Karen Peck and New River have been delighting audiences for over 20 years with their distinctive flavor of Southern Gospel. This mixed trio has been awarded numerous times by the Singing News and the Gospel Music Association, as well as achieving several number one hits. In 2010, Jeff Hawes joined Karen and Susan Peck, advancing their sound and popularity even further. With the release of Reach Out, Karen Peck and New River (KPNR) added a more youthful and exciting touch to their music, resulting in more top songs and accolades for this beloved group.
Jeff Hawes was no stranger to the stage before joining KPNR. Hawes competed in the reality show Gospel Dream, becoming the number 12 singer in the nation. He also competed in the National Quartet Convention Talent Competition, placing among the top ten soloists. However, Hawes’ first memory of performing occurs at a much earlier time in his life. “I remember singing around the age of five,” says Hawes. “I had Mom ask the music director at church if I could sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ I went up to sing and completely forgot the words. I began crying and yelled out, ‘Mommy, you made me do this!’ The crowd cracked up. Mom was mortified but the church finished singing the song with me.”
Hawes’ performances with KPNR have been much more polished than this first endeavor and he is thrilled to be a part of this thriving ministry. “I had the opportunity of hearing them sing near my home town a few years ago and knew that if God ever opened a door for me to be able to sing with them, I’d do it in a flash!” says Hawes. “They live what they sing. They are on the road to make a difference in lives and win people to Christ. That is everything I want to surround myself with. I often play piano during our services, which hopefully adds to the altar service and provides a little background music while Karen is speaking. I also am a former English teacher and can help Kari and Matthew (Karen’s children) with their essays.”
Karen and Susan Peck have welcomed Jeff Hawes into their ministry and family like a brother. Hawes’ affection for these women is obvious as he mentions what he appreciates about them. “Karen is hilarious and lots of fun. She’s very serious when it comes to singing, but she always makes me feel like I have the potential to always become a better individual.” Hawes continues, “Susan always has your back. I can usually share things with her and know she’s going to give great advice and just keep it between us. She’s like a big sister.”
Sharing the bus with Karen, Susan and the rest of the members of New River can be both a joy and a challenge for a relative newcomer. Members get to know each other very well, and KPNR have discovered one of Hawes’ own particular quirks. “I have problems with sleep walking,” admits Hawes. “Many times on the bus, I roam around at night or just have shouting matches in my bunk. Karen says I’m normally a quiet, reserved person but that I wait until sleep time to come alive.”
This quiet, reserved singer with the amazing vocals and compassion for his audience has also expanded his reach into Southern Gospel by writing for the digital magazine SGN Scoops. Hawes says, “I love SGN Scoops because of its vision and heart for ministry. I also love being able to share my experiences of traveling too.” Along with writing, Hawes’ other hobbies include springtime yard work and spending time with his family.
Keeping grounded and having a solid relationship with the Lord is vital to the health of any Christian, especially so for a Christian artist. “My family does a great job keeping me grounded when I get a little big for my britches,” laughs Hawes. “I just see myself as truly blessed. I try to soak up as many Bible studies and YouTube videos of teachings that I can. I love reading books by Beth Moore as well.”
Hawes admits he still has struggles and offers some good advice he was given by fellow artist, Sheri Easter: “You can be the best, juiciest peach in the pile, but not everyone is gonna like peaches.” Hawes notes, “I’m still working on this one. I worry a lot about pleasing everyone instead of focusing on Jesus.” One way of focusing on the Lord is to get into His Word, and Hawes shares his favorite verse: “Proverbs 3:6 which says: ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ It has always been my favorite and I try to share this every night, especially with young people. It is the absolute reason I am where I am today.”
This humble, quiet servant of the Lord is blessing people every time he walks on stage with Karen Peck and New River, writes for SGN Scoops, or talks to the young people that surround the record table. His powerful, expressive vocals as showcased on “This Is What Mercy Does” from Reach Out are a foreshadowing of a long and successful career in Christian music. It seems there is little this gentleman cannot do. However, he says, that isn’t true. He admits there is a habit he cannot break, “ Eating late at night…. I’m a sucker for cheeseburgers!”
We encourage all readers to attend a Karen Peck and New River concert and listen to their current sound with Jeff Hawes. Thank this young man for lending his incredible talents to Gospel music!
For more information on Karen Peck and New River and their tour schedule, visit:
Photographs courtesy of Karen Peck and New River, and Jeff Hawes
SGMRadio was happy to chat with the Jeff Hawes, vocalist for KPNR and fellow writer at SGN Scoops, as we continue our feature entitled “In Depth With”. We will try to allow you to get to know your favorite artists just a little better by asking questions you may have always wanted to ask. If you have a favorite artist please email us and tell us what you would like to know about them! Email here: firstname.lastname@example.org