United by Music tours | Hamish Hawk to play The Wedgewood Rooms: “Grassroots venues are the absolute beating heart of the entire industry"

Hamish Hawk is playing a United by Music tour date with the Music Venues Trust and National Lottery at The Wedgewood Rooms on August 19, 2023Hamish Hawk is playing a United by Music tour date with the Music Venues Trust and National Lottery at The Wedgewood Rooms on August 19, 2023
Hamish Hawk is playing a United by Music tour date with the Music Venues Trust and National Lottery at The Wedgewood Rooms on August 19, 2023
​He’s been compared to such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker and Scott Walker, but Hamish Hawk is very much carving his own musical path with his idiosyncratic take on indie music and chamber pop.

The Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter’s breakthrough 2021 album Heavy Elevator was nominated for Scottish Album of The Year, and the recently released Angel Numbers has continued to build on that.

And he is now taking part in 12 dates for the United By Music Tour, organised by the charity Music Venue Trust and funded by The National Lottery – calling in at our own Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Friday, August 19. The initiative features a variety of artists, also including Blossoms, Cat Burns, Metronomy, Bloc Party and Sam Ryder going back to their roots to support the venues which are the backbone of the industry.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We're absolutely delighted to be a part of it,” says Hamish. “To be involved in the MVT, generally, it really does feel like a privilege, because it's such an important charity. The band and I obviously play independent venues out of choice, we like to be associated with independent venues, and the ones that I've always played in Edinburgh, whether it be Sneaky Pete's or Summerhall, they're all independent venues, and they're something that we're very passionate about.

Edinburgh New Year, December 31, 2022/January 1, 2023 Final Fling Concert Princes St Gardens.
Hamish Hawk performance. Picture by Scott LoudenEdinburgh New Year, December 31, 2022/January 1, 2023 Final Fling Concert Princes St Gardens.
Hamish Hawk performance. Picture by Scott Louden
Edinburgh New Year, December 31, 2022/January 1, 2023 Final Fling Concert Princes St Gardens. Hamish Hawk performance. Picture by Scott Louden

“To have this expanse of purely independent venues – places like Portsmouth's Wedgewood Rooms, or Bedford Esquires – there's so many that just become really well renowned among touring bands and places like this get spoken about. So to have this string of them unfolding in front of us (to play at) is really, really exciting.”

And he urges people to support the artists who play these venues – as bigger name acts don’t make it into arenas without having first built up a following somewhere…

"The grassroots venues are the absolute beating heart, they’re the backbone of the entire industry, and nothing can start, nothing can flourish and bloom later on if you don't nurture it at that stage, where people are playing clubs, where bands are travelling the length and breadth of the country knackering themselves and putting themselves out there to play these venues all over the place.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Certainly in my experience of touring and playing they are the most special spaces, it's just imperative that we keep them open. And therefore in the future they will still be there providing opportunities to bands like us who up until recently were doing exactly these kinds of venues all the time – that was our bread and butter. Any tiny thing that we can do to keep them open, we will.”

Hamish HawkHamish Hawk
Hamish Hawk

The trust represents some 900 independent venues, but grassroots venues are continuing to close at a rate of one a week.

"It's actually quite a dizzying and terrifying figure, so anything that the band and I can do to be involved in keeping these venues open, we will.”

While it was Heavy Elevator that put Hamish on the national map as “a debut album of sorts”, he says there were “three or four” previous albums which were more solo affairs. In working on Heavy Elevator though, he formed a songwriting partnership with guitarist Andrew Pearson and drummer Stefan Maurice, “so all of the output since then has had a different flavour.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That album’s single, the splendidly titled The Mauritian Doubles Badminton Champion, 1973, gained serious BBC Radio 6 Music airplay.

"We're very proud of that song and it's definitely the singalong number from our set. Now when I listen to it I'm still as far away from understanding what that song really is as I was when I first wrote it! It was quite a baffling song to me at the time.”

If that sounds strange coming from its writer, he elaborates on his songwriting process: “Sometimes when you're writing songs, you just kind of take leave of yourself, and then open your eyes again, and the song has sort of happened and landed on the page in front of you – a kind of lightning in a bottle song.

“And that song was definitely one of those for me in terms of lyric writing. It came from somewhere that I wasn't fully aware of.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Guide mentions how solo act and Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh describes something similar about when she writes songs.

“It's something that I'm always intrigued by when I hear other fellow songwriters talk about it, my ears prick up when I hear someone talking about this because it's such a peculiar and yet really recognisable feeling.

“Sometimes you'll sit down and write a song, and really, you know, wherever you are, at a desk somewhere, your intention is to write a song, and you maybe sit down and you don't have the inspiration sort of flowing, and you need to sort of work it out – you need to actually labour over the song. To me, well, if I'm lucky anyway, that's not the norm. The norm for me is that I'll have spent maybe weeks or months or days, collecting phrases and ideas in a notebook or something, and then when I sit down I'll have maybe have a couple of lines, or a couple of fragments worked out. I already have those things just sitting there and then if I'm lucky, something takes over.

“That experience for me is quite common. I can certainly relate to the idea that a song just sort of lands and you're a kind of conduit or a mouthpiece for it. You're the vehicle but you're not the engine of creation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's no mystery to me as to why performers or artists in any sense, a lot of them feel a degree of impostor syndrome at some point, because the way that you write it feels like you're involved only to the tiniest degree.

“In certain situations, you do have to sit there for hours and watch the blinking cursor, watching a blank page, but sometimes things do just just come out of the sky, and thank goodness for that.”

This year’s Angel Numbers builds on Heavy Elevator, but where did he come across this concept of “angel numbers”?

“It was an old flatmate of mine, I hope she'll forgive me saying this, who was somewhat new-agey. She was very interested in the idea of angel numbers and mentioned it to me – I'd never really come across it. It's the idea that as you walk around your life, there are certain numbers that may appear in patterns or repeat more often than others. Whether it's 11.11 on a clock, or people see the number 13 everywhere they go. Certain numbers have certain relevance of resonance on a personal level, but also if you're to look up these ‘angel numbers’, other sages from down the years, they've decided that certain numbers have certain meanings, and tell you whether or not you're headed in the right direction in your life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“One of the themes that was sort of threaded through the whole album is this idea of getting where you're meant to be, or of success or ambition – it was looking at all of these things. I thought that angel numbers was quite a good summation of that, as well as being a series of songs about angels.”

Does he think things are heading in the right direction for him?

He laughs: “Well, certainly at the moment! What we were saying with this United By Music tour, it's such a privilege, and I'm so excited to head out on the road, and things like this are coming up for the band and I at the moment.

“There are an immense number of pressures on touring bands in the UK these days. It is simply not as easy as it once was, as far as I understand it, to tour frequently, to make a living. To really earn your crust at all as a musician is really a stretch.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Musicians and venues are under a colossal amount of pressure, and it's causing a lot of disruption for communities and musicians and fans and the music landscape generally. But yes, to answer the question, I think things for the band and I seem to be coming up roses at the moment, and I'm very thankful to the MVT for having us for this tour.”

Every ticket buyer for a United by Music gig can take a friend with them for free (just by showing a Lottery product or proof of purchase).

"The thing that I love so much about this particular tour is that every ticket buyer can bring a guest with them for free,” adds Hamish. “In terms of the cost of living crisis, it just makes what are already relatively cheap tickets thanks to the MVT, it makes them even more affordable.”

Hamish Hawk, supported by Redolent, plays at The Wedgewood Rooms on Saturday, August 19, doors 7.30pm. Tickets £14. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.

For more information about MVT go to musicvenuetrust.com.

Related topics: