Richard Hawley’s Notes From Sheffield: The Velvet Underground

A deep-voiced, working-class songwriter with an affinity for ’50s-era crooners, American country music and grand orchestration, Richard Hawley has paid tribute to his hometown of Sheffield, England, through songwriting that serves as a sepia-toned photograph of timeless places and love-troubled lives. While it may seem as if nothing changes in Hawley’s stylishly retro work, sixth album Truelove’s Gutter (Mute) is a deceptively tranquil sea change of sonics—employing glass harmonica, waterphone and other ethereal sounds—and themes, with the album delving into lyrical topics of dashed hopes, drug addiction and, of course, love gone wrong. Befitting its title, Truelove’s Gutter finds Hawley trawling Sheffield’s shadows and back alleys on his most spacious, soul-baring album to date. Hawley is guest editing this week. Read our Q&A with him.


Hawley: When I first heard the Velvet Underground, my mind was totally absorbed in the music of my dad’s record collection: old Sun rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop, hillbilly, urban blues, old music, mountain music and the folk music of my home country, too. I was 13 years old. In their music, I heard all those things, but they showed me a doorway to another way of interpreting all of it without resorting to straight pastiche; they moved it light years forward. I love them still. I suppose it’s all been written about them before, but after all these years, they’re still the sharpest knife in the drawer. Lou Reed’s songs and lyrics still inspire me. I had the great pleasure of touring briefly with Mo Tucker and Sterling Morrison many years ago, and they both took the time to show me things which I still greatly appreciate. I know there are others—many of us—who share this.