Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Profiled - Richard Hawley




Richard Hawley has re-entered the studio to complete the follow up to 2009’s ‘Truelove’s Gutter’.

The songwriter has set up camp at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios with long-time confederate Colin Elliot for his seventh studio album. It comes off the back of a busy 20 years for Hawley with his sultry tones and classic sense of cool leading him to be dubbed as Yorkshire’s answer to Frank Sinatra.

Having collaborated with stars such as Duane Eddy, Nancy Sinatra and Tony Christie, the guitarist famously joined Pulp in the later stages of their career, touring and recording on their last album, ‘We Love Life’.  

Playing in one of Britain's biggest bands of the Nineties would be the pinnacle of many musicians' career, not for Richard Hawley and his most significant success has come as a solo artist. Known for his no-nonsense balladry that shines with a nostalgia of simpler times, the captivating instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics emanate a strong love of his hometown with dedications to the city’s heritage on LP titles such as ‘Lowedges’ and ‘Lady’s Bridge’.    

In 2006 the 44 year-old was tipped to take the much coveted Mercury Prize for ‘Coles Corner’. He was eventually beaten by fellow Sheffielders Arctic Monkeys to which Alex Turner notoriously declared: “Someone call 999 - Richard Hawley’s just been robbed.”

He was later honoured with an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University for his work on the album.

Born on January 17, 1967, in Pitsmoor, Sheffield, Hawley comes from strong music stock - his father, Dave, was a well known guitarist in Sheffield, plying his trade in the Dave Hawley Combo and the better known Black Cats throughout the Sixties and also made appearances with the renowned blues talents of John Lee Hooker and Little Walter.

Hawley picked the guitar up at a young age and after being caught with his father’s forbidden and prized instrument his interest in music was then nurtured by his father and uncle, Frank White – a well known Sheffield blues guitarist who rose to fame in the Sixties. By the age of 14 Hawley was on tour with Chuck Fowler’s band playing rock n’ roll covers at European strip clubs.

In the mid-Eighties Hawley formed Treebound Story, in which he featured on backing vocals and guitar, with friends from Firth Park Secondary School. It was a time when electronica was on the rise, a scene that centred around Sheffield and new bands such as the Human League, ABC and Cabaret Voltaire were picking up admiring glances nationwide.

The Treebound Story didn’t follow the mainstream which probably led to their minimal success, despite being noted by John Peel. They split in 1992 and reformed as the Lovebirds and although there was an offer from Ultimate Records, nothing was signed. While other members shaped a new band called Babybird (of ‘You’re Gorgeous’ fame,) Hawley joined the Longpigs towards the close of 1993.

This band became something of a cult act in the decade of Brit Pop and scored hit singles with ‘She Said’ and ‘Lost Myself’.  The Longpigs were a relentless touring machine, playing with the likes of U2 and Radiohead but it ultimately led to burn out and they folded in 1997, leaving Hawley drained and facing an ever-increasing drug habit.

In 2009, Hawley, now clean from drugs and the troubled times of over ten years ago, told Clash Magazine that he prefers not to look at the old times: “If you look back it’s too negative, you’re always facing the future with the back of your head.”

Richard Hawley still lives in Sheffield with his wife and three children.


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