Eileen Shapiro, Contributor
Interview: Nick Heyward: “Woodland Echoes”
10/18/2017 06:09 pm ET
An incredible conversationalist and creative artist, Nick Heyward, formally front man of the adorable 80’s faction “Haircut One Hundred”, has released a brand new solo album entitled, “Woodland Echoes”, a celebration of the beautiful facets of nature that often go unnoticed, dusted with a glittering sensibility.
Always a happy go-lucky, uplifting journey when listening to Nicks songs, which are sure to leave you smiling, the artist himself follows the same path when speaking with him in real life. Painting a recognizable, and captivating, picture of his past experiences, all bursting with colorful antic dotes, Nick revealed a symphony of adventures since his last release. He spoke of childhood passions, future endeavors, and his magnificently mysterious awakening.
Born in Beckenham England, Heyward studied art and photography. In 1981 Haircut One Hundred skyrocketed to fame with songs including, “Love Plus One” and “Favourite Shirts”, but by 1983 Heyward had left the band to pursue a solo career, releasing several albums along the way.
When having a heart to heart with Nick, his genuine authenticity, and vibrant descriptions of life quickly found it’s way subcutaneously (one for you Nick), into my soul. Nick Heyward was one of the most enjoyable, charming, sparkling, and decorous, yet simultaneously humorous and edgy interviews I’ve ever had...fluctuating between a brilliant type of sanity, and a creative new age visionary attitude.
I love starting an interview out with a secret, ( which I promised not to print).
Well then it goes straight to lies.
That could be fun too.
Oh it can. What’s a secret, what’s a lie and what’s the truth? In the world of rock ‘n’ roll it’s all kind of a myth. It’s people just creating images. I mean is Keith Richards really like that? It might just be a myth, he might be completely lounging around the house passing wind all day.
I love you already. I interview a lot of great artists and you have to wonder what they are really like.
Yeah, exactly, because they don’t talk about that stuff. It’s all edited, isn’t it, like music? You don’t really say “Oh fuck, what a crap day”. It doesn’t fit in the lyric, does it? It doesn’t go in a chorus, it’s much easier to say, “ it’s a fantastic day”.
I don’t know, some of those songs say that now.
I suppose so. It’s creeping in. Maybe the truth is all coming out, that’s what the change is. You know people use to keep their mouth shut a lot more. It’s quite current. In the film business everybody kept everybody’s secrets, the music business was the myth. So maybe that’s what is happening. There’s no secrets. There was that film where you’re suddenly seeing everything that’s going on backstage. It’s a great film about everything backstage that you don’t normally see. When you go to the theater and see the production you go away completely hood winked. You’re seeing everything as if you been lied to, because really what goes on behind the scenes?
Well if you listen to the news lately about Harvey Weinstein you see what goes on behind the scenes.
It’s all out in the open like American politics.
You mean the American reality show currently going on?
Exactly, that’s exactly what it’s turned into, a reality TV show, and it’s all about ratings. I don’t know about you but I feel like I can’t switch it off. He’s everywhere.
It gives American artists a subject to write about.
It’s a good thing in a way because in the UK you can’t be Prime Minister. There are rules and regulations, and it really still is the old. There is something in the rules and regulations that stops someone from a reality show to become Prime Minister. But, it shows a great amount of creativity, it shows great freedom, that you can buy yourself into a top job in America.
I’ve been trying to interview your Queen for a fashion piece for ages.
I’d love that interview. That would be so good. Wouldn’t it be great to know all her fashion tips, what she really thinks of fashion? She goes around the world literally like a rainbow. Every country is a different color. She doesn’t say “let’s stick on the black, I’m feeling a bit plump today”. She just says, “ I’m wearing pink, fuck it.... vibrant pink”. With a yellow hat.
So you could have an ultimate stage fantasy, what would you want to happen?
Actually my ultimate stage fantasy would be to be a frontman. Like a proper frontman, like Mick Jagger, or David Bowie. Put the guitar down for God sake, put the bloody thing down, and start moving and groovin’ on the stage. I did it once at the end of Haircut One Hundred. I thought for one night, I was a little bit Dave Gahan. I was all over the place, and then that was it, for the rest of it. It was one night only, I was going to be a rock God on stage. I think I had a little too much to drink, something had happened. I put down the guitar and that might have been a moment when Haircut On Hundred would have had their Depeche Mode moment where the Gods kind of gave new bands, cute bands, new life and turned them into the heroine. I’m not saying I would have done the heroin, I probably would have chosen something else like crystal meth. I think I would’ve chosen Valium because I need that. That’s what meditation is. That’s what I have to do to just calm down. Keep it calm, calm down...that a breather.
Where you meditating when you did your new album? It’s very about nature.
Kind of. I was in a kind of meditational state. When I did the recording I was mostly in the spare room, or somebody else’s spare room, and it was always around nature. I didn’t have the budget to go into town, or into the city. It was done rural just because I lived rurally because it was cheaper. So I found myself in a little cottage, a little two bedroom and the second bedroom in the UK normally means a shoebox. That was down south. That’s why I don’t live in the UK at the moment down south. If I do go back to the UK I will buy up North if I can. It’s friendlier, there’s no doubt about that. It does happen in the UK, and I don’t know if it’s because people are stressed down south because of the rise of the higher standard of living and stuff. It rises, but it doesn’t rise relatively does it? It doesn’t rise for everyone. Anyway I digressed.... I was in the studio in spare rooms and surrounded by literally, you would open a window and have that connection with nature. It was lovely. The same thing that made the trees, and the birds sing, made this album.
You can definitely tell. It’s a really cool album.
Thank you. I didn’t think that there would be a nature pop category.
Well there is now, there’s your new genre.
I was thinking about nature pop the other day. There is a need for a nature pop category. I think it could start appearing in shops, if there is such a thing as shops anymore. There’s no record stores really. I mean there are...
If you record on vinyl.
I made this for vinyl. I started in about 2007, I thought it would be recorded in a week, and that I could share it directly online. I thought that would be great. I didn’t realize that once you start going that something else kicks in. The artist said, “ that will do”, and then the inner songwriter says, “ no that won’t do, I’m sorry but this song has not reached its full potential, and you can’t lie to me”. So you just carry on and you go, “ it’s not finished”. When you’re making it in the spare room the artist also says. “ you can’t do this in a spare room, David Bowie never did this in a spare room” They were all done in brilliant studios. Queen didn’t record Bohemian Rhapsody in a spare room. That was done in Trident Studios with the best engineer and the best producer of the day. All of your favorite record stars that are popping up and yelling “ spare room, spare rooms”. So you’ve got to ignore that stuff and the songwriter steps in and says, “ leave him alone, he’s just trying his best”. You continue and you get bombarded by fans saying, “ when is this album coming out, I’m going to stop being a fan now”. I had quite a few fans go by the wayside, just disappear and didn’t come back. Then when you release it you get a manager and he says “ I think you should do a pledge campaign”. Then you sack him, and you get another one, who says the same thing, and you say, “ Oh fuck it”. Then when the pledge count comes in it’s really good because you start to actually see the fans that are there. You’ve got a list in front of your eyes. “Oh look, Gary has just bout the album, oh bless him “, then friends have just bought one. Then you can say, “ hey listen, people that don’t buy this, I don’t take it personally, I really don’t mind that you haven’t bought it. It’s not like a badge of honor or something like that”. The inner artist doesn’t care who buys it, or what format at all. The happiest I’ve been as an artist was on “My Space”. I was living in this cottage and the whole house became a studio. I bought some microphones and my son helped me put some stuff together. I was just experimenting, recording, and then sharing it right away on “My Space”. The artist was really, really happy. The songwriter was absolutely beside himself, because he said, “you can’t share doodles”. You’ve got to develop this song”. The artist was saying, “ listen, you’ve got no influence on me now”.
Like an angel/devil scenario.
Yeah. I think it’s not bad, it’s just what goes on in the human mind to steer us around to do stuff. Then you’ve got to let it go as well. The meditation can help that. It can help you let yourself go, and not be so hard on yourself, and stop this argument, sometimes.
Besides “My Space”, where have you been since the 1990’s?
Interesting. Really fascinating. I’ve been more creative, since 1998 when I did the Creation album. I’ve been more creative since then, I just haven’t released anything. So I’ve got a backlog of stuff. Then when I came to record this album I didn’t do any of that. It was really weird, it’s like you think, “ oh great I’ve got all these songs I’ve been writing over the years”. Then you say, “where are they”. I’ve got them on these cassettes locked up. Then you look on your phone, you know phones have been invented and all of the songs go straight into your phones. Then you just pick up the guitar and decide to start something anyway. Then you start this song writing process, and then it just goes. Take a song like “ Beautiful Morning”.
Thanks. I tried that four times. The inner songwriter kept saying “dude, no! sorry, that’s not good enough. You haven’t captured the morning of the beautiful morning in the present morning and you haven’t captured it in the time that you’re inspired by”. Which was 1998 when I had this beautiful morning of all mornings. It was just amazing, but I don’t want to hang onto it that much. Every morning should really be like that. But this special morning was so wonderful. There I was, I was in this sort of crazy process. I had a piece of music that I did. I wrote the lyrics for it. When the morning sun arrives in the sky...I had the lyrics, but the music doesn’t really.... The thing is, normally when you’re in a band and you’re doing an album and your signed, you don’t have the luxury of doing an album three or four times. You don’t have that perspective. It’s done, and ok that will do. One of the downsides of not being signed is that you don’t feel like a commissioned artist. The upside is you have all the time in the world, in fact you haven’t got any time. You’re living in a timeless realm. You can do absolutely anything. So I tried it again and then it didn’t really work. I took the lyrics and thought there is something in there, and I just had to do it justice one day. Then I went over to Florida with my friend Ian Shaw, and we recorded it there. I did a version of “Beautiful Morning”, sort of guitary and it sounded lovely, but it still wasn’t “It”. Then when I came back to the UK, in this little cottage called “The Rise”, in the middle of the countryside, the window was opened and I thought, “ I’m going to try that”. So I picked up the guitar and just started singing, I didn’t know what I was playing. I turned the guitar down low, and I thought, “ wow, that feels right”. I recorded it there in this little spare room, cheap as chips, then I put another guitar in it, and I sang it, and I thought, “wow, this is right. This is the strong foundation. Then when I sent it to my friend Phil to put some keys on it, he ended up doing something that I would never have done. The thrill of working with people that do something unexpected....you’re trying your hardest to do something unexpected without trying. It just happens naturally. So this album was definitely that way, it just unfolded naturally over the time.
That’s the best description of the song writing process that I’ve ever heard.
Then when it was finished, and I knew that it was finished, and it finished itself quite quickly. Then it was mixed. The essence of that song had reached its full potential. The songwriter gave the thumbs up. The artist was really happy, because the artist sat in Starbucks, on a rainy day, with headphones on, listening to “Beautiful Morning”, and watched the people, and the people became vibrant, like the Queen, they all became pink. The gloomy, rainy High Street became alive. It moved me and everything was happy. I had to get everyone right like that because I didn’t have the luxury of a studio. Every track reached its full potential from what it was.
That is a great sense of an accomplished realization.
When you step into the music business, which I still haven’t done, I mean I have little steps into it, it’s like white water rafting. You get dragged along there, fast paced, because it’s really fast. I don’t know whether it’s the Coke or what. Then when you step out of it again it’s not the same thing that grows trees. It’s fast paced and it’s impatient. It wants stuff now. The music business slacks that compassion. It doesn’t care about people that much. It’s probably like politics, people say the same thing. People go into politics because they want to make the world a better place. Then once they get into politics they get trapped into something. Like in the music business apparently, people just try and keep their jobs. In politics it just looks like a battlefield. Imagine people getting in it for the right reasons, they want to help their community. I wonder how they feel a decade later, I wonder how Bernie Sanders keeps his optimism? It’s like keeping my optimism without being in the music business. There was a time with this record when it looked like a major might go for it. But then I’m not that attracted to majors. I’m still not that thing. So that’s why it took a long time to come out because it sort of grew. Then it was put out. Now I’m just watching it pollinate.
Will you tour in support of the album?
I will, when it pollinates in the right places. That’s how I think “Kite” took off. I was just following that and it took me to amazing new areas. Brilliant places. With that song I was on stage with people that I never thought I’d be on stage with. Like doing gigs with The Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star.
Do you have a hero?
Tony Bennet. I played with Tony Bennet. I walked into San Francisco airport and had the same flight as Tony Bennett. We were doing the K-Rock Christmas shows. He was new artist of the year, which was brilliant. I didn’t know this at the time but they were going to film him arriving into San Francisco. Arriving home. I walked beside him, and he’s the coolest traveler. Just a raincoat. That’s it, and a ticket. I mean he wears trousers and shoes and stuff, but no bag. We were all there with our bags and stuff and here he was really cool, great hair, the epitome of style. The camera crew caught him and everyone was walking towards him saying, “ Welcome home Tony”. It was a bit of a “Spinal Tap” moment.
Did you have a musical background as a child?
My dad’s main hero was Stan Kenton. So brass was around our house, full brass sections every day. I had mum pumping out The Carpenters from the stereo in the lounge. It was white. I loved that stereo. My mates thought we were a really cool family because we had the white stereo. I’ve got white speakers in my little studio. That was just a little connection there. I didn’t realize that I turned into my mum there. God bless her. Dad would be at the pub mainly, hanging out with all that Jazzes and stuff. My brother would be upstairs in his room playing everything. I heard such a variety of music coming out of there, the wall of amplifiers. He was into rock. That’s where I learned basic rock. I thought that was going to be an influence for this album, but it didn’t happen for this album. It was definitely there during the recording. I recorded a lot of basic rock strangely. I haven’t got the prejudice of being a young man with music. When I’d be interviewed and people talked about music......when you’re 19 and getting into your band, you only mention who you think is cool. That’s what a young person does, they want to be relevant. When I was interviewed I didn’t say that I actually like the Bellamy Brothers. I just wouldn’t have said that. Yet growing up that’s all I probably listened to. It would be that and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and all things before punk.
You need to write a book.
Yeah, you think so?
You’re very colorful when you speak, like the Queen in pink.
Wow! Ok. I will. I’ll find out how the process goes. Normally when I start to write, the creative process, then I start to write like a songwriter. I don’t talk like that in conversation. Here we’re having a conversation, so maybe I’ll use the Dictaphone to write.
You can just keep calling me and we’ll talk about something.
I’m channeling Eileen. That’s the name if the book. The things we get up to when were younger, they are hilarious aren’t they? Everybody has them, we all go through it.
You speak as though you’re painting a picture.
Ah! That’s what creativity is, isn’t it? We’ve all got that inside. I’ve had times when I can’t even speak. That experience that I said in 1998 after Creation Records, that “Beautiful Morning”, that was the time when I almost fell into....it was like the subconscious mind.
Like an awakening?
Yeah, completely that. A lot of my mates thought I had gone mad, because I really actually couldn’t speak very well. I use to stutter as a child. I couldn’t get the words out. This period, 1998, it was like the awakening of my vocabulary. It was really weird because I started to write a stream of consciousness at the time. That was the awakening. I was having lots of baths for some reason. I felt it was like being back in the womb. It was a great feeling. I would get in the bath with my pencil and just write stuff. I’d read the stuff and I wouldn’t even understand some of the words that I was writing. Like I used the word subcutaneous, and I thought, “ what does that mean”. I looked it up and it was under the skin, and I used it in the perfect form in the poem. I thought that was really weird. I’m speaking from the subconscious, somebody else knows these words, because I didn’t. I had a terrible education. Nobody ever sat down and said to me “subcutaneous, under the skin, this is a very important word and one day you’ll use it in poetry”. Wasn’t like that at all. So I think within us all there are all the words. Sometimes you get frustrated. You see it with guys in Manchester in Liverpool. They fight because they can’t communicate well. So they just got this anger in them. Then you see guys like that waking up as they get older. They become like poets and stuff.
That’s really interesting. I love Liverpool.
What a brilliant place.
So you were a kid growing up and the suddenly you became totally famous. What were the reactions from friends and family?
In hindsight at the time they reacted just like everybody else, which I was initially uncomfortable with. It’s almost like they became fans. One week before “Top of the Pops”, I couldn’t get my washing done. It was a do it yourself kind of thing, “you lazy kid”. Then afterwards it was just washed and put on the bed. “ Anything else we can do for you, famous person”? It’s a comforting thing that they say “do it yourself”. So when that relationship is completely changed in a moment it’s really unsettling. In hindsight I can see exactly why mum and dad were like that. I love them for that. I miss them dearly because we didn’t have this conversation, mum and dad and I. Every time I would go to speak they were still mum and dad. The fact that they were your mum and dad, and they knew better, was comforting. I think if you can transcend that with your children, that’s what I try to do with mine... I try not to be, “ I know and you don’t”. I remember my dad just before he died said, “I wish I would have listened to you kids earlier on in life” that’s the point, listening to others, it might sound like criticism but it might be really helpful. It brings a level of awareness. As people get older they get more aware anyway, until they die. Then they are completely aware. They are continually alive for the first time in their life.
That’s a little heavy.
There has been reported cases of people in accidents with smiles on their faces. Who’s to know? I haven’t been there. I found that in 1998 it was like a death of my condition. My conditioned mind completely died. I was left in this place, this beautiful morning. My friends thought I had gone mad, but you know you’ve gone sane for the first time in your life because you’ve gotten rid of all that struggle. Up until then I was so frustrated with my career. It did actually end, but the struggle ended too. I was really happy. Back to your original question about what have I done for the last 18 years, is not struggled in the music business. I suppose naturally I’m doing what I like doing in a creativity sense. Maybe I’ll come back to the music business with a completely different approach. Maybe start my own company that won’t be like white water rafting for artists. They might take a week to record their album or they might take seven years, or it might take 20, or they might never record it. Who knows a conscious music business might happen.
Many artists stop recording and come back to it these days.
I had a lot of things happen. My parents passed away. When you’re older time seems to go slower, then suddenly it goes really, really fast. Then when you’re doing things like going to your parent’s funeral and you’ve got your father’s coffin on your shoulder, and you’re doing it because that’s what you do, I never thought that was going to happen. I found this gruesome, The coffin and imagining dad there, and four other guys… actually five other guys, dad was quite heavy....it was heavy, everything was heavy. I couldn’t cry either. You go to cry and the conditioned English person says, “ don’t cry, you can’t”. So you just bite your lip and you bite your tongue and you try and look all beefy. I remember trying to be really spiritual when I was reading out something that was going to be lovely about my father. I stood up to read out something and banged my nose on the microphone, and then lost it. I lost the words. He’s asked me to read out a poem, so I did. I’ve always been scared about reading out poems. It terrified me because I use to stutter as a child, so reading out in class was terrifying. I’d get laughed at. So it was funny that later in life when I had this epiphany, writing poems would be this thing that I was doing. The first time I read out loud was at dads funeral. I read it out and I didn’t stutter. I didn’t fall over my words and I was able to read it out. It was really good to read out loud. So this improvised speech that I thought I would be so good at, I had a loss for words. That’s emotion when you’re stuck. I think most people are in a constant state of being stuck with emotion, and if they did get rid of that they would be in a flow state. Everyone would be. They would be able to communicate that way. We wouldn’t have everything filtered through us.