Richard Hawley interview
Chatting with the Sheffield troubadour
‘Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed!’ shouted Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner on accepting the Mercury Prize in 2006, indicating the high esteem he had for his fellow Sheffielder, an esteem shared by the likes of Elbow, REM and Jarvis Cocker.
Despite writing songs for Robbie Williams and Shirley Bassey, and playing guitar on All Saints’ ‘Under the Bridge’, Hawley remains a well-kept musical secret, which is just as he likes it.
‘I’m happy where I am, mate,’ he says. ‘I can go out with the kids and not get much grief. I’ve worked with people who can’t leave their house cos the fame has crippled them emotionally and physically. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. If all you want is a swimming pool, a Ferrari and a mansion in LA, then that’s all you’ll have.’
He throws out a deep, raspy chuckle, a hint at the soulful croon which mesmerises on his solo material, not least new album Truelove’s Gutter. His sixth release, it’s a stripped down, moody affair, observations on heartbreak, addiction, mental illness and love, and Hawley admits to being in a dark place when he wrote it.
‘To be brutally honest, I’m still trying to make sense of things,’ he says. ‘When I came off tour last, I caught up with friends and family, and found that a lot of people weren’t having a great time. It started affecting my writing a lot.’
The album features otherworldly instrumentation such as glass harmonica, ondes martenot and Cristal Baschet, which gives it a creepy presence and a subtle coherence lacking in most modern records.
‘I collect sounds,’ he says. ‘I’m interested in how you put them together. Guitars, bass and drums are great, but there’s a lot more out there in the world.’
The result is a record with depth and soul, which sounds familiar yet unique, and somehow timeless.
‘We live in a soundbite culture where people aren’t interested in much beyond a sentence, but I want to read the whole book,’ he says. ‘And that takes time, you can’t find out things in two minutes, it takes a lifetime.’
Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 12 Oct; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 13 Oct