2019 is set to be a landmark year for songwriter RICHARD HAWLEY. Not only is he due to release his eighth studio album, 'Further', but a musical based on a collection of his songs opens in his hometown of Sheffield. Then, there’s also the small matter of the man celebrating his twentieth anniversary as a solo artist.
Further marks a departure for Hawley who has, to date, named all his albums after Sheffield icons or landmarks. For his new album he wanted something that would capture the intention of moving forwards, but without jettisoning his past.
Optimism lies at the heart of Further, an album that was made largely in Sheffield with Hawley and his crack band, aided by co-producers Colin Elliot and Shez Sheridan.
“I really wanted to challenge myself to try to keep things relatively up-tempo and keep the songs to about three minutes long,” Hawley says openly, “I was asking myself ‘Can you get your message across like a bullet? Can you still do that?’ It’s quite a tough question to ask.”
Hawley’s challenge to himself means that Further is quite possibly his most forthright album to date, clocking in at under 40 minutes. The opening track and first single, the thunderous, Rickenbacker thrasher Off My Mind, sets the album’s direct tone. Hawley describes his approach on the track as “playing like tomorrow may never happen.” Other songs that display similar swagger include the Glam stomp of Alone, the outlaw tale that is Galley Girl and the album’s centrepiece, the grungey Is There A Pill.
Conversely, the depth and consideration applied elsewhere on the album’s 11 tracks is typified by My Little Treasures – a tune that Hawley has taken 12 years to record. The song itself is based on the deep personal experience of encountering two of his father’s oldest friends following the latter’s death in 2007, and the complexities of emotions associated with that time.
It would not be a Richard Hawley album without some sumptuous ballads displaying the man’s gift for writing the type of heartfelt songs that have made him the revered songwriter he is today. Nowhere is this exemplified more than on the beautiful, yet simple Emilina, the yearning Midnight Train and album closer, Doors.
If the space in Hawley’s music and his lyrical romanticism remain fully intact, Further is also an album that was conceived with the here and now in mind. “We’re all bombarded by so much hateful stuff at the moment that I was determined to make something that is really loving. Some of the songs definitely reflect that and deal with what’s going on,” says Hawley. “The song Not Lonely is a good example. It deals with the stage that I hope our children get to, that stage where they can have a place of their own, being able to find their own space and luxuriate in it.”
Further is the sound of a man who has very little left to prove but that still has something to say. The album reflects Hawley’s own enduring approach to life.