RICHARD HAWLEY INTERVIEW
Hollow Meadows is your most recent album. You’ve described it as an “internal work about lost places”…
Well… it came from being immobile. That was terrifying, because on one hand, doctors were telling me, “You’ll never walk, you have to have surgery,” and on the other hand, I was given a lot of hope by my mates and physios. My thoughts were that I’d been put in this position by natural means, and I can get out of it by natural means… it just meant that the route to recovery was a lot more circuitous. Now, I’m physically stronger than I was before. I’m also mentally stronger and happier. But it was really bad. Six months is a really long time when you’re not able to walk very far, or for long periods of time. You’re suddenly faced with yourself and your own thoughts. Luckily for me, my internal thinking process is not that bad. I could still look around me and realise how blessed I was. I have a wonderful partner, three beautiful kids, and some really amazing relationships. I realised how blessed we can be, in relationships and love. Just living this very simple life in Sheffield, writing my songs… it just seems to be something I’ve never compromised on, and I’m happy about that. I’m aware how lucky I am. And when I got better, we had the mother of all parties!
How did that experience affect the album?
There are a lot of dark twists and turns on the album. It’s not “Ooh la la, isn’t life happy?” It’s a record about acceptance, about accepting things the way they are. There are some things that are broken but they are still alright – a three-legged dog can still chase a ball.
How did you actually write the album? I’m imagining you laid up in bed, in pain… were you able to pick up a guitar? Fiddle on a piano?
It was in my head, the whole thing. The concept of it all, the lyrics and melodies. I mean, I could play the guitar a fair bit and jot down lyrics. I used a Dictaphone quite a lot, too. But I’ve been writing things in my head more and more anyway. I’ve got this idea: if a song survives the night, it’s good.
So is Hollow Meadows a reflection of modern life? About how we focus on how we look on the outside instead of what’s on the inside?
Well, our internal well-being is something that’s often neglected, especially in this country. It’s sorely neglected, it really is. Our leaders always concentrate on wealth and income; they don’t realise that the search for that can be really damaging.
Is there any more music in the making? Anything currently being written in your head?
Always. It’s like a junk shop in there… a junk shop and a launderette full of ideas, and they’ll come out when they’re ready.
Before live performances, how much do you practise?
We rehearse, like, once every six months or something — until it’s time to do some new songs. There’s always something that happens live that you can’t prepare for, but I’m a bit of an old punk-rocker… not knowing what’s going to happen next is what makes it exciting. If everything was mapped out and clear, I wouldn’t see the point.
If someone reading this is coming to the Deer Shed Festival, and they’ve never seen you or don’t know any of your music, what can they expect?
It’s not fireworks or anything like that. It’s just five blokes on stage playing rock ‘n’ roll! If you can connect with just one person in the audience, that’s great. I hope that we’ll connect with at least two or three people at the Deer Shed Festival!
Have you had chance to see what else is on at the festival? Who would you want to stick around and see?
There’s actually a lot. Ed Harcourt is always good. He’s a great songwriter. Then there’s Meilyr Jones, the Welsh wizard. Him and a band called Dancing Years… they were on tour with us last year, and that was a real pleasure to hear them. Dancing Years are incredibly emotional artists, and I really connected with them. As for Meilyr, his music is phenomenal; he’s going to have an interesting life. There’s also Buffalo Skinners, a young Sheffield band who are worth checking out – they’re good fun!
Richard Hawley will be headlining Deer Shed Festival on Saturday 23 July
Grab your tickets from www.deershedfestival.com without delay!