Arts

Richard Hawley harks back to his roots on eighth solo album

Tonight sees Richard Hawley returning to one of his favourite cities, Dublin, for a gig as he tours his fantastic new album Hollow Meadows. He talks to Brian Campbell

Richard Hawley is playing Vicar Street in Dublin

RICHARD Hawley is back with a brilliant new album, Hollow Meadows, and takes his phenomenal live show to Dublin tonight.

The Sheffield native always puts a lot of his hometown into his work and the new album title comes from an area outside Sheffield that has links to the Hawley family.

The record – his eighth – is fantastic and features a winning mix of rockier tracks (Heart of Oak, Long Time Down, Which Way), slower tunes (Tuesday PM, Nothing Like A Friend, What Love Means) and the soaring standout song The World Looks Down.

How did you find out that Hollow Meadows – which gave you your new album title - had links to the Hawleys?

I’m constantly looking for stuff and that came from my mate John who I go to Sheffield Wednesday matches with. He said he saw a place called Hollow Meadows, so I did a bit of research and it blew my mind that it was basically where the Hawley name came from back in the 13th century. The thing is, people come up to me in Sheffield all the time and go `I’ve seen this great album title for you...’ and it’s Chesterfield Road or whatever, so I’ll smile and nod and say thanks. But Hollow Meadows stuck.

Because you name-check so many Sheffield places on your albums, is there a Richard Hawley tour of the city yet?

I’ve been told about an unofficial one, where fans get a walk around the city. My mate told me there’s all these people in anoraks looking at Lady’s Bridge and Coles Corner and he was p***ing himself laughing about it.

The World Looks Down is your poetic take on how people today are glued to smartphones/tablets etc on public transport and so on. Are you into technology in any way?

Well I’ve got an iPhone in my hand now and I use it as recording device too, so some of it is fantastic. But there’s the dangerous obsession where we’re not able to just `be’ and sit still. It’s an observation I made from my kids, because I realised that they’re not aware of a time when those things weren’t so omnipresent in our lives. That’s all they know. Technology does help us and I’m not a Luddite, but there are things that you can see in this world that are bit more subtle. The song isn’t a rant; it’s a gentle observation.

Do you get involved with social media – such as Facebook and Twitter – at all?

I don’t have the time. I find that idea of total strangers being `friends’ really weird. It’s an odd concept. I think `friends’ come round and put a shelf up or run me to the shops or go to the pub with me or go to the cinema or go to a match. And I think your greatest asset as a writer is boredom. If you’re naturally creative and a bit fidgety like me, you fill the void. If you have this screen in front of you all the time, that fills the void and it reduces your creativity because everything is all done for you. I’m very precious about my boredom! [laughs].

Of the more stripped-back songs, Tuesday PM is one of the loveliest tunes.

Well I’ve got our keyboard player John to thank for that one. I’m a pretty prolific writer and I’m thinking about songs every minute of every day. That one had been around for a bit and I never quite finished it off, but John kept saying `What about that one?’ and he started playing when I was singing it and it just worked. It was originally going to be a b-side. It was the same with Just Like The Rain from Coles Corner; I wrote that on my 16th birthday and it took me until I was in my 30s for it to fit on an album. If you write music without fashion in mind, it’s just music. A good song will last forever. I hope that’s what I do.

Do you still get nervous before gigs?

I do. My ego isn’t that big and to be a singer I guess you have to have an ego the size of Saturn and all its rings and I’ve never fitted into that bracket. But after a couple of songs I relax.

Are you looking forward to playing Dublin?

I am. I’ve said this before, but it’s a bit like selling fridges to Eskimos. Irish traditional music is something that I love very much and because of the Irish culture of music, you don’t need anything – you’ve got it all. So to come to Ireland and to be taken to an audience’s heart is something that I don’t take lightly and that is really special. Friday night in Dublin. Vicar Street. It’s going to go off, isn’t it? We tried to get a gig in Belfast but there was nothing available on the dates, so we’ll be touring again next year and we’ll try to include it then.

One of your dates next week is at the famous Barrowlands in Glasgow. Is that a venue you enjoy playing?

This is the absolute truth: I’ve been playing live since I was 12 and there are only three posters I’ve ever kept. One is from a gig I played with my dad at the Pheasant pub when I was 16, one is from the first time I played Vicar Street and one is from the first time I played the Barrowlands. They were unbelievably brilliant concerts for me. I kept those posters to remind me how good things can be if you really try.

:: Richard Hawley plays Vicar Street in Dublin tonight at 7.30pm (tickets €33.50). Hollow Meadows is out now on Parlophone. For tour updates, see RichardHawley.co.uk

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