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 magnetmagazine.com this week. Read our Q&A with him.
Hawley: As a boy, I took it for granted that my family were all either musicians or into music. I didn’t think about it. As an older man, I realize how lucky I was. I was brought up in a really rough part of my hometown of Sheffield, and their influence guided me so massively but also gently away from some dangerous pastimes that were easily available around us. (Those things I was to discover of my own free will later on in life.) If I ever had heroes, I think these three men are those. My grandfather was a music-hall performer. He had an act where he used to play the violin behind his back while he stood on his head. This was some years before Hendrix. It didn’t catch on. [Hawley’s dad’s band, the Dave Hawley Combo, is pictured]