The first of several Phrased & Confused related blogs – this article for www.pharsedandconfused.co.uk – will go live later this week!
Throughout @summersundae our @phrandconfused library team door stopped artists and took the opportunity to ask them just a few questions. Here Head Librarian Julia Payne (@juliaatthehub) took the opportunity to chat with Boo Hewerdine (@boohewerdine). She’d spent the day rapidly searching the site for a ruff having read this – Boo’s blog thing – but even the Vintage store couldn’t provide so she had to content herself with a plain clothes approach.
(Boo Hewerdine performing on @Summersundae ‘s Rising Stage for @phrandconfused)
JP: Phrased & Confused is about music and spoken word and the question we always ask our artists is which comes first – the music or the words
BH: Well I’ve got several ways of writing. Sometimes I’ll write words first. Sometimes I’m given words. I write with Chris Difford of Squeeze and he’ll send me a lyric and ask me to turn that into a song. And I also do it the other way round. There is a band in America called Swan Dive and I do it the other way round with them. I send them words and stuff. And sometimes they all come at once! Which is my favourite!! On long journeys I like to make up songs in my head..then pick up a guitar when you get somewhere and see if it works!
JP: Do you have a dark secret poetic history? Is there a poetry skeleton in your cupboard?
BH: Do you mean an awful poem from the past?!! No I never did that. I know a lot of people started by writing poetry but I went straight into songs. Before I could play an instrument I would make up songs. I can’t believe I did this when I was a kid but I used to go round to local bands houses and say I’ve made you up a song and I’d just stand in their front room and sing at them. And they used to do them!! It was amazing.
I didn’t start learning guitar until I was 19 but I’d been writing songs for years by that time.
JP: So you wrote songs even before you could play?
BH: O yeah I I’d just sing the things and they’d work them out. I wouldn’t do that now – its very, very fool hardy and probably quite dangerous.
JP: What would your tips be now for emerging singer song writers
BH: The real thing is just to do it a lot. And the other thing is just to set yourself little tasks! Otherwise it can be quite a daunting thing! It’s quite interesting – a lot of my favourite songwriters – thats how they work as well. I was talking to Richard Thompson when he’s writing a record he’ll set himself a series of exercises like he’s going to write in a different key every day or a different time signature, or he’s going to write in the first person or the third person. I would say just set yourself little tasks and you’ll get better by the process of doing it.
JP: The four artists P&C have commissioned this weekend have been exploring the theme of protest. Is there a protest song in you?
BH: I have written a protest song. I’ve got a song called Harvest Gypsy which is about migrant workers.
Theres a song I played last night with Heidi Talbot called Cherikee Rose which is about all the native Americans being moved onto the reservations.
Its quite a new thing for me but I enjoy it very much as most songs are about love!
JP: Now I want you to imagine I’m now Kirsty Young and this is the BBC Desert Island Disks Studio. You’re given the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. I don’t know if you’ve done Desert Island Disks?
BH: No I haven’t
JP We’ll start a campaign for that after this.What book do you think you might take?
BH: Probably a book I read all the time – Times Arrow by Martin Amis. I don’t know why but I enjoy reading it. Its just someone who lives their life backwards. Its a bit of a habit now – I read it once every couple of months. One of those comfort things. So I’d probably take that
JP: And which single tune would you take to be your companion on this Desert Island?
BH: It would be a Bo Didley B side called Mumbling guitar – which it excites me more than any other piece of music I’ve ever heard that would sort of cheer me up.
Where is this desert island by the way?
Audience member: Isle of Arran!
Boo Hewerdine: O yeah that might be a bit inappropriate – but I cant think of another one so it will have to be that one!
JP: What is it about the Bo Didley track – what does it do for you?
BH: It’s just ridiculously exciting. They obviously made it up on the spot and he is just whacking his guitar just as hard as he can for two minutes. You need to hear it – if you heard it it would be your favourite too!
JP: Whats the nicest thing any one has ever said about you and whats the worst thing?
BH: Well the worst thing I can remember – I used to be in a band called The Bible and we put out our first single and they said we sounded like ‘The Barren Knights’ and I still haven’t got over that. Which we didn’t really – at all! But the nicest thing quite a lot of people have named their children after my songs though one person told me they conceived their first child to one of my songs. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing!
JP: Do you know which song it was
BH: I do yes – its a song called sixteen miles. I worry about playing it now because of what might happen!
JP:. A sudden population explosion! The first thing I ever wanted to be was rather strangely a bus conductor. Then the second thing I wanted to be was a librarian. I just wondered was there anything you wanted to be when you were little
BH: I can honestly say I wanted to write songs. I can remember bring on holiday with a cousin of mine. We were both seven. We both decided we wanted to grow up and write songs. We had no way of knowing whether we could do it or not. He ended up in a goth band called Flesh for Lulu
(Audience member: Roman Candle – that was one of their songs)
He edits childrens books now!
Audience question: Why is there only one Bible reunion gig?
BH: There’s two! One in Glasgow and one in London. We’re doing two because we were worried if we did more we would all fall out again and start punching each other. We’re just taking it easy and see how it goes. We’re going to do some recording and then if we still like each other after that we might do some more. And if anyone cares as well. It looks as though the London one is almost full.
Audience Member: Where is the London one?
BH: It’s in the Clapham grand. Unfortunately it got damaged in the riots so we’re still hoping its going to be alright. Its not until September 30th so it should be fixed by then!
Audience Member: Is it still enjoyable playing the bible stuff or did you think you’d moved on from there?
BH: I do enjoy it – but I do so many other things and have done so many other things since – its going to be unusual! Its really great that all of us have gone on to do stuff and all still play. Sometimes when groups reform they haven’t been playing – Neil plays with David Gray,Callum plays with Rufus Wainright at the moment. Its allreally good stuff that people are doing. I’m hoping that we’ll be better than we used to be – if a little bit slower!
JP: The Bible reunion coming up but what else is coming up for Boo Hewerdine.
BH: I’ve got lots of things. I was playing in Edinburgh last night with Heidi Talbot, John McCusker, Karine Polwart. Really one of my favourite gigs I’ve ever done – it was lovely last night! I work with her, I work with Eddi Reader. I’m starting a new project with an American Guitartist called Brux Williams. We’re going to make an album at the end of this month. I’m doing this thing called All Along the Wall which is a show I helped write about Hadrians Wall and I’m writing a record with a man called Dukes Special
JP: And the odd gig in there as well?
BH: O yeah lots of gigs!
And for full details of all those gigs and projects see Boo’s web site at The Official Boo Hewerdine web site