Mercury-nominated Richard Hawley talks to Andy Welch ahead of his sold-out Philharmonic gig
WHENEVER given the chance, Richard Hawley talks passionately about Sheffield. He was born there in the suburb of Pitsmoor, and each of his seven studio albums is named after landmarks or fondly remembered places in the city.
It’s no surprise he wants it to be the location for today’s interview, and has given directions to one of his favourite places in the now-well-to-do area of Fulwood, a mile or two from his house; down a country path, next to a waterfall and duck pond.
Out of the haze, a Hawley-shaped blur emerges. When he is close enough to talk, a hand flies out to shake.
“Eh up, kid. Fancy a brew?”
Hawley, who is playing a sell-out concert at the Philharmonic Hall on Monday, knows the cafe owner – Alan – well and is on first-name terms with most of the dogs that circle him too.
“He’s just like my Fred,” he says, patting a sheepdog and referring to his own beloved hound.
“Nice round here, isn’t it? My granddad brought me here when I was two and I’ve been coming here ever since.”
Forge Dam is where Hawley walks Fred almost every day. It’s also been the scene of some of his best songwriting.
“I’ve written most of the last two albums while out with the dog,” he says. “I rarely sit at a piano or guitar to start off a song these days, I just get ideas while I’m walking and hum then into my phone.
“If Fred could talk I’m sure he’d ask for 50% royalties, but he gets a nice bone from the butcher every now and again so he’s happy.”
Hawley is wearing a big black coat, dark jeans with Teddy boy turn-ups and shiny black brogues, recently re-soled after an unfortunate incident in Barcelona.
He was in Spain playing a festival when he slipped on a step and broke his leg.
“I was stone cold sober,” he says, “that’s the most annoying thing about it, I can’t even blame booze.”
He’s up and about again now but during the summer he performed all scheduled shows – including Suffolk’s Latitude festival – in a wheelchair.
“I don’t cancel shows, ever,” he says. “I’d had this right ordeal in the hospital. The marrow was leaking into my bloodstream and poisoning me. A few more hours and I’d have died.
“Anyway, we were back at the hotel an hour or so before the show and I just said ‘let’s do it’, so we borrowed a wheelchair and went to play to 80,000 people. I was on so much pain relief, I don’t remember a lot.”