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Nick Heyward Discusses His New Beginning With Tootal

Tootal Blog caught up with Nick Heyward as he releases Woodland Echoes, his first solo album for 19 years. We discussed his inspirations, hiking boots and his love of a good strong cup of tea.

It’s been nineteen years since your 1998 album The Apple Bed. What have you been doing with yourself?

My last record label deal had run its course. Personally I was in a state of bliss. I wasn’t thinking about ‘Nick Heyward the recording artist’ in any way.

It has been a long time, so much has happened. My parents passed away, I got through that, or I thought I was handling it but the truth is I wasn’t. All of that is in this album, or at least the last ten years is.

Then the internet appeared and my son, Oli, said, “Here’s a MySpace page for you. Have fun”. Oli was really into his sound engineering. He gave me a laptop, some speakers and a microphone. I sat in our small bedroom with a guitar and Forest Of Love was one of the first things that came out. Even though the songs came quite easily it didn’t feel finished. People would tell me that will do, that’s good enough to be a Nick Heyward album but it’s not about the painter, it’s the painting. I’ve spent the last ten years colouring it in. Then one day a little voice inside me said “That’s it; it’s finished”. The time was right.

At the same time there’s sense that this album could have followed straight on from The Apple Bed. Have you been storing songs up?

I had about three million ideas I’d sung into my phone. They would come at the most inconvenient time. Always when I was in the garage, never when I was sat at home. When I started working with my friend [engineer and producer] Ian Shaw I told him to pick a song to work on. So, Ian said “I like Mountaintop” and we began there. Towards the end of making this record Oli had a job in a studio, so I saved up – I had a choice between buying some property or paying for this album – and Chris Sheldon gave the album the proper mix it deserved.

As befits an album called Woodland Echoes it seems there is a pastarol theme running through the songs.

Nick Heyward, the 2017 model.

I love nature but it wasn’t until one morning around the age of 37 that I really connected with it. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. This album was made by that same invisible force that makes nature.

I’d be out for a walk, inspired by something I’d seen and my phone would help me create record sleeves. I’d take a picture and think, “That’s a 7 inch or that’s a 12 inch”. I’d put some type on it and think, “That would make a great record sleeve!” It was back to my commercial artist days.

You give the impression you are a fan of classic Pop music.

Well, I owe a big ‘thank you’ to the people that invented downloading and streaming because I can get my fix day or night, anytime, anywhere. When I listen to an album like [The Beatles] Revolver, it’s a template that works.

You just have to let it come. I haven’t done a lot of consciously thinking about a song subject. I remember thinking can I make a pop song about nature? Things like my Dad passing are in there but it might be a small moment in a song like New Beginning, which is an instrumental. I notice it but others may not.

There seems to be a strong affection for England that runs through your music.

I’ve spent most of my life here; I love it. There’s something very comforting about the culture and surroundings. I love the sound of a village green, or a cricket match. It’s bound to come out in my songs somehow. I’ve spent some time elsewhere but this is my home.

For the first time since I Love You Avenue (1988) you have an album available on vinyl. Are you pleased about that?

When I made the record I was thinking “Album; Side One, Side Two; Twelve Songs”. I’m glad people are buying vinyl again. I’m buying vinyl again and I don’t even have a record player! When the recording was being mastered I said, “Please make this sound like a proper album”. Mindful it was made in a small bedroom with one microphone and two small speakers that’s a tall order.

If your favourite albums were recorded by [Atlantic Records legend] Arif Mardin, with amazing musicians, in amazing studios how do you make it sound like that? So, that’s what I was aspiring to.

Where does your record label name Gladsome Hawk come from? 

Woodland Echoes (Gladsome Hawk Records, 2017)

Sara, my lovely fiancée, was going thrifting in America. She’s from Minnesota but her heritage is Denmark and Finland. We decided to set up an Instagram page to show off all these finds and we decided to call it Gladsome Hawk. Sara used to have a record label – ‘The Indie Goddess’ I call her. Like me, she’s a lover of all things music. The record companies decided to pass on my new album, we decided to put it out on our own label and needed a name. So… ‘Gladsome Hawk’. It’s very “us”.

You recently spent time filming a holiday programme for TV. Tell us more!

I spent two weeks in a camper van with Melvyn Hayes and Don Warrington. I’d look at Melvyn and think, “I used to watch you in It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum”! It was bonkers! I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I’d wake up every morning and make Melvyn tea and Bran Flakes. He called me Sunshine! He would talk about Chelsea and my Dad was a Chelsea supporter, so I’d close my eyes and it would take me back.

I’d talk to Don about Rising Damp and Hamlet. I had to ask the actors for advice. The director would say “Can we do that again?” and I’d think, “I’m a musician! How am I supposed to do it again?!”

It’s a long time since your ‘cricket jumper round the shoulders’ look. How would you describe your style these days?

I’ve really got into outdoor gear, particularly since the camping programme. I’d be looking at all the old guys at these National Trust sites and thinking, “I really like his boots” or “I really like his backpack”. You go to a camping shop and you never look back. I had to do a TV interview with Sara Cox recently but I was so comfortable in my camping gear I thought I’d leave it on.

If the occasion calls for it I’ll wear a tuxedo but… you know, horses for courses. Outdoor wear is definitely the current favourite.

Nick Heyward, Reading, 2012.

Do you remember the first time you were allowed to buy your own clothes?

When I was a commercial artist my first pay cheque was £15. I saved up and bought some “trainer-ey” shoes; they were like white space shoes. They were £99, a lot of money but I had expensive tastes. Then I saw a guy who had similar shoes but with leather soles. Mine were rubber. I was so upset. I told myself I was never going to be in that situation again.

Yours oldest records are 35 years old. Are you surprised they have endured and that there is still so much fondness for them?

Not really because I know how meaningful these songs are to me. I totally understand; I totally get it. If I met a musician whose work I loved, I’d be the same. If these new songs become old songs and get invested with meaning I’ll understand it. There’s so many fond, nostalgic memories attached to those songs for me. Anyway, I don’t think of them as old songs, they are songs that happened in my lifetime. Everything can’t happen at once and they happened first.

You once said your dream was to reunite all six members of Haircut 100 at Chalk Farm Roundhouse. How close is that to coming to fruition?

Nick Heyward, Japan, 1984 [Official Fan Club Photo]

It’s all about trying to get six people to want the same thing at the same time. For me it’s easy; “Where’s the gig? I’m there!” I loved what we had but there’s a reason some bands – Duran Duran or U2, for example – stay together and others don’t. If someone asked you “Do you want to meet up with your ex-wife?” you might like to catch up for an afternoon but not spend the next three months or a year with them.

It seems almost impossible. We’ve all had a go at it. We’ve managed four of us. It requires everyone to give up their jobs. The last time it happened was for VH1 TV. I even asked the guy from the TV company, “Can you manage us?”

Your website shop has ‘Nick Heyward Tea’. Discuss.

I like a good strong brew like Yorkshire Tea but someone’s already used that name. My manager said, “You should sell tea, it is so you!”

Maybe one day I’ll have my own shop – ‘Tea & Vinyl’.

Woodland Echoes is available now – including Deluxe formats and vinyl – from www.NickHeyward.com

With thanks to Nick Heyward and Joe Stopps.