Cambridge singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine returns with new compilation album
One of Britain’s finest, most consistent and arguably most underrated songwriters – and an artist that Cambridge can lay claim to – Mark ‘Boo’ Hewerdine has a new 20-song compilation out today.
Selected Works is a celebration of Boo Hewerdine’s impressive catalogue, stretching back more than 20 years. And yet Boo, who turned 60 last month, didn’t actually do the selecting.
Instead, the songs were chosen by Tom Rose, from the label, Reveal Records. In fact, Boo says he had “nothing to do with” Selected Works.
“That was on purpose because I wanted Tom to pick stuff,” he explains. He’s got quite a few newer ones as well, and the first time I listened to it was to check that the mastering was all right. And I enjoyed it, which is a weird feeling to sit and listen to your own stuff.
“I think the running order’s really well thought-out and the artwork’s lovely as well, so I’m really happy that it’s happened. If you make a record, sign to Reveal – they’re a good label.”
About a quarter of the songs were written over the past year or so. The album’s opening track, the superb The Language of Love, deals with the new way of communicating that many of us have had to adapt to over this past year.
“They asked me to write a lockdown song, and I didn’t really want to write a lockdown song about Netflix or anything like that,” says Boo. “I just started pondering on it and thinking, ‘My children are down in Cambridge and I speak to them all the time, and we feel as close as ever but we’ve just had to invent a whole new protocol of being close to each other, haven’t we?
“And we’re good at that, human beings, we just adapt.” The collection also includes a new recording of The Village Bell with label mate Kris Drever.
Aside from putting out rewarding compilations, Boo has also been running a workshop from his music room at his home in Glasgow for “people who’ve lost their income through Covid”.
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent while in the middle of preparing for one of said workshops, Boo says: “It’s all online. Me and my friend Findlay Napier set up a thing called Bird on a Wire, which is to support and share songwriting stuff with people who’ve lost all their gigs – as have we.
“This is our third one. We’ve done one a month and we’ve got Charlie Dore coming to speak to us. She’s one of our favourite songwriters and she’s going to give a little talk this afternoon.”
What with this, other musical projects and writing songs, it’s safe to say Boo isn’t missing live performance as much as one might think.
“I do [miss gigs], but I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve kind of adapted to life in my music room,” he admits. “I work every day on various projects and I’m beginning to think, ‘Do I really want to be standing on Lincoln station in a hailstorm again?’ But I’m sure as soon as I get out there, I’ll be fine.”
He continues: “My wife works next door and she loves her job – both of us are loving our jobs. Of course, it’s because of awful circumstances but we just both seem to have found quite a happy place. So I’m busy – I’m busier than I’ve ever been, I would say, I’m just not doing gigs.
“I do online gigs every now and then but I like writing songs and that’s what I’m doing all day, so it’s good.”
Boo has also been collaborating – via the internet – with other artists, including 30-year-old Adam Holmes. “I’ve written an album with him, which is coming out, I’ve been writing with a woman called Lady Nade, I’ve been writing with lots of people... and I’ve been producing records from in here as well.”
Boo, who has played the Cambridge Folk Festival “seven or eight times” over the years, believes he’ll do fewer shows when things get back to normal.
“It makes you wonder, all that travelling... I do up to 200 gigs a year some years,” he says, “and I don’t think I’ll do it quite as intensely as I did it before.”
Born in London, Boo moved to Cambridge at the age of 14. He says he and his wife gradually moved “further and further out”, finally living in Littleport before relocating to Scotland two years ago this August.
“I’d been working in Glasgow for so long,” he explains, “and as [Scottish singer-songwriter and Cambridge Folk Festival favourite] Eddi Reader lives here, who I work with all the time, Findlay, who I work with, and there’s an engineer called Mark Freegard that I used to come up and work with a lot, I know it so well.
"My wife loved it here and we just thought we’d make a jump one day – and we love it.”