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Nick Heyward of Haircut 100 joins Boy George, Adam Ant, the Bangles and more for a pair of ’80s-themed shows this weekend

By  | plarsen@scng.com | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: January 24, 2018 at 6:14 am | UPDATED: January 24, 2018 at 7:13 am

As the singer in Haircut 100, Nick Heyward scored chart success with a handful of jazz-inflected New Wave singles in the ’80s, catchy songs such as “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)” or “Love Plus One,” found a measure of early MTV fame and played concerts around much of the world.

Only to end up a year later finished, over, another band in the dustbin of bruised egos and hurt feelings.

“Like a gleaming jewel, it was such a lovely gleaming year,” the English singer-songwriter says from his current home in Tampa, Fla. “To go from thinking, “Shall I go to the New Music Express and just ask them if they can do a review of the new band – at that point we didn’t even have a drummer – and I did. I was working around the corner, and I went in at lunch time.

“I sold him the band, and that was it,” he says. “That changed everything, that was the beginning. And from that going on ‘Top of the Pops,’ and playing the Hammersmith Odeon. We played Santa Monica Civic, which was amazing, and then at the end of the year, that was it.

“We had just all fallen out, and that was it.”

Those songs, with their slinky grooves, saxophone solos and feel-good funk rhythms remain popular enough that Heyward is on the bill at two ’80s-themed group shows in Southern California on Friday and Saturday, featured alongside such peers as Boy George of Culture Club, Adam Ant, Violent Femmes, the Bangles and Grandmaster Flash, to name just part of the lineup.

And he’ll play the Haircut 100 hits – “Fantastic Day” is another you might remember from the 1982 debut album “Pelican West” – though it’s not really what he’s about anymore, Heyward says.

“I’m OK playing the old stuff,” he says. “It’s nice, it’s nostalgic. They don’t want (new material) so I won’t be pursuing it.”

But he could, and he hopes to return later this year in support of his terrific 2017 album “Woodland Echoes,” the product of a decade of introspective songwriting that started so long ago that when he posted his first doodles of music and lyrics online he did so on MySpace.

“People would say, ‘You know it would be nice to have an album,'” Heyward says. “I thought, I’m not sure about that, because the music world then, it was still a case where you probably need to go to a record company and get a record deal. And to me at my age that was like, ‘Oh god.'”

He’d never made an album at home before but his sound-engineer son gave him a microphone and recording software for his computer, and over the past decade he colored in the bits and pieces of those early song sketches, eventually picking a dozen of the finished songs to release last fall.

“I picked 12 that went together and made a story, which was a story of the 10 years it took to make it,” Heyward says.

The songs touch most often what Heyward describes as the linked kinds of love he’s experienced in his life, romantic and universal, with another person or as a man in nature in the world. And while he didn’t exactly plan it, “Woodland Echoes” also ended up what Heyward has described as an accidental autobiography, with songs such as “Beautiful Morning” drawn from life experiences.

“It was just that connection of the unfolding of the day,” Heyward says of that standout track. “I’d had this beautiful morning out of the opposite of a beautiful morning. Things had become unbearable. My mom had died, I had no relationship, I had no record deal, no house. It all happened in one week.

“All those outside things became unbearable and then in a flash they became bearable. I was lying on my floor in tears, not in self pity, they were tears of joy.

“I just felt blissful,” he says. “That was the beginning of things working out.”

Now, after these two Southern California celebrations of the ’80s hits, Heyward has a series of dates planned in the United Kingdom, after which he hopes to return to the United States to play the new stuff for anyone who’ll have it.

“I want to go out and play this album in places for whoever wants to hear it,” he says. “If it’s 10 people then I’ll find a place that seats 10.”

Having figured out how to do an album without a record company deal, having technology that even someone who only knows how to press play and record and stop can use, Heyward says he’s excited to write and release more music soon.

“I’m writing now in my room, it’s what I’m doing all day,” he says. “Keeping it going. I love it. I love, love, love it. I can hardly contain my enthusiasms.”