You probably haven’t heard of Caleb Hawley, but I’m going to ask you to remember his name. In the sea of middling singer/songwriter types running around New York City’s lower east side, he is a bright shining beacon of positivity; both in personality and in song. My introduction to Caleb came a few months ago, when he opened up for Guggenheim Grotto on one night of their month-long residency at the Bowery Electric. His syrupy tenor connected immediately, and his waggish way with words brought it all home. His latest release, Steps has been in constant rotation ever since.
Two songs into his set on Thursday night at Rockwood Music Hall, Hawley came clean: “Let’s face it, I’m lite rock. I know my place.” He’s not far from the mark, though it’s a bit misleading. Hawley possesses the vocal range, poetic license and wit of Jason Mraz; with the fretboard dexterity of John Mayer, minus all the pretentiousness and with a Stevie Wonder sized dollop of soul. He quipped about moving to NYC and finding a great radio station, only to discover that he was listening to syndicated radio host Delilah. He joked about being sponsored by Chips Ahoy before breaking out a tune that was — for all intents and purposes — the recipe for baking chocolate-chip cookies. Yes, he could sing the dictionary and make you love it.
All humor aside, with tunes like “Other Side of It All” and “Small Steps,” Hawley brings his optimistic point of view to the otherwise dour state of the world, without sounding like a overzealous cheerleader. He brought it home with a song for his wife (“Samantha’s Song”) followed up with the “real” story behind their courtship, a brilliantly snarky tune called “Love at Second Sight.” His short set was his last in NYC until October, but you can catch Caleb as he makes his way from Minnesota to North Carolina and back to New York in the fall.