, as well. This would come in handy, as he’s acted as primary producer and engineer for all of his albums, and produced John Southworth’s debut that year, SEDONA ARIZONA.
Recorded in only a few weeks, FOR HIM AND THE GIRLS was released in ’99, and instantly drew both compliments and criticisms for the music, as well as his marketing practices. The music was an early prelude to what would generally confound critics for the rest of his career. The ‘hardcore yodelling’ in the lead-off “Maniacs,” was mixed with “No Sissies,” which sounded more like something The Proclaimers would record if they were trying to be a heavy metal group, and “Tarantulove” seemed at times to be a modern interpretation of traditional gypsy music. The album gained an audience in the UK, and he was picked up by Ba Da Bing Records.
To promote the album itself, he took out ads in a Toronto magazine in the classifieds section, personal letters to a fictional lover named Isadora. These letters were later published as a book, “Hawksley Burns for Isadora. In 2000, he collaborated on CHROME REFLECTION with Andrew Cash and Jason Collett, billed collectively as Bird, which also featured the core of Workman’s own live band. Keeping himself busy with other projects, he also produced Paul McLeod’s CLOSE AND PLAY, The Cash Brothers’ PHONEBOOTH TORNADO, and Tegan and Sara’s THIS BUSINESS OF ART albums.
He returned with his sophomore solo release in ’01. Like its predecessor (and all releases thereafter), (LAST NIGHT WE WERE) THE DELICIOUS WOLVES produced a range of influences and experimentations in sounds, generating singles out of “Striptease” and “Jealous of Your Cigarette.” Once again, the press kit was entertaining, if nothing else, claiming he’d learned music while working as a janitor at a tap dance academy and holding a world record for parasailing, neither of which was actually true.
Before the year was up, he also released an EP called ALMOST A FULL MOON. The yuletide-themed album was self-penned, and came and went without barely a notice. He earned a Juno Award the following spring for best new solo artist.
He signed a major label deal with Universal Music in late ’02, and prior to following it up in 2003 with LOVER/FIGHTER. The label released “Anger As Beauty” as the first of three singles. Recorded in an abandoned schoolhouse in Muskoka, Ontario that he’d converted into a studio, the record was high on energy, and produced the hits “Smoke Baby,” “We Will Still Need a Song,” “Even An Ugly Man,” “No Reason To Cry Out Your Eyes,” and his cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” That same year, Workman was featured in the award-winning MuchMusic social issue documentary entitled, “Inside Your Threads,” chronicling the working conditions of sweat shop workers in Bangladesh.
2004’s BEFORE WE WERE SECURITY GUARDS was actually initially recorded in ’98, and contained some of his earliest works. Initially only available at his live shows, Workman eventually also put it up for sale on his website, but never in the music stores. Later that year, the live DVD, LIVE IN LILLE, showcased him on in France during his European tour. A year later, he produced Serena Ryder’s album, UNLIKELY EMERGENCY, then released it on his Isadora label. Prior to that, he’d also produced albums for The Skydiggers and Sarah Slean.
He returned with TREEFUL OF STARLING in 2006, dumbfounding the critics and the audiences alike with its relatively quiet approach. Still, “A Moth Is Not A Butterfly,” “Hey Hey Hey (My Little Beauties),” and “You and The Candles” showcased his eccentric side, primarily just himself and a piano, with the occasional drums and bass accompanying.
Before the year was up, he dug into the vaults and released two more live albums – PUPPY, recorded in 2000, and MY LITTLE TOOTHLESS BEAUTIES, recorded on the LOVE/FIGHTER tour in ’04. In both cases, they were initially only available at live events, but were eventually made available for download.
For 2008’s BETWEEN THE BEAUTIFULS, Workman called in the production expertise of Martin “Doc” McKinney, one of the few times he didn’t handle the controls himself. It produced the single, “Piano Blink,” and other critics’ favourites like the lead-off “All The Trees Are Hers” and the intricacies of “Pomegranite Daffodil.” A supporting Canadian tour kept him on the road for the next six months. And although he primarily toured with a full five-piece band, at times he’d appeared as a duo, and even solo once on this particular tour.
Though he’d established a core of diehard fans and had already travelled throughout North America and Europe, his real radio breakout came later that year with the release of LOS MANLICIOUS, which had been on the shelves in the UK for several months. The hard-hitting “When You Gonna Flower?” had enough mainstream appeal that it got heavy airplay on rock stations throughout Canada and Europe, and broke the top 20 in several markets. The video also became on of the most played on MuchMusic that year.
The record had actually been recorded during the same sessions as the previous album, and although he intended on releasing LOS MANLICIOUS first, he succumbed to executives’ pressure and released the more mellow BETWEEN THE BEAUTIFULS first instead. Both records also featured several outside producers, including McKinney returning, John Southworth, Ken Friesen, and legendary Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, and KISS producer, Bob Ezrin. The end result was a gold album when it sold in excess of 50,000 copies in Canada. He also again kept himself busy working with other artists, producing for Great Big Sea and Hey Rosetta!
Two new albums were released in 2010, starting with MEAT that January, featuring “We’ll Make Time,” “Chocolate Mouth,” and “Baby Mosquito.” It was followed by MILK, featuring the lead-off “Animal Behavior,” “Google Jesus,” and “Not Your Mother’s Music.” Although MILK was officially available in August of that year, the majority of the tracks had actually been released via Workman’s website over the course of several months.
Deciding to expand on his Christmas album a decade earlier, he released FULL MOON ELEVEN in 2011. This time the songs were re-recorded while taking a sabbatical in Paris with slightly different interpretations and mixes. He’d also lent a hand on four other artists’ albums within the previous year and a half – working with Justin Rutledge, Jeremy Fisher, Adaline, and Carleton Stone.
Workman’s music has also been featured numerous times on television, including the programs, “Scrubs,” “Being Human,” “Queer As Folk,” “Whistler,” and Falcon Beach.” Additionally, he’s jumped at the opportunity to work in films, and had supporting roles on both “Score: A Hockey Musical” and “Still Mine.” Along with his one Juno win in 2000, he’s also been nominated three other times – in 2002 and 2009 for best adult alternative album of the year, and in ’04 for songwriter of the year for “Anger As Beauty.”