Richard Hawley is out on the road during autumn 2019 in support of his latest album, Further.
The album follows the hugely successful musical Standing At The Sky’s Edge, the musical that bears the name of Hawley’s sixth studio album, which finished its sold out run in April at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre. It continues Hawley’s journey beyond pure musical performance and into the world of stage and screen, something which he began with his increasing soundtrack work on films such as 2018’s Funny Cow (starring Maxine Peake) and Denmark (starring Rafe Spall and due out later this year).
Ahead of Hawley’s appearance at Bristol’s 02 Academy on October 2 and Cardiff University’s Great Hall on October 3, Andy Howells chatted with the Sheffield singer/songwriter about his new album and career to date.
How long did Further take to put together?
When I finished the last album, I kind of wanted to do something else. I did loads of film soundtracks and a theatre production. I didn’t think about doing an album. When I listened back to the 200 plus songs that I’d written between the last album and the start of this, the ones that I chose and filtered down were the up tempo and short stuff.
I really wanted to be succinct and to the point. So, it wasn’t laboured, I’d hit the age of 50, I didn’t want it to be this kind of tired sort of limping out album. I wanted it to be punchy and short. Thankfully, I’d written all the songs, for recording, adding up all the studio time, it totalled to just under a month. That’s with weekends off for good behaviour!
For its punchiness, Further has some gentler moments and there’s some great examples of storytelling too with tracks like Galley Girl and Emelina Says.
There’s always a little bit of reality in there, although Galley Girl is total fantasy. I’m fantasising that I’m the protagonist in this song, the highwayman and he falls in love with a local barmaid the Galley girl. We basically rob the Stagecoach and go off to the New World. That sort of escapism is something a lot of us would understand, to get away from the crazy **** that is going on in the world.
Emelina Says is about male jealousy in a way and the pointlessness of it. If you’re going to be in love you need to trust People
There are also other tracks, Alone and My Little Treasures which particularly resonated with me about having and appreciating personal space.
I’m not sure if we’re losing the ability to be comfortable in our own skin anymore. Time alone is not necessarily a lonely pursuit. It does have a positive side to it. I’ve got 2 dogs and as I live in Sheffield, we have 100% greenbelt, we’ve got the peak District and there’s over 420 municipal parks and Woodlands in and around the city.
You can easily escape, just go for a walk, it’s a pleasurable thing. I guess I’m not truly alone with the dogs, but it’s where I write a lot of my songs when I’m walking.
Alone is not only your take on the life of a solo songwriter. The video explores the idea that everyone has something to give, no matter their status in life and celebrates Sheffield Football Club?
As a city, it’s always something that we’ve hidden our light under a bushel and it sometimes annoys me. The first league football club in the world was Sheffield FC. It’s very little known.
I guess I kind of did it to have a dig at the council, that we should actually have some signs up when you coming to Sheffield saying, “Welcome to Sheffield, The home of League football” They won’t do it, but at least the video exists.
I got a lot of support from women’s football clubs, disabled football club, kids football clubs, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. They were all very supportive about the idea especially Sheffield FC. The guy who stars in the video is the Sheffield FC real striker and all the People who appeared in the video I’ve known my whole life. That was a great thing to do, I didn’t want to appear in the video, I wanted it to be about other people’s stories. Not my own. I’ve never been good at writing songs with a complete fantasy, like “Imagine you’re in a swimming pool in LA and got a big Limo,” the whole rock star thing! I’d be lucky if I had a Reliant Robin and a bird bath!
Provided you have room for the guitar and the dogs?
If I have enough room for them, I’m alright!
Did you come from a musical background?
I already was a musician. I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. My father (Dave Hawley) was a guitarist and my uncle played with Dave Berry. Dad played with Joe Cocker. Joe was my godfather, both him and dad met because they were fitting radiators together for the gas board. That was in the late 50s, early 60s. They were friends all their lives!
So, who inspired you to become a musician?
To be honest it was my family. When I first started off, everyone in my family either played or sang. My family were the biggest influence on me and always taught me to have an open mind. Try not to be too judgmental about music because you can find something good in most music, which sometimes is difficult because not all music is made for you.
You’ll be visiting Cardiff on the new tour. Do you enjoy visiting Wales?
I married a Welsh lass and her family are from Gilfach Goch. I’ve also got family in Newport and Cardiff. Also, I played for the Manic Street Preachers on one of their albums, so to play a concert in Wales and for people to turn up is an important thing for me. It’s not like any other gig!
Do you still enjoy touring?
I love it, although after a time the travelling gets a bit dull, but that’s inevitable. After a time, you figure out how to amuse yourself. After all these years I still get a buzz from playing live and communicating with people. I love it!
You mentioned earlier you have been working on film soundtracks. How did you get involved with that?
Films are interesting to do. The recent stuff happened with Tony Pitts who is both an actor and writer. He wrote this film called Funny Cow and called me out of the blue and said, “I would love you to act in it a bit and write the music.” That was a phenomenal experience to be involved with. I guess it just spiralled from there and I’ve been doing it ever since.
I really enjoy it it’s a new skill and something I’ve never really done before, still creating music, but in a completely fresh and new way.
When it came to record Further, I had been so energised from doing something different for so long. It felt like the first time I’d ever been in a room playing with a band. It felt exciting!
Do you like to break your work up? You enjoy collaborations as well as the film soundtrack and theatre work, does it become a drag if you constantly do the same thing?
It’s not just a drag, I think the music suffers.
I guess if you look at the collaborations and other projects that I’ve done, I’m always enthusiastic. Apart from the joy of working with other People, I know I’m going to get so much from it and learn something new. It doesn’t matter how old you are it’s learning from other artists, no matter what the age. Working with Shirley Bassey, Arctic Monkeys or whoever you work with. You’re just going into a completely new world.
Visit www.richardhawley.co.uk for tour details.