As leader of the ‘80s pop band Haircut 100, Nick Heyward brought his unique and deeply catchy songwriting genius to the world, with the band best remembered for the MTV hits “Love Plus One” and “Favorite Shirts.”
As a solo artist Mr. Heyward has released critically acclaimed albums of pure pop bliss, but then, 18 years ago, he retreated from the world of recorded music in the traditional sense, and stopped releasing new albums. But that was until 2017, with Mr. Heyward returning with “Woodland Echoes” and a long-overdue U.S. tour.
He phoned from his native England to discuss the new album, his motivation as an artist and why he would choose being a bobcat over being a Beatle.
Question: How is England?
Answer: Sorry I can’t hear. Who is this?
Q: It’s Keith from The Washington Times. Who’s this?
A: This is Paul McCartney from The Beatles. (Laughs)
Q: Oh, I was hoping to talk to Nick Heyward.
A: I was given the chance to be anyone there, and I just couldn’t resist.
Q: If you could be anyone, would it be Paul McCartney?
A: Actually, no, I don’t think it is. If I could be anyone, I would be a bobcat.
A: They are very capable. And they look like they suit their environment. They also look quite peaceful, but you wouldn’t want to mess with them. And they don’t have mortgages and they don’t have a new album. (Laughs)
Q: But you do have a new album. How and why did it take 18 years to release “Woodland Echoes”?
A: Initially, after Creation Records, there wasn’t anyone who wanted to commission recordings from me. The climate had changed; guitar bands were over. Singer/songwriter stuff was sort of a different thing, especially for someone my age. I wasn’t in favor.
Then the internet started to happen. My son set up a MySpace page because he thought it would suit me. Then I started to make music and share it straight away with people there. For me as an artist, I was 100 percent fulfilled. I turned my spare room into a living, breathing studio. I didn’t have a manager. No record company. There wasn’t anything between me and sharing music with people.
I was 100 percent happy. Never even thought about actually making an album.
Q: How many years start to finish did it take “Woodland Echoes” to become a proper album?
A: In 2007 I recorded the vocal and acoustic guitar for one of the songs, “Forest of Love.” That was the first thing I recorded in the spare room. Then I started to color it in a few times. I’ve colored in loads of songs.
The actual album started to take shape between 2007 and last year. I did have my doubts. I would say to myself, “I can’t be making a record redo like Elton John and The Rolling Stones, can I?” After all, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not made in a spare room. But I had to just ignore that because there are things made in spare rooms. Then it was finished.
Q: What keeps you motivated to create new music?
A: The joy of songwriting. The joy of being creative. The joy of writing a poem or essay. Writing anything.
I just love writing, whether it is music or words. I just didn’t need to share it for the last 18 years. When you share it, it brings on other things, which is good. It’s [what] led to this conversation, led to pledge music, which led to reviews and promotion.
I didn’t plan for this. It just sort of happens.
Q: There are a lot of elements of nature on the record.
A: In 1999 I had a profound connection with nature one morning. I loved nature, but until then it was “just” nature. It was nice but it was cold. And sometimes hot. But this connection was deep and wide and tall.
Q: Is it safe to call this an album of love songs?
A: Yes. I didn’t want it to be. If you said, “Do you want to make an album?” I’d say, “Yes, but the last subject it is going to be about is love.” I would say, “It’s going to be a collection of lyrics about very profound subjects.” But the songs I selected just came together. They just worked. And they became first-person, which is strange. I would have never consciously wrote a first-person body of work. They were the songs that worked.
It came together and sort of feels like an autobiographical love story. It’s quite romantic and it sort of seemed to be reflecting my life. I didn’t want it to, but that is how it came out. And I’m gonna definitely push myself not to do it again. (Laughs)
Q: Do you think it will take another 18 years to make your next album?
A: I think the climate for creativity has so changed that anything goes. There is not the kind of cultures we grew up with. It’s now down to making music and, as I can share it now, it’s definitely not going to be 18 years. I’m already working on it.
Q: You have a couple U.S. dates. Will there be a full tour?
A: That seems to be what is happening. If it gets received well and people say, “He’s all right, isn’t he?” then more dates will follow. I don’t think there is anything planned, but people have become interested. Who knows where it can end up?
Nick Heyward’s “Woodland Echoes” is out now.