Steve Martin, founder of the publicity firm Nasty Little Man, has enjoyed a 30 year career working with some of the biggest names in music. Still, not every memory is a fond one, and among the most challenging moments was when he had to share the news of Taylor Hawkins‘ death earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, I’ve had to write confirmations of an artist’s passing three times,” Martin explained to Variety in a new interview, noting the passing of Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch in 2012 and David Bowie in 2016.
Hawkins was found dead in his Bogota hotel room on March 25. Almost immediately, rumors about his cause of death began to spread.
“With Taylor, it was more sensitive, because there were a lot of details coming out from the Colombian media,” Martin continued. “There was a lot of second-hand talk in another magazine story, with people relaying things Taylor might have actually said but should have been left to friends talking amongst friends. Managing that, and trying to make it cause as little pain as possible, was a really delicate procedure.”
The “magazine story” Martin alluded to was a Rolling Stone report that alleged Hawkins was exhausted by Foo Fighters‘ hectic schedule. The story featured interviews with Hawkins’ friends Chad Smith (of Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Matt Cameron (of Pearl Jam). Both men later said their quotes were taken out of context for the piece.
Managing these external issues presented a challenge for Martin, but the biggest factor was much more personal: The publicist had become friends with Hawkins during their years working together, and he had to manage his own mourning while also doing his job.
“It was really rough,” Martin admitted. “I’m very pragmatic about who amongst the clients becomes an actual friend, but Taylor was one. If the band didn’t work for four or five weeks and we didn’t have any contact, he’d call me just to say “What’s up”” He did that with a lot of people he considered friends, which I didn’t really learn until after he died. He had so much energy and positivity to share. He didn’t have to do that: He played drums full-time in one of the biggest bands in the world, had all his side projects and session work, and was helping to raise three kids. He somehow found the time to brighten so many people’s days with these morning calls about a U2 b-side or something.”
7 Tear-Jerking Moments From the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert
We’re not crying. You’re crying.