We all at times look back at our past to a specific event such as a new relationship, or the starting point of our career and cherish those memories. How though do we view those times?
Acclaimed Ivor Novello Award nominated English singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine’s new album “Swimming in Mercury” (Reveal Records April 28th 2017) gives us a personal insight as he takes us on that journey back in time. It’s a trip furnished with a glisten and a glint in his eye as he applies style and shapes to his autobiographical memories. Hewerdine revisits and recreates music in a manner that, put simply, a band starting out just couldn’t afford. In his own words “The new album was recorded in the spirit of the first four track recording I ever did… but instead of a chunky cassette deck we were able to use Chris Pepper’s Cambridge studio. It was an incredibly enjoyable and creative way to work. Often I would write a song in the morning and by the end of the day we would have another track done”.
There’s a compelling sense of adventure in tracks such as “My First Band”, “Satellite Town” and “A Letter to My Younger Self”. As a recording artist, Boo’s first tentative steps came with the band, The Great Divide before the formation of his much-loved eighties group “The Bible” and a career that subsequently bloomed such that he is now in constant demand as a musician, songwriter, producer, teacher and live concert performer.
Wearing his producers hat, Boo is renowned for his ideas and innovation, for new ways of recording and bringing projects to completion. To be successful, to add value, you need to stand out as a minimum but really there is a need to lead, “to be ahead of the pack”. Certainly his 2016 production project “Mobile”, for Devon based artist Peter James Millson, does just that, a complete album recorded directly to a Windows phone then professionally mastered. The result stands out as a modern-day field recording and is to be released on Hewerdine’s own Haven Label in 2017.
Brit Award winning, former Fairground Attraction singer (and Scottish national treasure) Eddi Reader (MBE) is the perhaps the artist Boo Hewerdine is most regularly associated with, as a songwriter, musician and producer. Together they enjoyed international success with the (Hewerdine written) hit single “Patience of Angels” in 1995 and Boo also produced Reader’s “Sings the Songs of Robert Burns” in 2003, an album now viewed as a folk classic.
In 2017 Hewerdine continues to enjoy playing live and writing new material with Reader and will tour Australia and the UK with her this Spring. Songwriter Findlay Napier employed Boo Hewerdine to work on his 2017 recording based on life stories of real Glasgow people and recorded completely live. Boo having collaborated with Findlay on his previous album VIP (Very Interesting Persons) which received rave reviews, including a shortlist for Best Album of the Year in The Telegraph) and the two songwriters also tour together regularly.
Another great songwriter to call upon Boo Hewerdine is Chris Difford of Squeeze. Difford and Hewerdine’s latest project, 2016’s “Fancy Pants” involved co-writing and producing more than thirty songs, initially for a theatre show and accompanying soundtrack. Soundtracks have been a feature of Boo’s songwriting and production canon, since his 1997 work for the films 24 7 and Fever Pitch.
It is expected some of the Fancy Pants songs will find their way onto a new Chris Difford studio album in the future, several of their demos surfaced early in 2017 on the Edel Records released, Chris Difford 5-disc box set “Chris To the Mill”.
State of The Union is the appropriate name given to Boo Hewerdine’s (occasional) duo with American Blues guitarist and songwriter Brooks Williams.
State of the Union create a magical, stripped back and enthralling musical atmosphere, their performances consistently brilliant, equal parts emotive and entertaining.
The original songs Hewerdine and Williams play are infused by a multitude of influences, from Willie Nelson to Johnny Cash, from the wide open Fenlands to the frenetic buzz of the city. Their recordings are made quickly, in most instances first take, live in the studio, but the sound this amazing acoustic duo capture is rich and expertly executed. Brooks Williams got his start in the clubs and bars in Boston USA and is now ranked in the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists. Over the years Williams has picked alongside Taj Mahal, John Hammond, Paul Jones, Little Feat, Maria Muldaur, Shawn Colvin and Leo Kottke, to name but a few.
State of The Union met when Brooks interviewed Boo for a specialist guitar magazine. Something Boo refers to as “a bit like Muhammad Ali interviewing Eddie The Eagle…. He is a guitar master!”.
Boo invited Brooks to play his annual Christmas concert in Ely. Even though they had never played together before, there was real magic in the air when Brooks sat in with Boo for his closing set. Both of them knew there was something unique happening and worth exploring, a pretty big sound with just two guitars and two voices. Two distinctly different musicians from different parts of the world with two different sets of influences coming together and making music. State of the Union have appeared on BBC1 TV Andrew Marr Show and will be record and Tour their third album in 2017.
Listening to Boo talk, it’s clear he’s also incredibly passionate about his Song Writing Workshops, about empowering others to achieve. One of Boo’s most pleasing moments happened when Tanya Brittain, a singer who had never managed to finish a complete song before signing up, became confident and comfortable of her own abilities. Within two years she had formed a successful band “The Changing Room” with Sam Kelly. Tanya won the FATEA website’s Single of The Year Award in 2016 for her song “Names on The Wall” narrowly beating Hewerdine’s own “Born”, the forerunner to the concept of 2017 album “Swimming in Mercury”.
All through Boo’s career of performing, of writing material for major artists such as Sia, K.D Lang, Kris Drever (Lau), Duke Special, David McAlmont, and Eddi Reader, being produced by Steve Earle or touring with Richard Thompson to name but a few, it is perhaps going right back to his childhood that gives us the best clues as to his motivation.
Speaking in 2014 around the release of his Best Of collection, “My Name in The Brackets” Boo explained “I had a Dansette and a handful of 45s. What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For? I Remember You, Seven Little Girls. Records from that strange era between Rock & Roll and The Beatles. I would study the labels. The title, the singer, the numbers, Columbia, HMV, the stuff about rights written around the edge and most intriguing – the names in the brackets. It turned out that these people had “written” these songs. Songs could be made up. Conjured out of thin air. I decided then, at the age of seven, that’s what I would do. I couldn’t sing or play an instrument but I had an internal jukebox going on the whole time.”
“All I ever wanted was my name in the brackets. And it gave me this life”.
Boo Hewerdine is one of the greatest songwriter performers in the business and a unique talent.
Ian Cripps (March 2017)