“All I want with every album is to earn the right to make another, it’s that simple…” - hmv.com talks to Richard Hawley
As his new album Hollow Meadows hits shelves (it’s available to preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page) we chat to Richard Hawley about recording in his shed, writing songs while recovering from a broken leg and why his hometown of Sheffield will always be a big part of everything he does...
Your new album Hollow Meadows is out today, do you still get nervous before your albums come out?
“I haven’t got nervous for years and years, not about chart positions, I find myself in this bizarre position, I’m a 48-year old guy and my last album went to Number Three, which was a total shock to me. It’s weird seeing your name next to someone like Taylor Swift, it’s funny really.”
It must be nice to feel like things are still growing, even at this stage of your career...
“All I want with every album is to earn the right to make another, it’s that simple. It’s not that my ambitions are low, but when you’ve been around a long time you have highs and lows. I just want to be able to keep going”
This album was born out of quite a difficult period, you’d hurt your back and broken your leg, that must have been a hard time…
“I always write songs, it doesn’t stop, I was writing songs before I knew what they were, you have to write songs for their own sake, you can’t think in commercial terms, I never look the creative genie in the eye, you know when you have songs that fit together, I’ve got hundreds of songs, but you get groups of songs.”
“The only difference with this to any other record was my mobility, I couldn’t really go far so I worked in my garden shed, it’s a posh shed, but still a f***ing shed. All the vocals were pretty much done at home, all the guitars were done at home, it was getting the vibe right, which is always the toughest bit.”
Did you have a goal for how you wanted the album to move on from Standing At The Sky’s Edge?
“There’s no agenda, there’s no politicking, sometimes it’d be a couple of hours in the afternoon, sometimes I’d start at 10am and still be there at 4am. It’s not hard, my dad used to do 14 hours a day in the steelworks, I go to my shed and toss off songs, I know which one I’d rather be doing.”
Did you have lots of songs to choose from for the album?
“There’s always loads and loads of songs. It’s whittling it down and making sure there’s a flow to it. That isn’t immediately obvious, you need to throw curveballs in there, to keep people on their toes, I still find it just as hard to choose, you fall in love with songs and you hate to leave them off.”
Standing At The Sky’s Edge was a rockier record than this one, did you aim for something mellower?
“It had a similar vibe, last time I’d just turned my amps up, this one is a bit calmer, recording at home made it a really different record to anything else I’d ever done, it was like going back to being on the dole, just me and a guitar, it’s a lot simpler. I like things being basic and keeping the focus on the work.”
Are you never tempted to head off to some plush studio in the countryside?
“I did that before, I remember when I was in the Longpigs we used to go to these residential studios and you just end up getting really good at pool and table football. You did everything separately and I’ve dispensed with that way of doing things, you need to play together, you can feel that energy on some of the songs.”
You’ve got Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor on the album, how did they get involved?
“Me and Jarvis obviously go way back. He’s got this weird bass, it’s like one of the first synths, it’s got this incredible bass sound and I wanted that kind of sound. Since the song was called ‘Nothing Like A Friend’ and he had the bass I thought it was a no brainer, we had a nice afternoon and he did it all in one take.”
“Colin (Elliot), our bass player produced the Slow Club record and I really liked it, I see Rebecca out and about and I wanted some backing singers, I didn’t want to go to London and get loads of soul singers, I wanted it to be from Sheffield, so I got Rebecca and another local singer called Sally Doherty to come down and a combination of their voices was exactly what I wanted.”
It feels like Sheffield is a big part of every record you make...
“Absolutely. I’ve never understood when bands decide they’re going to go to New York and make a New York album. What’s the point of that? It’s false. If you can’t get inspired by your immediate surroundings you’ve got a problem. I think this is city will always inspire me, it’s an urban forest, it’s easy to get inspired by nature in Sheffield. I walk for miles and miles and don’t see a road. I know when artists get successful they just fuck off to London and the city that’s bred you ends up losing you, which is a shame.”
You’ve got a tour coming up at the end of the year, is that the first of many for the months ahead?
“We tend to just book tours and see how it goes. I’ve gone round the world over and over again and I’m in no rush to do that again. I don’t need to go hammering away on the road.”
How will you go about putting the setlist together? There’s a lot to choose from...
“We’ve had a few rehearsals and the new stuff sounds great, but it’s what we’re going to dispense from the earlier albums that's the problem. It’s my eighth album and I never thought it’d last this long or get this far. It still surprises to this day. We’ll definitely put in a few surprises, I like mixing the set up a bit.”
Richard Hawley’s Hollow Meadows is out now.