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Paul Henshaw talks to Tanya Russell

Q1. Isn’t it great to be back out in the world and on stage again?

I didn’t realize just how much I missed it if I’m honest but once we started to open up a little bit it hit me really hard, gigs were very emotional, and I think that’s what made the 2nd lock down harder. We got a taste of what we’d missed and then lost it again. It’s a huge part of doing this for me, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, I felt like I’d lost a limb and in honesty I was perfectly ok, there were plenty of people with real problems.

Q2. You did do a lot of things during Lockdown though. Tell us a bit about that.

I didn’t want to do the regular weekly Live stream, it just wasn’t “me” so I tried to make the streams I did different. Apart from the On line festival slots I would play a request stream or a covers stream or a new song stream, just to avoid playing the same songs over and over. I think the most fun streams were the 2 World tours though, just because the output from both was so great to see and the money raised really helped people. The 2nd one, for Gig Buddies, raised enough to take a group of people with learning disabilities to a festival. I realized on the first couple of streams that people were tuning in from New Zealand and America so wanted to play some streams at “normal gig time” for them. It was such fun and when I saw that people were tuning in to them all it felt like we were on this 24 hour virtual road trip mission. Loved it

Q3. The latest album is beautifully emotional. Did it feel very personal when you were writing those songs and how does it feel to be performing them?

Ahh thank you, that’s very much appreciated. It did feel personal, but then again it always does because I write about personal things. Bizarrely though this album was the 2nd album I wrote during lockdown. The first was written for a bigger band sound or at least not as stripped back as the songs on “NOBODY CARES, WORK HARDER”. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to put the band project together as I’d wanted so set about writing an album that was more like what people see at a solo show. It also gave me a chance to write about some happier more positive stuff than some of the subjects I’d written about for that band project album.

I have to get into a place with songs where I still “feel” the song but I’m not affected by it, so when I sing about my parents, or my Dog running away or other traumatic subjects I can still deliver them with respect but not be a blubbering mess (Anyone who has tried to sing and cry at the same time will know what I mean)

Its not always the lines you’d expect that hit you either, there’s a song for the band album which will be out in 2023 called “All the other times” and a line in the pre chorus that says “and I’d have stood and fought all day” which still chokes me up. In my head I’m singing that line directly to my parents about just how hard I would fight for 5 minutes with them when in context there are much more emotional lines in the song, that one still floors me.    

Q4. What has been your favourite gig whilst playing the new album?

WOW! Tough one. The launch weekend in Blackpool at The Compass Café was just beautiful and the fact that it was a sell out was something truly humbling. I realized that people had travelled all that way to come and hear the album and have a sing song and it was just fabulous, especially being in the spiritual home of Compass with Michelle and Steve and all the people we knew. Then for different reasons Ey Up Mi Duck was just crazy that everyone (well a lot) came into the big top and watched and sang along and The Wheatsheaf gig in Chetwynd Aston was really special as the night was just so full of laughs and like a big house gig. They’re all pretty special.  

Q5. What is your own favourite track from the album and why?

Pheeeew! Errrm……..

“Lets start our story” just for who its about and the meaning and the emotion behind the song, the fact it’s so different to what I normally write and then what Hannah (Johns – Violin) Marcus (Carter – Drums) and Gareth (Everything else) bring to it. The song is really frail but also feels confident and like it can stand on its own. I also really like “The Day I Fell to Bits” and “Now its 30 Years” but tomorrow will bring a different answer haha

Q6. If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would you love to do something with and why?

If I got Thom Yorke and Simon Neil off the list just because I’d fan boy them waaaaay too much I’d say Beans on Toast. His last album “Survival of the Friendliest” was a real inspiration for my album as I just loved how positive it was so yeah, I’d love to do something with Jay. I also read both his books and loved them. At Here for the Music this year he came and had some pasta in the motorhome with Angie, Nick Parker and me. I THINK I managed not to be an absolute idiot so you never know.        

Q7. The Road To Krumlov has, I will confess, moved me to tears at gigs as it has such evocative lyrics. I have also spotted lots of lighthouse jewellery, which I also have, at gigs. How did you become involved in that project?

Ahh Thank you, my time in Krumlov was very difficult but also fabulous and historically interesting. My World was changing greatly in the UK as my marriage broke up and I was across in Krumlov gigging, not knowing anyone and alone but I love that something positive has come from it in that song and life of course is heaps better now.

I saw Jo Higgins first post about the Letters for Matty Hatton and wrote to him. After that we spoke to Matty about the money we were hoping to raise from the 1st World tour Stream and he picked his favourite charity. Jo messaged and asked about making an arrow set of jewellery using the lyrics to “Throwing Lines” and of course I jumped at the chance, any help we can give the likes of Jo we’ll always do what we can

Q8. One of the things I love about the latest album is the lyrical content, which I think is one of my favourite things about the grassroots scene as the sings are about things that actually matter. Who is your own favourite song writer at the moment and why?

It’s weird but the music I like is very rarely based on lyrical content but I want it to be the most important part of songs I write? Odd eh? I have a few favourite lyrics such as the Glenn Campbell song “Witchita Lineman” lyric “And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time” or Newton Faulkner’s “I see you as a mountain, a fountain of God, I see you as a descant soul in the setting sun” but as an absolute favourite I’d say its got to be Colin Meloy from The Decemberists. In the grass roots scene I really enjoy Maelor Hughes’ lyrics and Nick Parker’s too.        

Q9. There are lyrics on the latest album that really focus in on grasping joy in life. Is that a post-Covid thing or have you always felt that way?

I think I’ve always felt that way but taken it as a given and written about other stuff. Lockdown and the fact that during lockdown I had the heart attack was a massive smack in the face to say “You nearly died, do you really want to leave anything undone?”. I said sorry to someone who I fell out with 4 years earlier who was the closest thing I have to a brother and decided that focussing on things that actually mattered and not the “noise” was something I would do more. The Beans on Toast album came a long at just the right time too, I didn’t have anything to listen to except more of the same and it was positive as all hell. That definitely comes across in some of the songs I wrote after, not that they’re anything like Beans but the positive outlook definitely carried across.

10. You have a very loyal and very vocal fan base. I was nearly deafened by an overly enthusiastic bloke shouting ‘oi, oi, oi’ pretty much in my earhole, which was not a shenanigan that I enjoyed, despite singing along myself. Do you think about audience participation when song writing or is that something that just comes later when you take the album on the road?

I can probably guess who that was hahaha! Yes, they are very loyal and very noisy at times but I love it. I feel truly humbled that anyone pays any interest in what I do at all. The fact that people come to gigs, that they buy the cd’s and the T shirts and that they keep coming back is such a special feeling. The first proper gig back in Blackpool last year had the whole heart attack thing flood back at me, people turning up and singing louder than I’d ever heard them before. Emotionally I was a bit of a mess that night after hearing that, it was just so humbling and real. Regards to audience participation though it’s a 50/50 thing. There are certain parts written and I think “yeah, that’ll have people singing” or I realize it’s something I can play off live like knowing I have zero chance of recreating Samantics’ part on “No Longer Proud” but attempting it will be fun. I wrote “Heads, Hearts and Voices” to open a festival set with so I know that’s kind of a non answer but it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. The weird thing is that it’s never the bits you’d expect to become sing-a-longs that do if it’s not specifically written as such.  

Q11. So, are you having a well-deserved rest or jumping straight into your next project?

I’m already knee deep in it haha! The band project is well under way with a lot of the songs now demo’d for the album and I’m really excited we’ll be playing our first show at Cropredy Fringe festival on Aug 9th. Right now it’s so far beyond what I’d hope it would sound like I’m in a bit of shell shock. The set is maybe 4 or 5 old songs then band versions of the Nobody Cares Work Harder songs and then the song I specifically wrote for the project which I’ve played live solo. It’s great that we’re landing with a set that virtually all known by anyone who knows me.

Q12. Your were recently approached by a Jewellery maker who was inspired by your lyrics, tell me about that.

Jo asked if she could use the ‘Throwing Lines’ lyrics when she started her (jewellery) collection and obviously because of the tie to Matty Hatton and the fact that its just lovely anyway it was a massive honour and an easy YES! I always hope people get ‘the feels’ for what I write but at the end of the day I write lyrics that I like, if people get them it’s great, if they don’t it’s also great y’know?

When you see people wearing the jewellery it’s all a bit mad, especially some of the one offs that have been made. There’s a one-off logo necklace which is really cool. It’s like the arrow tattoos and logo tattoos. I was in Camden for Frank Turner’s ‘Lost Evenings’ and two guys came up to me in the queue, one had the circle arrow logo and one had the straight arrow, that’s ridiculously humbling.

You can find out more about where Paul is playing or listen to literally everything go here:

Paul is on tour with Pet Needs in November:

Editor of LLR since 2005

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