I STILL think I’m going to crack it,” Boo Hewerdine tells me right at the end of our conversation. “That’s how deluded I am.”

Hewerdine turned 60 last month. And yes, it’s possible that you don’t know the name. It’s true that he wasn’t a regular on Top of the Pops back in the day. And yet we have just spent the previous half-hour talking about his career as a singer-songwriter, his early days in bands The Great Divide and The Bible (the closest he came to chart success himself), his role as a collaborator with Eddi Reader for more than two decades (a musical relationship that is still ongoing), Gary Clark and Chris Difford ( and even Natalie Imbruglia at one point), and the fact that his songs have been covered by the likes of Kris Drever, KD Lang, David McAlmont, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and, yes, Melanie C, as well as many others.

That sounds like a life well lived, surely? One that, you might argue, has indeed cracked it.

One way to measure it is to listen his latest album, Selected Works, a retrospective of 20 of Hewerdine’s songs as chosen by Reveal Records label boss Tom Rose. A compilation of deep cuts and six new tracks, it’s a fine reminder of Hewerdine’s ear for a tune and way with a well-turned lyric.

“I’ve had nothing to do with this record and it looks so good and sounds so good that perhaps I should never have anything to do with my own records,” Hewerdine suggests with a laugh.

“The tracks Tom’s picked are the ones he likes and they’re all quite downbeat. It’s all the songs I guess where I’m digging a bit deeper, and not trying to have success. Just the ones that are me expressing myself.

It’s Monday afternoon in Glasgow’s South Side. Hewerdine, born in London and for a long time based in and around Cambridge, moved to the city a couple of years ago. As he was constantly working with Reader (for whom he wrote the hit song Patience of Angels) and with producer Mark Freegard, he says, “I was coming to Glasgow at least twice a month for years, so it just made sense.

Actually, you could say the Scottish connection goes back almost to the start of his career in music. It was Mike Scott of The Waterboys who recommended Hewerdine’s second band The Great Divide to the late Nigel Grainge at Ensign Records. You might as well be Scottish, Boo, I tell him. “I wouldn’t mind being Scottish.”

He speaks fondly of Grainge. “He had The Waterboys, World Party and Sinead O’Connor. And before that he had the Boomtown Rats and when he was really young, in his early twenties, he signed lots of people like Thin Lizzy, Rod Stewart and 10cc. He was the first man ever to hear I’m Not In Love. He went up to Strawberry Studios and they played him I’m Not In Love and it blew his tiny mind.”


Hewerdine likes a good music story. Some of them even involve himself. Later, when we are talking about his penchant for storytelling songs, he recalls something Steve Earle said to him.

“If I’ve anyone to thank for the storytelling it’s Steve Earle. My band The Bible was being produced by him. I remember we were in the acoustic room of The Mean Fiddler and we were sitting on the step in a practically empty room watching Nanci Griffiths. It was her first trip over. And he said, ‘You’re going to be all right because you’re a songwriter. But you might want to tell some more stories.’ And that’s always stuck with me because he’s genius at that.”

That said, he admits, if you dig a bit on the new album there’s a lot of Hewerdine’s own story to be found in the grooves.

“We all process stuff through our song writing,” he admits. There’s a song about his late father David on the album. “Last Rays of Sun is about my old man when he was in the care home. You don’t know that, but there’s always a story behind each song.”

The Hewerdine back story goes like this. Born Mark Hewerdine in February 1961, he wanted to be a songwriter from an early age. After The Great Divide he formed The Bible who nearly had hits with singles Mahalia and Graceland, both should-have-been huge slices of gorgeous mid-eighties melancholia, before going solo and doubling up as a songwriter for hire.

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Is the relationship with the songs you write for others very different than it is with the ones you write for yourself, I ask him? “Yes, it is, but I love it. I like to write songs that can live beyond – this sounds so pretentious – that don’t need me to be there. There’s a song called Bell, Book and Candle, that Eddi did, but which I originally wrote for Eleanor Shanley. And then other people have recorded it. It’s been in films.

“The songs go off and have adventures. And I don’t need to be part of a song for it to exist.

What’s your favourite cover of one of your songs? “That’s quite easy, actually. I was on tour with Heidi Talbot and we got a CD of Kris Drever’s first album where he’d done Harvest Gypsies and it was so beyond what I imagined. I remember us bombing down the road on a beautiful sunny day with it barrelling out and both Heidi and I going, ‘Wow.’ So that’s a good memory.

“And the KD Lang one, My Last Cigarette, was pretty exciting as well.”

As good as your own take on it, Boo? “I have to be honest. I think her version is better.”

In the mid-1990s Hewerdine even had a spell in Nashville, which wasn’t quite all he hoped. “It was hell,” he once said

“I felt out of place,” he says now. “And I felt I didn’t know what language they were speaking. But I picked up a lot from it. The writing itself was quite difficult apart from one song called Slow Leaner which I wrote with a man called Tom Littlefield. I just met Tom in a bar. All the others were like blind dates with people I didn’t know, and they didn’t know me, and it was a bit awkward. I now look back on it with a bit of affection.

“But I was very lonely. I have an album called Thanksgiving which I wrote there on my own because my publisher thought it would be a good idea to send me to America on Thanksgiving weekend. Not a lot of people wanted to work with me. Everyone wants to be with their family at Thanksgiving. They don’t want to be with a speccy fella from England.”

He was also in the States when Eddi Reader’s eponymous album hit big. “I’d written about half the songs. It suddenly exceeded expectations and went really high into the charts and I had nobody to tell. I told that to a waitress and I remember she just went, ‘That’s nice’. No chance of being big-headed there.”

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What is the secret of his long-lasting musical relationship with Reader? “I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it much and I think we’re a bit shy of talking about it because it just works. We’ve been through so much together personally as well. We’ve just tried to be each other’s rock a bit.

“She painted a picture of me for my birthday and it’s really good. It’s proper good.”

It is perhaps another sign of a man who is in a good place in life that he has been hugely productive during this last pandemic year. Normally he’d be touring for up to 200 nights a year, but since lockdown last March he’s been in his room writing and recording.

“I’ve written a whole album which is about to come out with Adam Holmes. That was a beautiful experience. And I’ve been making a record with a woman called Lady Nade who’s down in Bristol.

He’s also produced a new album by Scottish singer Jill Jackson and worked with Jenny Sturgeon who is up in Shetland and Slovakian singer-songwriter Vlado Nosal. (“I met him in Croydon folk club.”)

And he’s been conducting song writing classes with Findlay Napier. Can you teach how to write a song? “It’s not teaching as such as enabling,” he suggests.

What does he get out of it? “The joy of doing a good job. And then people go on and make records. Jenny Sturgeon was one of the people who came on one of my courses. There was a young guy who came a few years ago called D. Cullen who’s a proper famous person in Ireland now.”


When the pandemic passes and live gigs are able to happen again, he has a backlog to catch up with. Eddi Reader’s 40th anniversary tour, Heidi Talbot’s 20th, a tour with American guitarist Brook Williams under their joint moniker State of the Union and his own. Not that he’s in a rush to get back to it.

“I must confess I’m not missing being on the road as much as I thought. Being in Lincoln Station in a hailstorm carrying CDs in a big, heavy bag has lost its appeal. My missus works for the Scottish Refugee Council and she’s in the room next door and being at home … I’ve absolutely loved it.”

Still, he’ll be ready for the road when the time comes. He’s even had his first Covid vaccination. “I have. I did feel crap for two days, but now, obviously, I’m invincible.”

Long may he remain so.

Selected Works is out on Reveal Records