Music Star Ty Stonehawker On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Guernslye Honoré

Guernslye Honore
Authority Magazine
20 min readJan 6, 2024


Don’t expect it to go viral. In the age of social media and the internet, some artists break through the fray with just a hope and a prayer — recognized by a simple reel or video that goes viral. It seems like when “virals’’ pop into the music industry and become instantaneously famous, those who work hard to hone their craft and “create,” struggle.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ty Stonehawker.

Immerse yourself in the world of Ty Stonehawker and you’ll encounter a vibrant tapestry of life experiences. From a groupie that followed jam bands in a 1978 lime green Volkswagen Microbus to becoming a popular radio personality (known as “Stoney” on 95.3 KPND) and sitting behind bars in a jail cell, his life’s story is as diverse as his music.

With a past that’s both dark and fanciful, Ty’s journey from turmoil to transformation has deeply influenced his musical artistry and affinity for the abstract. Drawing inspiration from an eclectic range of artists, he channels the psychedelic vibe of The Grateful Dead, the insightful lyrics of Bob Dylan, the energetic performances of Pearl Jam, the soulful melodies of Blind Melon, the classic sounds of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson and Billy Strings, and his personal favorite, Phish. Ty’s deep admiration for songwriters like Ingrid Michaelson and Jack Johnson is evident in his lyrical craftsmanship.

Ty’s life, mirroring his music, is a rich narrative of adventure, reflection, and the transformative magic of music, proving that a checkered past can lead to a luminous future.

Ty (aka Stoney Holiday and, more recently, Ty Holiday) has recorded and released numerous, various recordings throughout his career. Changing directions, heading toward a more purposeful and personal path, he recently recorded a six-song EP, titled GAMBLIN’ MAN which is scheduled for an April 2024 release.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story.” Can you share some background as to where you grew up and how that influenced and inspired you to pursue a career in music, and how did your journey begin?

I’ve been performing since I was very little. When I was eight years old, I was in the school Christmas program. I had a part, with other children my age, as a Christmas present that came to life. We all climbed into a large box that was wrapped in paper and we were little Christmas presents. We performed a choreographed dance and from that moment on, I just had to be the star of the show! I tried so hard to be the star of that first show; but I actually tripped and fell into the other kids, the other presents, and we all fell like Dominos. From that holiday program on, I was in every play in junior high and high school. I lettered in the theater.

I was raised in a very religious home. Before my parents met, my dad had an incredible record collection and my mom actually touched the stage at a Beatles concert during the British invasion. (She scraped the dirt into a jar and didn’t wash her hand for a week!) When my parents got married, my mom, bless her heart, made my dad throw out his Led Zeppelin records and anything that she considered too “heavy.” So, I was a bit sheltered when it came to rock and roll music!

They put me in piano lessons which I hated! I didn’t like my piano teacher. (She smelled like mothballs and they were teaching me to play church hymns.) Fast forward to this day, I wish I had stuck with it.

When I was 19, a buddy owed me money. He didn’t have it, so he gave me his guitar as payment. It was an Elvis Presley-style pearl white Fender acoustic guitar. A good friend of mine showed me how to play “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty and I was “off to the races!” I got tablatures and chord sheets from the Internet. (It was the new way to learn music.) I learned to play a lot of cover songs and began to write my own music in college.

I started performing solo as a folk singer-songwriter at open mic nights and my own shows. I went to a lot of concerts and even started my own production company to produce concerts. I loved everything about music and I wanted to be up there in the bright lights. I started my first band, The Bluegrass Scramble, in 2008. I went on to form the Stoney Holiday band in 2009.

I met my producer Mark “Mooka” Rennick of Prairie Sun Recording (who’s worked with Tom Waits, Journey, Ufo, Bob Dylan, Gavin Bryars, and Billy Prine, among others) in 2022; that’s when my music turned into a “career.” I referred back to my own name, Ty Stonehawker, and we recorded a totally pro album. Hank Early from The Turnpike Troubadours is on banjo and pedal steel, and Terry Miller, who recorded a couple of albums with Zac Brown Band, played bass. The album features Gospel singers on backup and harmonies. Mooka took me on a journey through the recording process. I spent two years in three states, and hundreds of hours in state-of-the art studios surrounded by the best engineers and musicians. I’m really proud of the transformation that’s happened. I will never forget where I came from and I am so grateful every day for this amazing opportunity. The recording project is titled GAMBLIN’ MAN, a name well-suited; it will be released in early to mid-2024.

Can you tell us the most interesting story (funny, frustrating, unexpected) that has happened to you since you began your career?

I was looking for a studio to record the new Stoney Holiday album when I found Prairie Sun Recording, an iconic studio just North of the San Francisco Bay area that had recorded projects for Primus, Van Morrison, Turnpike Troubadours, Wu-Tang Clan and 11 Tom Waits’ albums to name just a handful. It’s a commercial studio with 40 years of experience in launching careers for major and minor acts. I called the phone number that I found online. It was a Sunday morning, mind you. No one answered, so I called again. (I was determined to talk with someone!) The second call: A gentleman answers the phone and he says ” Who is calling me on a Sunday morning, not once but twice, while I’m making omelets for my family?”

I said, “I’m so sorry; I will call you back tomorrow.” (Now I’m feeling bad that I didn’t recall what day it was!) The gentleman wanted to know what was so “important.” I told him who I was and that I wanted to record an album at Prairie Sun. He paused for a second and asked, “You got any money?” (Word for word, I swear.)

When I explained that I had a budget and a plan he agreed to schedule a call with me during business hours. I realized that it was in fact The MOOKA Rennick that I was speaking with!

After the formal “business” call, I made the six-hour drive down from southern Oregon to make the deposit. I met Mooka and the crew at Prairie Sun Recording and signed the contract. When it was time to record, Mooka escorted us to Studio A at Prairie Sun Recording. I asked Mooka if he’d be joining us. He replied, “Oh no, sweetie pie, that fee was just to rent the room and use the equipment!”

Halfway through the original two weeks of recording at Prairie Sun, Mooka and I became friends. He told me he would work with me if I got sober. That conversation motivated me; I went to rehab directly. Three months later, I called Mooka and asked, “When do we start?”

We spent more than 15 months working on the album (GAMBLIN’ MAN). We recorded in Oklahoma City and in Mooka’s boutique studio in Portland, Oregon. The recordings have all the “bells and whistles!” By the grace of God, I stay sober one day at a time. No matter what happens going forward, I will never forget: “You get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” — Grateful Dead.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Please share a story about the funniest or most embarrassing mistake you’ve made during the course of your career. Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh gosh, I’ve done some crazy things and made some big mistakes. I could tell you about the time that I brought strippers backstage at a festival and while I was performing, they caused all kinds of trouble. (Needless to say, I’m not allowed back at that festival!) Or I could tell you about the time that I was so jacked-up on stage that I licked the plexiglass that separated the drummer and me. (The band was so mad at me, they said I “Jim Morrisoned” the show.)

I have so many stories like this that led me to a turning point. I don’t regret the past and I will not shut the door on it.. My past is what made me who I am today. On one hand, I could say I’d be further along in my career and have more spiritual growth if my past were different, but then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m learning to love myself exactly the way I am. I have learned to forgive myself and others for the past. I’m learning to be humble and stay calm in the face of adversity. I’m learning how to accept things just the way they are. I’m not the master of the universe that I thought I was. The message of my music has always been positive, but I ran around acting like a “Rock Star.” Now, my message matches the man behind the music!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person, or persons, whom you are grateful for their belief and helping you to get you to where you are? Can you share a bit of background story about the relationship and their support?

This question drives my thinking right back to my producer, Mark “Mooka” Rennick. He believed that if I could get sober and turn my life around, we could make a world-class record and that I could make something of myself in the music industry. Mooka has become my mentor and a trusted friend. I rarely make a decision in my music career without running it by him. We have created an amazing friendship all because he believed in me.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have been building a retreat space in Guatemala on Lake Atitlan. It is a plant medicine, yoga, and art retreat in the mountains of the volcano Caldera, on a big lake, a really beautiful space called Casa Curativa. I also bought some land near the water and have started construction on a boutique eco-hotel. It’s a mere three stories and has just 10 rooms. The hotel has plans for a rooftop restaurant. This eco-hotel is called the Coconut.

I also started importing coffee beans. Guatemala has some of the best coffee in the world and the coffee grown up at the lake is some of the best coffee in Guatemala. Starbucks sells this same bean for $20 for a half pound; so, I decided to bring it home myself.

This is the story…

I went to the five largest coffee-producing towns around the lake by boat and found the beans that I wanted from a farming family that I resonated with and made a purchase of 300 lbs of green coffee beans. I carted the beans to the retreat where we separated the beans into 50 lb suitcases. (Six pieces of luggage.) We transported the bags by boat and then took a taxi to the airport. We flew the beans home. Of course…customs took us into the back room and read us the riot act, thinking we were up to no good. They scanned our beans and let us on our way. That’s the beginning of my Ty StoneHawker coffee line.

I also have my own clothing line. The color of the clothing line is ridiculously bright. You can find the coffee and the clothing on my website

Lest we not forget…I’m also writing songs for my next album!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film and television? How can diversity potentially affect your career and make an impact on our culture?

Diversity is a key ingredient in entertainment. There are so many different kinds of people, so many different kinds of music, so many different kinds of tastes in music. To focus on one almost seems harder than to be diverse.

For me, it’s super important to be diverse in music, film and television because everybody with different tastes deserves to be happy. Everybody deserves to be entertained. You’ve got to open up.

I’ve been to all four corners of the United States and they are all very different. Los Angeles is so much different than New Orleans which is so much different than Portland, Maine which is so much different than Alaska. Finding a way to get your music, art or film to be accepted in the four different corners is difficult, but not impossible.

My fans are diverse, and that’s why I didn’t record a Bluegrass album or an all-country album. I recorded three of what we call ‘Wood Songs” which are Bluegrass but with drums. We recorded one rock and roll song that showcases electric guitar, bass and drums, vocals and gospel singers. (It doesn’t sound anything like the wood songs.) and then we added banjo to the track titled “While You Are Gone” to give it a Mumford and Sons vibe. My music has a lot of elements to create an interesting listening experience and cater to a lot of different audiences and genres.

Bringing people together of all colors, genders and religions is important to me. The time we spend listening to music together is time spent free from worrying about certain feelings or resentments we have toward one another. I truly believe that bringing diversity through music and art is a way to help the world heal.

As a successful music star, you’ve likely faced challenges along the way. What are some of the biggest hurdles/obstacles you have faced and how did you overcome them? How do you stay motivated?

The music industry is famous for sex, drugs and Rock and Roll. My biggest hurdle has been addiction. What started as a mind-altering experiment turned into a full-blown addiction. By the grace of God, the opportunity to work with a world-class producer was the motivation I needed to go to rehab.

I stay motivated by working with others. I want to set a good example for my daughter and for all of my fans — that keeps me motivated.

My music career is something that I don’t take lightly. I work very hard to stay on track. It’s not always sunshine and roses. I have days where I want to crawl under the bed. I have to remember that I have a lot of work to do and progress will come if I work at it. Sometimes, it comes quickly and sometimes, things turn around slowly. “Easy does it” is my motto and living in the present moment.

List “5 things you wish someone told you when you first started your career pursuit” and why? Please share a story or example for each, and how knowing that would have helped in the situation or circumstance!

1. “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” ~~ Hunter S. Thompson

I don’t know if this statement would have deterred me. I would have been more careful had I understood the music industry more clearly. You have to be careful. As example, there are a lot of fake companies advertising on social media that say they can help your career. If you haven’t met somebody, or spoken with them on the phone, don’t give them your credit card information. You need the name of a person. Then you need to be able to look them up and make sure they are who they say they are. Real people will talk to you on the phone and listen to your music to decide if they want to work with you. There are also a lot of music industry folks who say that they are something they’re not. It’s so important to know who you’re working with.

2. Establish a clear path! Before you ever hit the road, you need to have a brand so that the audience remembers you. Make an impression, on your social/digital media platforms, with single/art and merchandise. The goal is to make an impression so the fans/audience take you home with them. I learned the hard way — touring into the darkness, which means playing in towns where no one’s heard of you. When the crowd leaves, you want them to remember that they had a good time and remember your name!

3. Hone your craft. I thought for a long time that I didn’t need singing lessons. I thought that because I didn’t want to sound like other singers. I thought that coaching would put me in a box. I wanted to have my own style. I realized, when I met my vocal coach, that no matter how much work I put into making my voice pitch-perfect, sweet, melodic and palpable, there’s no amount of work that I can do that would take “Ty Stonehawker” out of the equation. I will always sound just like me even if I was to sing as sweet as an angel or as rough as a pirate. Some vocalists are born with it and some have to work very hard at it.

4. Don’t expect it to go viral. In the age of social media and the internet, some artists break through the fray with just a hope and a prayer — recognized by a simple reel or video that goes viral. It seems like when “virals’’ pop into the music industry and become instantaneously famous, those who work hard to hone their craft and “create,” struggle.

Post Malone for example…He started with his kitschy, auto-tuned songs and he became one of the biggest internet sensations to date. Many have tried to recreate that sound and have not achieved the success that he has. So it seems unless you are a viral trendsetter, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be a career artist. You have to stick with it even when it’s hard. My advice is to find a way to love and enjoy writing and making the music that you make, but have a backup plan or a day job! I’m 43 years young and I’ve had I had alternate business endeavors to pay the bills and get me through my music career. I feel like I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time and some serious God stuff happened in my life. “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll” ~~AC/DC

5. If you’re a musician or an artist now, that means you will be a musician or an artist for the rest of your life. No matter the amount of success.”

There have been times that I’d given up on the bright lights. I told myself that I was happy being in a local band. I’m going to play my guitar for my grandkids. …And that brought me peace. Knowing that no matter what happens to me in this life, I will always be able to grab my guitar and sing a song for someone… (Well, except for the time I spent in jail but even then, I wrote some of my best songs!) Knowing that as ideas come to me, I’m able to write them down. It could be for a poem. It could be the most epic song ever. It could be used in a sweet note to cheer someone up. But it’s all “artistry;” it’s all inside of me and it will always be. I will always be an artist. I will always be a musician until the day that I die. I can always pick up my guitar and I can still play something. It means a lot to know that.

Can you share some insights into your creative process? How do you approach songwriting? How do you approach musical collaborations and production/instrumentation of your recordings?

My creative process is very different from song to song. I will sit with a pen and paper at a desk or table with an idea and scribble a bunch of notes. I will dictate to my phone while I’m driving down the road. There are times when I get a chord progression on the guitar and write to that. I write without the guitar and then put the music to it later. Songs are everywhere; we’re surrounded by songs in the making. Everything we do is a song. Every bridge we drive over there’s a song. Every time we pull out of the driveway of our dad and mom’s house, there’s a song. Songs are about how you are feeling at the time–experiences. THAT’S the song!

I recently went to a five-day songwriting retreat and that was very helpful. I really changed a lot. I learned to co-write, which can be difficult at first but gets easier with time. Co-writing opened me up to a lot of new possibilities. Other musicians have sent me tracks. I listen to the track over and over until an idea starts to flow and then I write the lyrics to the track. My goal is to write 50 new songs and pick the best 12 for the next album.

Your music has resonated with so many fans worldwide. What do you believe sets your music apart?

Ah, my publicist told me that my music sounded like Elvis Costello and the Grateful Dead. I really liked that description because, to me, it meant my music had a unique sound. It’s a combination of all of my influences mixed together, and that’s what I create. I might not be the best at what I do, but I’m the only one doing what I do. I’m the only “Ty Stonehawker” and I spent a lot of my career making sure that I don’t sound like someone else. It’s been very important to me to be an individual — a stylist. I want my voice to stand out and have a positive message. I just want to spread love and light, and I want people to feel like they’re part of it.

How Do you personally connect with your audience?

It starts with fans enjoying the lyrics and allowing the listener their interpretation of what the songs are about. Then, it is the music itself — the feelings they get while listening to my music. It’s about creating an “experience;” that’s how your fans become your audience. And…you would hope that your audience is full of fans! They know your music, already enjoy you and they’ve watched your career. They’re here to support you. My number one thing is to give them the best performance that I have inside of me. That means warm-ups before the show (vocal and guitar) and meditation. I want to give the audience/fans what they deserve. They paid money to come see me; it’s important to me to give the audience what they came for. They’re expecting something from you and if you give it to them, you make a connection. They’ll scream and yell, and go crazy, and it’s so awesome. Everybody in the room feels the same energy. It is an amazing experience to be able to move an audience with music. There is nothing else like it.

With your busy schedule and demanding performances, how do you prioritize self-care and maintain a balance between your personal life and career in the music industry?

Self-care has become a priority. (Once you prioritize, things start to fall in place.) I roll out of bed and as soon as my feet hit the floor, I begin my morning routine. I have my coffee, read my books, meditate and then do push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. I do vocal warm-ups and practice the guitar. That’s a great way to start the day and all part of my personal self-care and self-love. Learning to let people handle some of the day-to-day admin stuff is also key. As is staying in touch with those you love and are important to you. Take the time to reach out to your people. Staying connected with friends and family means a lot. That’s something that can get swept away in the hustle and bustle of performing nightly. You’ll find that in stressful times, jumping on the phone with somebody that loves you can be very therapeutic. Another thing I love is when the hotel has a bathtub! (Such an overlooked amenity.) I do love it when the hotel has a gym, you can usually find me on the treadmill. I make time every day to participate in my routine and my recovery. It’s the MOST important part of my music career. P.S. Call your mom!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Living in Portland, Oregon, I see a lot of homeless encampments. This is what I would focus on. Sadly, this lifestyle is brought on hard times, including addiction. Some people choose to live in these encampments, while some are forced to live in these encampments. No matter the circumstance, or how they got there, a lot of them are drug addicts. And those desperate terrorize neighborhoods by stealing and then using drugs in public. There are little old ladies, newborn babies and their mothers, and schoolchildren in these neighborhoods… All of them are affected by having these strange people wandering around, stealing their garden gnomes or wire from air conditioners. It’s got to be difficult to send your children on the walk to school when they have to walk by or through even near these scary places. I would like to lend assistance to address this situation; which seems to be growing and prevalent in the larger cities in this country. Some of them are dangerous, some of them are harmless, but no matter what we as an American country need to offer help.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Being someone who stays as far away from politics as possible (because I do not like the division that it creates), I’d still like to sit down with the President of the United States. For selfish reasons. Because it would be good for my career worldwide! Imagine the headlines? “The President Of The United States Dines With Indie Singer-Songwriter and Entertainer Ty Stonehawker To Garner Insight As To How This Country Should Be Run!” LOL I might not be able to persuade him to do anything important, but I would end up getting a song out of it for sure! Titled: “Breakfast With The Prez!”

ACTUALLY… I’d like to sit down with Paul Simon and ask him about his inspirations. Ask about the way he writes songs, his process, etc. I really like how Paul Simon went to Africa to get the rhythm. He went to New Orleans, he went to Memphis, Tennessee and created a very diverse sound. He’s an Americana roots folk singer with a robust sound; his music is timeless and can travel over genres. He is one of the biggest inspirations in creating my sound. It would be a learning and growing experience to sit and chat with him–both personally and professionally. Paul Simon would be a wealth of knowledge for a younger artist like myself.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

About the interviewer: Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as “Gee-Gee”, is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm. She has elegantly twined the worlds of writing, acting, and digital marketing into an inspiring tapestry of achievement. As the creative genius at the heart of Esma Marketing & Publishing, she leads her team to unprecedented heights with her comprehensive understanding of the industry and her innate flair for innovation. Her boundless passion and sense of purpose radiate from every endeavor she undertakes, turning ideas into reality and creating a realm of infinite possibilities. A true dynamo, Gee-Gee’s name has become synonymous with inspirational leadership and the art of creating success.



Guernslye Honore
Authority Magazine

Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as "Gee-Gee", is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm.