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  • Interview: Richard Hawley

    Thu, 11 Oct 2007 10:04:50

    Interview: Richard Hawley - The velvet-voiced singer-songwriter on Rockabilly, shagging and crying

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    In the album review lexicon, "timeless" is a word that gets thrown around far too often.

    Richard Hawley's music, however, is timeless—as in out-of-time, existing between genres and eras in an imaginary, purple-velvet lounge in the sky. The ballads on Hawley's new Lady's Bridge dress up classy, winsome melodies with a Scott Walker-esque flair for pomp and string-drenched arrangements. While several uptempo numbers on the new album demonstrate the former Pulp guitarist's penchant for good old rockabilly rave-ups.

    Hawley's been crooning new classics for years now (he nearly won last year's Mercury prize, but was beat out by the Arctic Monkeys), but Lady's Bridge is certainly his best yet; a gem of impeccable songwriting and swoon-inducing instrumental beauty. Hawley recently spoke with ARTISTdirect about his album's metamorphosis, its very personal resonance and his need for music that hits "below the waist."

    How did a guy who came of age playing such modern-sounding Britpop (Longpigs, Pulp) come to write such old-timey, classic tunes? Had you been writing like this all along? Were you ever worried your music might be labeled anachronistic?

    I didn't come of age with those bands—I worked and learned from two old masters of the art, my father and my uncle. I was very lucky. I have been writing songs since I was a boy, I just didn't feel the need to shout about it. I was and have always been happy with a guitar in my hand, and don't care where the hell I stand on the stage. As for the last bit of the question… I don't give a shit.

    Could you talk a bit about the significance of the album title Lady's Bridge as a landmark both in your hometown and on a personal level?

    I walked across it two or three times a week for years and never gave it a thought until I read a book about Sheffield history and it hit home with me—you can find out all about it on Wikipedia. But on a personal level? I hit 40 this year, which is a fucking miracle, and I lost my father to cancer. He crossed many bridges of varying types with me in my life—from holding my hand when I was little to staggering across them drunk when I was older, but he cannot cross this bridge with me. That's what it means to me, anyway.

    Why have you named so many of your albums after places in Sheffield?

    I live here. It's what I know; I don't know about living anywhere else. I would be a liar if I imagined that I did.

    How did you set out to make Lady's Bridge different from Cole's Corner?

    It's like a TV screen getting wider. We'll be in a drive-in movie by the 10th album.

    How did you pare down your album from its initial 40+ songs down to its final 11? What were the discarded songs lacking?

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