Richard Hawley - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
When Richard Hawley croons his particular brand of lushly arranged chamber pop hearts tend to swoon. The Sheffield, England native exists in the twilight somewhere between the heyday of Scott Walker, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley in equal measure.
The son of a steel worker, Hawley was taught the guitar at an early age while living on the wrong side of the tracks in the working class city of Sheffield. In 1994, Hawley co-founded the short lived Britpop quartet Longpigs and the band soon signed to U2’s Mother label. After two albums and a final American tour that left Hawley in a drug induced alcoholic stupor he was approached by long time friend (and Pulp frontman) Jarvis Cocker to be the Pulp’s touring guitarist for their This Is Hardcore tour. Hawley accepted and quickly found himself in a much healthier rock n’roll environment. After the eventual dissolution of Longpigs, Hawley became a sought after session musician playing guitar on tracks for Robbie Williams, All Saints, and Beth Orton. After a few Pulp tours Cocker and bassist Steve Mackey convinced Hawley to enter the studio and record some of his own material.
Hawley’s debut solo effort, Late Night Final (2002-Bar/None) was named after the cry of Sheffield street vendors hawking the evening addition of the Sheffield Star newspaper. Sheffield would continue to play muse throughout his solo career. All of Hawley’s album titles reference Sheffield and Hawley continues to live in his hometown today. Although Late Night Final exhibited some Britpop remnants it was Hawley’s masterful deep croon that took center stage. A year later he returned with Lowedges (2003-XL Recordings) named after a town outside Sheffield. The album marked a significant shift from Britpop toward exquisite orchestrated pop.
In 2005 Hawley released his strongest album to date. Cole’s Corner (2005-Mute) was named after the local make out point in Sheffield and brought Hawley a Mercury Award nomination for best album of 2006. Hawley would lose to the Arctic Monkey’s debut album causing the Monkey’s front man Alex Turner to exclaim, “Someone call 999. Richard Hawley’s been robbed.” During the Cole’s Corner tour Hawley started a promotional tradition of selling bottles of Henderson’s Relish with the Cole’s Corner artwork on the cover. After a successful tour Hawley convinced Jarvis Cocker to return to Sheffield and record his first solo album, aptly titled, Jarvis. Hawley contributed the majority of the guitar work for the album before heading back into the studio to record his fourth full length album, Lady’s Bridge (2007-Mute), named after the oldest bridge in Sheffield. The recording process would be bittersweet as Hawley’s father passed away during the process. The finished album proved to be Hawley’s most diverse set of songs with orchestral pop numbers followed by vintage rockabilly ditties even with some blue country thrown in for good measure. Richard Hawley continues to live and record in his beloved Sheffield.