Boo Hewerdine is widely regarded as a songwriting legend, an artist with a musical CV of international collaborations and hit songs that stretch over two decades and many genres. Universally acclaimed as one of Britain’s finest songwriters, he has over one thousand published songs to his name.
In his teens, even before he could play an instrument, Hewerdine would approach local bands and tell them that he had written a song for them. “I’d just go round their house and sing at them,” he says. “I got such a buzz off that. And some of them would do my songs, amazingly.” It taught him, right from the start, that songs, once written, could leave their author and have a life all of their own. He loved how songs came from nothing, and how short they were, and what they could do to people.
The life and career Hewerdine now has 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. (A third, Glorybound, is one of the recordings about which Nick Hornby rhapsodises in his book 31 Songs.) Boo now wishes he could have enjoyed The Bible’s time on the verge of success a little more. And some things take years to seem funny. The Bible first decided to disband after being flown over to Germany to perform Honey Be Good on – they belatedly discovered – a talent show. A man who wore a bowtie with lights on that spun round, and who went by the name of Mr Gadget, won with 140,000 votes. The Bible were told that they had received twelve votes. “We all took it so personally that we split up,” says Boo.
Thankfully undeterred from leaving music behind altogether, Hewerdine went on to write and work with a wide range of artists including Eddi Reader, KD Lang, Natalie Imbruglia, Chris Difford (Squeeze), Justin Currie (Del Amitri), Heidi Talbot, John McCusker, Kris Drever, Brian Kennedy and The Corrs. That’s quite a mix of styles, and Hewerdine is aware of the tension, particularly when collaborating with “pop” names. “It’s just I quite enjoy the Brill Building aspect. I enjoy it because it’s not what I do.”
Hewerdine’s solo live shows are a magical mix of fantastic music, great stories and beautiful lyrics. “At my gigs people cry a lot,” says Boo. “Not necessarily because they’re miserable. Maybe it touches them. With songs, the subject matter’s not the most important thing – I just like to pinpoint something. It’s more that feeling. You don’t have to be specific or breast-beating or anything like that. They know what I’m talking about. I sometimes try to write a song about ridiculous things because I don’t think the subject matter is as important as the feeling. When it’s right, there’s a sense of something.”