- Song by Song
The career of Boo Hewerdine, one of the very finest songwriters in the UK, first began to blossom with the group he formed in the mid-Eighties, The Bible. Two of their finest songs, 'Graceland' and 'Honey Be Good', came tantalisingly close to becoming huge hits.
After splitting Boo embarked on a solo career, the first release of which was 'Ignorance', in 1992, followed by 'Baptist Hospital' and 'Thanksgiving'. This string of understated beauties started to cement his reputation as the cherished songwriter and performer we know to this day. They were also the springboard for many more successful explorations, such as, his longstanding collaborative relationship with Eddi Reader.
Further examples of Boo's prolific penmanship can be heard on American country singer Darden Smith's 1989 release, 'Evidence' and even pop artists - Natalie Imbruglia, Mel C and Alex Parks have benefited from his writing. Then there were the movie scores to 'Fever Pitch' and 'TwentyFourSeven'.
Meanwhile, other songs had their own adventures. Baptist Hospital’s 'Last Cigarette', for instance, was covered by k D Lang on her smoking-themed album 'Drag'. And in 2004 Boo was asked to re-record Thanksgiving’s 'Bell, Book And Candle' for a climactic, award-winning death scene on the TV soap Emmerdale.
In 2005 Boo returned to his own catalogue of classics for the 'Harmonograph' album with Neil MacColl at the desk. And with his career entering it's third decade Boo has established a fresh collaboration with Irish singer Heidi Talbot, the results of which can be heard on 'In Love And Light'.
As far as his own songcraft goes, it has never been stronger. Aside from numerous charismatic performances across the country, this year has seen Boo embark on a series of mini-album releases starting with 'Toy Box Series No. 1'. They showcase his folkier side with stripped back arrangements that certainly aren't frugal with the colour and emotion we have become accustomed to.
Toy Box No.1 EP:
Boo has been at this game for a while now. He has penned hundreds of songs and clocked up thousands of gig miles taking them to his many fans. Also besides his own output he has a close working relationship with Heidi Talbot, Eddi Reader and Chris Difford amongst others. These sidelines can take the form of writer, producer or sharing a stage. In other words, his work and knowledge is respected and invaluable to his colleagues.
By Boo HewerdineGeography
Written on the seventh floor of the Camperdown Tower motel in Sydney. That's why the chorus goes, 'all my stars are upside-down'. It's about being a long way away. Every line in it is true. 'Today I saw a ten of clubs laying face up on the ground'. That was outside the Cornish arms. My favourite gig to play in Melbourne and where I met my wife. It's in the key of F, the guitar is tuned to DADGAD, the verse is in 2/4 and the chorus is 4/4. Um, and that's Heidi Talbot singing the lovely backing vocals. From the Trash Can Sinatras we have John Douglas on guitar and his brother Stephen on drums. Ewen Vernal plays bass. He’s in Capercallie now but I first met him when he was in Deacon Blue and they blew my band (the Bible) off stage at Goldsmith' college. Roy Dodds from Eddi Reader' band on perc and the genius that is Gustaf Ljunggren on everything else. He could get a tune out off a bacon bap.
The same crew as above. I wrote this song a while back. Heidi did a lovely piano ballad version and Eddi did a great band arrangement with a brilliant John McCusker tune at the end. Another Australia song. I like it there. It’s in F/ DADGAD again if you want to play along.
In January I was at Celtic Connections in Glasgow. Rather than go out and party I got a smoking room in my hotel and wrote and wrote. When I was a kid I used to play this. You had to lie and as still as possible. I think it was way a keeping children quiet. I wish I'd written this song when the Bible were going and we were on a major label. It would have been a hit and now I'd be typing on a golden keyboard. Gustaf plays the strings, the woodwind, the mini twelve-string guitar and the lap-steel. All at the same time, probably.
New Year's Eve
I was playing Scramble on Facebook with Chris While when she asked me if I would write a song for St Agnes Fountain, the ad hoc group she’s in that tours every Christmas. Their version, on the album Soal Cake, is beautiful. John McCusker came and played his whistle and fiddle at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning. Eight! On a Sunday! While Celtic Connections was on. Eight!! I love being asked to write songs.
Justin Currie from Del Amitri sings on this. My wife has a crush on him. Am I mad? I asked Gustaf to sound a bit 'Kind of Blue' on this. Which he did. I can see for the next album I must set him harder tasks like sounding like John Coltrane playing on a space hopper in a wind tunnel while being jostled by sheep. The bugger, he could bring a tear to your eye with a chime bar. The song is about worrying that you’re going to end up destitute. It's for musicians everywhere!
It's a Beautiful Night
The best gig in the world was at the Cap'a'Pie theatre in Dipton. A community run venue
near Newcastle. I have had some of my favourite times there. Sadly it's gone now. No
funding. That's right, bail out Fred the Shred and those heartless wankers but let
something as wonderful as the 'Pie' go to the wall. Why did I vote for you again? Anyway,
deep seated bitterness and rage aside, Gordon, who ran it, asked me to write a song for a short film he is making with some local youngsters. It's called Love Is, which is why I sing that in verse two. I’m playing a benefit for them on December the 18th. And if you don't come I will be appalled. This features my friend Alan Kelly on “box”. I like Alan very much but please don't tell him I said that as it will be awkward when we next work together. We are men.
In Paris After the War
I have been writing songs and sending them to Kris Drever. Sometimes I write something and send it off without noticing. John said he really liked it so I had another listen. I tinkered and got Alan to play that tune and there you have it. I like story songs every now and then. One of my favourite bands is Stars from Montreal. They have a song called Our Bedroom After the War, It's a nod to them. I once got cholera in Paris. And yet still it's one of the cities I’ve been to that I like best.
I love the vibes on this. It sounds like Vision On. Well done Gustaf. This is another DADGAD song. You can find chords with different voicings. I wanted this song to feel like the ache of longing. I am a fan of Iron and Wine and he is the king of longing. I recorded lots of extra songs for the record and this was the last one I decided to put on. It was the final bit of the jigsaw, suddenly it felt like an album. Sometimes you have to leave off songs to make it all work. I’ve made the mistake in the past of getting all my favs on and mucking up the atmosphere of the whole. It was either this or two other songs. All my pals said I should put the others on. But no! I was right for once!!
I LOVE writing jazz songs. I wrote Sunset for Sarah Jane Morris, Dandelion for Eddi. I want Tony Bennett to sing this. Would one of you arrange this please? Here are the chords (in D so it’s easier to play). D Em A7 D Dm7 G C Am Dm7 G C Em7-5 A7......there are other bits but this was when I knew I had something. Written smoking myself daft in the Novotel in Glasgow.
I Almost Said Goodbye
Made up on the hoof, live as it happened. Mark (Freegard) had the mikes on. I like this because it's the feeling you get when a song is box fresh. Although it was only a bit of jam I kept playing it over and over and thought, why not? It’s my son’s favourite on the album. Sometimes it’s mine too.
You and Me
A song for my wife. That's her garden in Melbourne. Actually, this one's my favourite. Gustaf (of course) is fantastic on this on a knackered five quid guitar. The whole thing was rehearsed and recorded in five minutes. It takes years to get the courage to let a first take be on the record. But they always sound the best. Mark Freegard is a fantastic engineer (he did Toybox 2, he deserves a badge for that). I can't recommend him highly enough. He has made his studio feel un-studio-like. I hate looking through the window into a control room. We were all in a space together. I think that's what makes this one work, that and all my friends who helped me. My happiest experience making an album so far.
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