Cormac McCarthy Inspires Expat Songwriter Kym Hawkins

In Music Stories, Program Notes by Matthew Everettleave a COMMENT

Kym Hawkins isn’t the only reason Knoxville audiences might be interested in Strange Candy, the new EP by Brooklyn indie-pop band Gillian. (Hawkins, a Johnson City native, graduated from the University of Tennessee and played in the Knoxville power-pop band Plainclothes Tracy before moving to New York in 2013.)

No, the peg for most local listeners is that the last three songs on Strange Candy—“Radio Clock,” “Windfall,” and “House Boat”—are all inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. It’s something Hawkins has talked about in previous interviews (including one with the Mercury in April 2015); she says Gillian guitarist/singer/songwriter Geoff Bennington was reading the 1979 Appalachian urban gothic classic, set mostly around downtown Knoxville in the early 1950s, when she joined the band. That encouraged her to finally pick it up, she says, and characters from the novel have popped up in various Gillian songs since.

The references to McCarthy’s book on Strange Candy aren’t explicit, but they’re there—marble and cemeteries (“Radio Clock”), bats and a cave (“Windfall”), and the titular houseboat in “House Boat.” The funky dance-pop songs certainly don’t sound like anything the hard-bitten McCarthy has ever written, though.

The EP, released on June 30, is available at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Bandcamp.

Senior Editor Matthew Everett manages the Knoxville Mercury's arts & entertainment section, including the comprehensive calendar section—Knoxville’s go-to guide for everything worth doing in the area. You can reach Matthew at

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