Here, Hawkins exclusively described for Billboard some of the concepts encapsulated in The Stories We Tell Ourselves, as well as how “Let ’Em Burn” was borne from observing people’s behavior in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election:
“It’s a pretty big range on this record from song to song of very personal experiences to more global experiences -- the content I was reflecting on personally a lot over this year, from my own personal evolution and reflection to my thoughts on stuff that was happening in the political world and social world. 2016 was probably one of the craziest elections this country has ever seen. It was pretty bizarre.
“I felt like in my personal life, I was trying to sift through what’s a thought about reality vs. what is actually reality, ’cuz a lot of times, we tell ourselves stories about what’s going on, whether it’s in our personal relationship or our careers or our own emotions. And those stories are usually half-truths. Reality is usually something much bigger than those things.
“In the political world, I felt like I was watching two sides that I didn’t have a dog in either fight, and I felt like the stories that people were parroting and echoing in these echo chambers of people who agreed with them were many times half-truths. So this record is really focused on a personal process of being more skeptical of what people say out there, what the media says and also being more skeptical of what your own mind is telling you about your own feelings and where they’re coming from, why you’re feeling it and is it really someone else’s fault or is it something you need to deal with."
Watch the official lyric video for "Let 'EmBurn," which Billboard is premiering today:
"When the 2016 elections were happening, there was a lot of craziness on both sides. Because of the nature of not just the election being so peculiar and bizarre, I also saw how quick everyone was to believe things that they really didn’t know. What I mean by that is, coming back to the record title, we look at a media outlet and you may agree with this ideology, whether it’s conservative or liberal, in any direction, but people just parrot things and share things. At the end of the day, you don’t really know, ’cuz you’re not there. You’re not talking to these people one on one, and everybody’s grasping to try to understand the situation and get the best version of what’s happening in reality.
“But I just saw how certain people would get with things you can’t be certain about, because you’re human, and you’re limited in how much information you can actually have true access to. I don’t mean to say that in a way of, ‘Well, just be apathetic, and don’t take action on anything.’ I just think that as a whole, our country could be a lot more skeptical of not only the things that the media shares, but also the things that they say or think about themselves.
“[In “Let ’Em Burn”], there’s a lyric: ‘Everybody, everybody lies/Everybody, everybody buys it/Everybody, everybody, we all divide.’ People, when they hear this song, if they’re on the right or the left, they’re going to think we’re talking about their opposite or the candidate they hate or whatever. That’s fine, they can identify with it that way, but when we say, ‘Everybody,’ we mean literally everybody. I’m talking about the people on Facebook as much as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I think they’re equally as much a part of the problem with how our discourse and dialogue with each other is so flawed.”