America first became aware of U.K. pop star Nick Heyward as the front man for the British new wave group Haircut One Hundred. The six-man outfit made one appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Love Plus One,” which peaked at No. 37 in 1982.
Heyward only stayed with the group for its debut album, Pelican West, which reached No. 31. Then he enjoyed some solo success, especially in his native Britain, with singles like “Whistle Down the Wind” and “Take That Situation.”
His last solo album, The Apple Bed, was released in 1998, though there were a couple of collaborative CDs released in 2001 and 2006. Heyward’s first solo set in 18 years, the pastoral Woodland Echoes, comes out in the U.S. Nov. 3. Below Billboard premieres the video for jangly pop single “Perfect Sunday Sun.”
Heyward chatted with Billboard about the new album, how he’s changed since his early recording days and the possibility of a Haircut One Hundred reunion.
It’s been 18 years since your last solo release. What took so long? And what were you doing during that time?
I was writing, being creative. In 1998, I didn’t think anyone would sign me. It just wasn’t happening. The first time I was communicating with people again was when the Internet happened, and Myspace. I had thousands of bloomin’ songs. I’d go to the cupboard. I’d grab cassettes and see what was on there.
I had no budget and no studio, but what I did have was time. Back when I first made a record, you had a week. Now it is quite exhausting, taking a long time to do anything. You can’t lie to yourself and say it’s finished. So I didn’t. [I waited until] all of the songs reached their full potential. They all got gold stars.
When did you first have the thought about working on a new solo album?
It was the mid-2000s. I was at home, living in a cottage amidst a bunch of gardens. Myspace had just come out. I was making music on my computer, writing songs, but I didn’t know where they were coming from. They were stream of consciousness. I was sharing them with other people, like homemade jam. I felt 100 percent fulfilled, making music and sharing it immediately. That was the beginning of the album — developing ideas into songs. I had no studio, no budget, no record company.
Around 2007, my son, Oliver, who is a sound engineer, gave me a decent mic and set me up with really good sound. We came up with a makeshift studio in my spare room and then I worked in other people’s studios. I did some gigs so I could pay for recording. The album was finished and mastered, and I ran out of money for releasing it. There was no major-label interest in it. We did a campaign with PledgeMusic to finance the release.
What are the main influences on the new album, musical or otherwise?
I was in the forest a lot. I love nature and I love creatures. I was in Key West and I only had one thing on my boat – my rock collection. AC/DC, Montrose. I was listening to them the whole time I was on board. For two weeks after I got off the boat I was playing rock riffs. But the album is a pop love story to nature.
Where did you find the illustration on the album cover?
I popped around the corner one day to get something and found a postcard for a dollar. That’s the album sleeve. I prefer dollar post cards to my face. We tried everywhere [to find the person who created the illustration] and in the end we exhausted our investigation. The photo is probably from the 1920s. The people closest to the project said to just bloody use it.
How is the Nick Heyward of 2017 different from the Nick Heyward we first met in the 1980s?
I’m definitely different from that younger chap. I could still do with his legs, knees, eyesight, stamina and penis. Mentally, I wouldn’t want anything from the young Nick Heyward. I would take his boldness; I’m a little less bold. For the next record, I’m going to push myself.
Have you started work on the next album?
I’m set up in my spare room with Yamaha speakers, guitar and pencil, and midi. I’m off. I wrote a lovely song this morning. I thought, “Did I do that?” It comes through you somehow. You have to turn up, have to be there. You’ve got to make the time to be creative. I was just sitting there while my cat sat on the mat. One thing leads to another, and you can end up with something that sounds as great as a Michael Jackson record or The Beatles. Sitting in the spare room could take you to Abbey Road. You can’t put stuff in the way, or you would never begin.
What is the story behind the video for “Perfect Sunday Sun?”
The video is by Steve Kemsley. I’ve known him for a long time. He follows me on Instagram and he kept saying he wants to make a video. I was eating a lot. When I’m doing gigs, I get to my fighting weight of 165 pounds, I have to or I don’t look like Nick Heyward. I was over 12 and a half stone [175 lbs.], when it was time to make the video. Steve said he’d like me to be in it, me and my fiancée Sara. She said, “Oh, I’ve been eating all the pies at the moment.” But we said yes.
Steve lives near Hampstead. We went up there and it was Sarah and I wandering around Hampstead looking portly. Steve found a tree he really liked and we captured a lovely summer’s day in London.
It’s like an Anglo-American song about an idealistic love. It starts off in Richmond, goes to Bedford Falls in It’s A Wonderful Life, to San Francisco to Hitchcock. We had one day so we couldn’t be too literal.
Will there ever be a Haircut One Hundred reunion?
I’d like a full band reunion somewhere near the Roundhouse [a famous concert venue on Chalk Farm Road in London], possibly in the Roundhouse. We recorded Pelican West there. I’d like to go back to the place while we’re all still alive. I’m not going to organize it. The whole band could take responsibility. VH1 was able to get everybody together. It takes programs like that.
I can’t see it happening, but it would be nice — a band meeting where everybody meets up and talks it out, and goes to the root problem, that would be a good place to start. Once you’re on stage, the magic is there.