Richard Hawley on the "grim up north" myth and how Sheffield inspires his music.Visit site
No musician has as deep a connection to Sheffield as Richard Hawley. His timeless melodies evoke a uniquely northern sense of nostalgia, with gorgeous string sections that sweep like the South Yorkshire hills and guitars that pound like feet on the paths through Sheffield’s parks. He’s been embedded in the local music scene since his childhood, when his father would play with the city’s rock ‘n’ roll icons Dave Berry and Joe Cocker. By his teens, Hawley had his own band Treebound Story, that would take him from the upstairs room at the Hallamshire Hotel on West Street to recording a session with the late John Peel.
In the ‘90s Hawley would find himself on Top Of The Pops with the Longpigs, then on tour with Pulp alongside his old school friend, bassist Steve Mackey. His work as a session musician has seen him work with everyone from Nancy Sinatra to All Saints, but it was when he started recording his own songs at the urging of Mackey and Jarvis Cocker that Hawley began to win wider acclaim. His fourth album, Coles Corner, was nominated for the Mercury Prize: “Someone call 999,” said Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner when accepting the prize for his band’s debut in 2006. “Richard Hawley's been robbed.”
Hawley’s eighth album Hollow Meadows was, like all of his records. recorded at Yellow Arch Studios in Neepsend, with additional parts recorded in his shed-turned-home studio, dubbed Disgraceland. Its title, which comes after the village on the edge of the Peak District, continues a sequence of Sheffield titular references: Coles Corner is where lovers used meet at the end of Fargate, Lowedges is down Abbeydale Road, Lady’s Bridge crosses the River Don, Truelove’s Gutter was inspired by an ancient town centre street and Standing At The Sky’s Edge is a nod to one of the best views in the city. In other words, he loves Sheffield just as much as we do.
How would you describe your work?
I haven’t done a day's work in my life! I’ve studiously avoided it – I’ve made music instead.
What inspires you?
Walking with my dogs in the woods, the rolling hills that surround Sheffield, the bits of beauty around us. I’m sick of hearing the phrase “it’s grim up north”. It just isn’t. It’s time to dispel the myth. I’m inspired by places and people in equal amounts.
What’s your workspace like?
Like a cross between the Cutty Sark and the Tardis.
What do you love about Sheffield?
"The glory of it all."*
What would you do to improve the city?
Free Guinness – but not everyday, that would be silly.
How has Sheffield influenced Hollow Meadows?
I have lived in Sheffield all my life so it’s influenced it in every way possible. Sheffield will always influence what I do.
What do you miss when you're away on tour?
My wife, my kids, my bed, my dogs, my vinyl, my friends, my walks in the woods, my free time, my local.
What do you look forward to about hometown gigs?
I get all of the above and Sheffield folk are very kind and generous with their support.
Who are your favourite Sheffield musicians at the moment?
Well, I don’t get to listen to much new music as I’m always exploring the wonders of old vinyl. But I just had the privilege of working with two great local musicians – Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club and my dear friend Martin Simpson. Also, High Hazels just supported me and I thought they were awesome.
*Lyric from Serenade Of Blue, Hollow Meadows.