IT is shaping up to be a busy few weeks for Richard Hawley. On Friday his album, In This City They Call You Love, is due to be released and almost immediately he’s off on tour around the UK, including a date at Manchester Apollo.

So how does this son of Sheffield prepare for the whole album release/touring schedule?

The Bolton News: Richard Hawley (Picture: Dean Chalkley)

“Mostly talking to (expletive) like you,” he says with a throaty chuckle. “But seriously there is a real sense of achievement when you finish an album.”

In This City is Richard’s first album since 2019’s Further and will be his ninth solo release.

Originally in the band Longpigs and also briefly a member of Pulp, Richard came to public attention with his third album Cole’s Corner in 2005 which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

His music includes heartfelt ballads and psychedelic, shimmering guitar driven numbers.

“I was determined this album was going to be recorded really quickly, recorded on time and I wanted to be done before Christmas,” he said. “We actually finished it the day before Christmas Eve which meant I’d done absolutely bugger all Christmas shopping, so that was my excuse and I stuck to it.”

In conversation, Richard Hawley is erudite, earthy and for all that gruff exterior a sensitive soul at heart which often comes across in his songs.

Certainly for the new album, much of the orchestral elements and shuddering guitar solos have been packed away, with critics comparing it to his much-loved Truelove’s Gutter album.

The Bolton News: Richard Hawley's new album In This City They Call You Love

“I wanted to have as little as possible between the words of the song, dare I say it my voice and the listener’s ear.” he said. “There are big moments on the album but if you look at the studio mixing desk there is still not a lot going off in terms of instrumentation. It remains a powerful sound but very simple. I didn’t do too much twiddling on the guitar. I wanted it simple and to be focused on the voice.”

He’s interested to see how these songs will fit into his live set.

“Songs do develop and me and the band, we do play,” he said. “Some songs stretch out and change and morph but not all of them. Some are like a creature caught in amber, they remain frozen in time and they are what they are.

“But you have songs like The Ocean and Storm Coming (live favourites which take on epic proportions) which have developed into these other things. That’s good because if you didn’t have some songs which you can go with, you’d get really bored.”

With the new album you can sense how much restraint Richard has brought to bear.

“There’s one song, Deep Waters, which is really simple in terms of what it is,” he said, “In my head I thought this could really take off into an orchestral or guitar twiddly whatever thing. But I deliberately held that horse back. It almost peters out and that was deliberate. I didn’t want it turning into this grandiose, sweeping, orchestral sort of thing.

“It was literally like keeping four horses on a tight rein along with my own temptations to go ‘let’s get the kitchen sink for this one’.”

The results are some heartfelt and moving songs reinforcing the belief that he is, in fact an old romantic at heart.

“I was once a young romantic,” he laughed, “so now I guess at 57 I’m an old romantic. I tried to hide it under a very large bushell for a long time but I’m afraid the secret is out now. I think it’s fairly well established that I’m as soft as anything really.”

The Bolton News: Richard Hawley (Picture: Dean Chalkley)

Clearly being disciplined about the whole recording process has paid off and Richard has avoided the problem which plagues many an artist - knowing when to say ‘stop’.

“You can go round the houses remixing stuff and getting different producers in and fannying around forever,” he said. “In the end it usually loses the essence of what it originally was. That was the point with the songs on this album; to hold on to the essence of what they were when they started.

“It’s something I’ve always been obsessed with. It’s like catching lightning. You’ve just got to get down the core of what the song is. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve got a 90-piece orchestra or it’s just you and a triangle, if the essence of the song comes across, that’s job done.”

For Richard his work on the award-winning musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge was certainly a job well done. Based around his songs and set in Sheffield in the 1980s, the musical which premiered at the Crucible before lockdown has been a sell-out success in the West End picking up the award for Best New Musical along the way.

“First of all, I hate musicals,” said Richard. “Well, apart from this one which I love, but I was adamant I wanted to avoid it being a traditional musical.

“Sky’s Edge started off as this little chihuahua of an idea, now it’s a three-headed Greek mythical god.

“Anything I get involved in is rooted deeply in Sheffield and the North of England. The odd thing is the more colloquial something is, the more universal it is. I’ve never been able to understand but it is, which confirms my belief that art and music are essential to the human existence.”

In This City They Call You Love is out on Friday, May 31. Richard Hawley plays Manchester Apollo on Wednesday, June 12. Details from