National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Texas-based Singer/Songwriter Lends Talent to New “Turn Around Don’t Drown” Ditty


After just a couple of minutes speaking to country singer, Matt Hawk, one gets the message loud and clear: He’s a tenacious man on a mission to save lives. Drawing from Native American spiritualism that promotes a healthy respect for the natural world, Matt is a self-proclaimed Texas country boy with the requisite southern drawl and optimistic charm. And like most things that hail from Texas, Matt’s got BIG ambitions. Let’s chat with him to learn more.

Tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in a border town in south Texas in 1973. My dad was a ranch hand and we moved from Eagle Pass to Lytle, where I grew up. My Mexican heritage has had a huge influence on my life and music - the culture of south Texas in general reflects the diversity of the people here.

What inspired or motivated you to get into music?
I always had this urge to play guitar, as far back as I can remember - since maybe 6 or 7 years old. I picked up my first guitar at age 18 and got my first paid gig a year later. My uncle, who we called “Tortuga” recruited me for his band that played “conjunto,” a Spanish style of bar scene music. I tried to learn all the fancy Spanish instruments, but I kept coming back to the simple acoustic or electric guitar.

What genre of music do you perform?
I’m all country, all the time. It’s my scene and where I’m most comfortable. I consider country to be accessible and accepting music to all age groups. Country moves me, and it moves my feet. It’s easy listening for a broad audience. My early life influences were the old-school country performers that my parents used to spin on the record player...the Oak Ridge Boys, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. My parents also spoke Spanish in our home and that had a strong influence on my Spanish music.

What types of gigs do you play?
I play shows every Saturday and Sunday -- I usually play for community and private family events, which are better paying and more controlled, intimate environments than the bar scene.

Looking through your social media platforms, you’ve adopted a motto that you use frequently to sign off your posts. What is the meaning of “feathers up my friends,” and what does it mean to you?
A Native American friend taught me about native spiritual blessings and healings from her tribe. She was giving me guidance, which made me feel light as a feather and free of mental anguish. I tell people, “Feathers up my friends” to signal that there are no worries - everything is going to be fine. Be as light as a feather.

Your stage name is Matt Hawk. What’s the significance of the hawk to you?
According to ancient belief, the hawk teaches awareness. Their sharp eyesight is symbolic of how we need to pause and pay attention to the world and everything around us. The hawk is my totem animal, and it gives me my guidance and balance.

What’s on the horizon for your career?
I’m currently in the studio with my buddy, “Dragon” putting the finishing touches on a new single I’m releasing this summer called “Pages.” The next step is to produce a music video for the song. Next up I’ll work on an EP - a larger collection of original songs.

Let’s chat about the song you wrote for the National Weather Service to bring more awareness to the danger of driving through flooded roads. What was your inspiration for writing this song and partnering with the National Weather Service?
A young woman in a neighboring town passed away after her car was swept away in a flood a few years ago. She was just weeks away from her high school graduation. We had torrential rains that flooded out the road not even two-tenths of a mile away from her house. This hit close to home because my own daughter had started driving that year. I found myself really trying to guide her to be aware and make good decisions behind the wheel. This led me to write a song for her - sort of a father’s love for his daughter based around the tragedy. But it got dark so I put it to the side. Then about 8 months later, I suddenly woke up at 6 in the morning with this happy, upbeat jingle in my head. Once fine-tuned, that jingle became this new Turn Around Don’t Drown PSA.

How did you know about the National Weather Service’s Turn Around Don’t Drown slogan?
I’ve heard it from meteorologists over the years, but my friends and I also say that to each other. We’re half joking, having fun with it, but we are also serious … we’re like family and we look out for each other. So the slogan is a memorable and light-hearted catch phrase that people can use with friends and family to help them make good decisions.

Tell me about the peppy, upbeat rhythm of the jingle.
I wrote it with the children in mind. The younger generation is going to be more attracted to this kind of repetitious sing-along tune, and can use it to remind their parents to make the right decision when they come across a flooded roadway. I didn’t want the song to be sad - sad tunes don’t work to inspire people. I’m hoping it’s a wake up trigger for adults, who often drive absentmindedly out of a force of habit. Anyway, Who doesn’t like a good tune? Regardless of people’s age, race or cultural background, I hope this resonates with everyone.

Is this your first step into public service?
Yes, but my fire prevention poster won first place in a contest when I was in kindergarten!. I got in the local paper and from then on carried this motivation to help people. The experience gave me this incredible awareness of the power of persuasion through art and how good it feels to make a difference and hopefully save lives through education.

I always wanted to be a part of something to help the community. Inspired by my own mother’s battle with cancer, for a long time I’ve been donating free shows for charity - to help raise money for cancer or help individuals pay for their treatment bills. I donate 1-2 shows per month. It feels great to perform and get people in a good mood to do some good while giving them a little mental break from thinking about their struggles.

Any parting words?
I just wish my mom was here to see this come to fruition. She watched the beginning stages of me putting this together and she was so elated about it. She would be so proud. I think this will be something on a grand scale that will truly save lives. I just know it.

Matt - thank you for giving your talent and time to help the National Weather Service improve flood safety awareness!
My pleasure!

The PSA is available in various formats here: