Nick Heyward was born in Beckenham, Kent, on May 20th, 1961. On leaving Kelsey Park School in 1977, he went to work as a commercial artist, but he had dreams of becoming a pop star. “I got into music because my girlfriend chucked me and because of Paul McCartney’s beard when he sung in ‘Let It Be’,” Nick told Paul Gorman in Music Week in 1995. And soon, Heyward and his friends were ditching names such as Boat Party and Captain Pennyworth left, right and centre and became Haircut 100. Today, Heyward is back after 18 years with his latest release “Woodland Echoes“. Be sure to listen to his single “Perfect Sunday Sun” embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Coming from Beckenham in the United Kingdom, talk about what makes the city special and home to you. Where would you send a first-time visitor within the area?
Nick Heyward: The place to go in Beckenham is the Three Tuns. It’s probably called something else now, but that’s where David Bowie used to play. I also once saw Russell Mael from Sparks walking down the high street. That was thrilling. Then I saw Bill Wyman from the [Rolling] Stones walking down the high street too. This was when I was about 12 or 13, and it was pretty impressive. I just used to think that where I lived was where every other rock god lived.
There’s the Bowie connection really, and it’s funny because Bowie came from Brixton in South London, and I did too before I lived and went to school in Beckenham. Then, he went to Bromley Technical College for art school. I was nearly going there, but I got a job at this place called House of Wizard, which was a commercial art company. Otherwise, I would have gone to the same art school.
There’s not much in Beckenham besides that. That’s what it is. There’s the high street, a church, a cinema and a bike shop. There used to be a really good record shop there, as well. It does have a rich history though. It was a cheap place to live if you were in art school.
SR: To continue a little, what was your first real exposure to music? How did you eventually get inspired to create your own and pursue it as a career?
NH: Music was in our family. My father took me to see Count Basie, Ray Charles and Oscar Peterson on one bill. Mom would be playing the Carpenters and The Beatles. My brother would be upstairs in his purple bedroom playing everything. The first bits of music I heard from there just sounded like another world – this purple world. It was just filled with amplifiers. I would play records like “Jeepster” by T. Rex, and think what’s a Jeepster? Why’s he singing about that? Or, a song like “Can’t Buy a Thrill” by Steely Dan. It was amazing – another world. So, there were three different worlds, jazz world from my father, rock world with my brother and pop world with my mom.
I was known as the drawer of the family, so my bedroom was just full of pencils. I had very encouraging parents in the arts. I think my father wanted to go into it himself, he kind of did with his toy factory with mom as his secretary, so it didn’t run out of money. That was all a big influence on me personally. Then, I heard punk and I thought I could do it. Until then, it looked way too complicated. So, I grabbed a microphone at one of my brother’s rehearsals and thought, “Oh, I’m making a bit of a sound here”. Then I just developed and honed my skills.
SR: That’s pretty incredible that you had so many influences surrounding you.
NH: Yeah, it was! And, there were all these cultural waves coming over thick and fast. And, punk was a tidal wave. After that there were all these other waves. When these cultural waves came over, everybody surfed them. You’d wear all the clothes and just be in it.
SR: To fast forward a little bit into your single “Perfect Sunday Sun” off your release “Woodland Echoes“, talk about the vision behind that. How excited are you for it to be out?
NH: It’s good, because I just thought it was three verses, three links and three choruses. It’s like a trilogy, or an Anglo-American song. I start off on Richmond Bridge and it’s got ideals, but it’s one relationship. It just evolves and becomes American. Then, it moves to San Francisco and it’s [pulling from] “It’s a Wonderful Life” and [Alfred] Hitchcock, and combining or joining them together under the perfect Sunday sun. I was thinking about mating when I was writing the lyrics, as well. So, it’s nature inspired, but also romantic.
SR: Turning a little into travel, you’ve been creating music and traveling the world to promote it. What’s the most impactful part you cherish about it? Does traveling help inspirationally?
NH: Yeah, it does! They say it’s important inside and then it’s reflected outside, but I also think that it happens vice versa. You can change the circumstances of your life to change how you feel inside. A small example is you can feel awful and then tidy up your room and you feel better. Sometimes being on the move can inspire or unblock you creatively. It gives you a different perspective. I would record more of the guitar when I was in Key West. We got a houseboat and would record during the day. Then, to write lyrics I would go to Ernest Hemingway’s garden amongst the cats. I would find sort of these shade traps. It was too hot to sit in the sun. I like to write lyrics on the move, because then it’s a constant change. Lyrics fall into place like easy puzzles. Most of my early lyrics would fall together that way. I would just walk and they would fill in together like snow. Walking is another thing, it just clears your mind.
SR: To span off that, you just mentioned living in Key West. Can you touch on that experience a little more? I visited once when I was younger. I just loved the location and being down there. It’s such a beautiful place.
NH: I didn’t know anything about it. I was just there because my friend, Ian, lived there. Then, suddenly we were both just living there. It was on a houseboat, so you had iguanas poking their head in the door, which was crazy. It was like a pre-historic film. It’s completely baking hot. But, it’s tropical, so you have this cool breeze coming through. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s like an American town on the sea. Take any town and middle America and plunk it on the sea. It’s developed its own character. It’s like this capsule of life all in there. It’s got great cinema. Really inspirational people live down there. It’s this ever-changing landscape and town.
SR: That’s great to hear. On a broader level, when you do have some downtime and are looking to get away, are you more of a beach guy? Looking for the mountains? Or, searching for a city somewhere?
NH: I like a forest. We settled near a wilderness forest. I must say, there’s just something about being in that forest – cycling or hiking through it. It’s sort of pumping with a liveness. It does play with my allergies a bit. But, the sea does have this overwhelming quality to it. If there’s anything going on it just seems to dissolve into it. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s really where we’re all supposed to be originally. When we’re there, everything falls into place it seems like. I’m going down there today to a place called Rye in East Sussex. It just has a long history of Rudyard Kipling and Henry James. It’s just a citadel that used to be surrounded by water, and now it’s not. But again, great cinema. These are the same streets James walked down to get all of his ideas. And, of course, Paul McCartney lives locally. It just seems to be a honey pot for writers. There’s a street called Mermaid Street. You’ve got to go there – everybody does. It’s stunning. You just can’t believe it when you’re there. It hasn’t changed since 1400, maybe earlier. It’s cobbled streets with a hotel from the 11th century, the Mermaid Inn.