Nick Heyward was born in Beckenham, Kent, on May 20th 1961. On leaving Kelsey Park School in 1977, he went to work as a commercial artist, but he had dreams of becoming a pop star. “I got into music because my girlfriend chucked me and because of Paul McCartney’s beard when he sung in ‘Let It Be’,” Nick told Paul Gorman in Music Week in 1995. And soon, Heyward and his friends were ditching names such as Boat Party and Captain Pennyworth left, right and centre and became Haircut 100.
They played the pop game perfectly, tucking their Aran jumpers into their trousers, riding the post-new romantic funk wave, marrying Chic with the Monkees and opening their shows with a blistering cover of Low Rider by War. Haircut 100 burnt briefly and brightly – the ultimate group of pals who, within a year, had hit the big time. It finished as quickly as it began; the band parted ways and Nick’s first solo album, North Of A Miracle, was released in September 1983.
North Of A Miracle set out his stall; a production masterpiece by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick (XTC had initially wanted to produce Heyward), it contained heavyweight session players; Uncut were to say retrospectively that “If Elvis Costello had released this album, it might just feature in the lower reaches of those lists of all-time greats.”
Nick’s career continued through the next decade and a half – supporting Wham! at Wembley at their farewell shows; shaving his moustache off on live TV; releasing charming records, of which his first two of the nineties From Monday To Sunday and Tangled chimed with Britpop. He played the record company game across the years – and he has great experience of major labels and sizeable Indies; Arista, Warner and Sony have all sought him out; when Alan McGee was flush with Oasis cash in the late 90s and wanted to sign his personal favourites, Nick Heyward was at the top of that list, and 1998’s The Apple Bed was released on Creation.
But those days are over – you don’t have to be a voracious follower of musical trends to know conventional release channels have altered forever. Nick teamed up with Pledge Music, the direct-to-consumer site that allows Nick to speak directly to his audience, who have made Woodland Echoes a reality. While the battle for the music industry was playing out as the 00s became the 10s, Nick stood aside from all this, released two albums under the radar, and got on with the business of life; seeing his children grow up, and finding love. “Up until the Creation time it used to really matter that you were not around – now it doesn’t seem to matter if you haven’t been around for one year or 20 years; you can pick up where you left off. It’s the way that music has turned out – there was a time when people cared about disappearance, but now there isn’t; it’s not an issue anymore.”
The democratisation of music through streaming services means that people can graze tunes because they like them, or like the name of the artist, without worrying what the music press says – today it boils down to ‘do I like this record or not’? And with Woodland Echoes, there is a great deal to love. That said, Nick has had more than his fair share of adulation in the past – Danny Baker raved about Pelican West in NME, and Nick pulled off the remarkable feat of being feted simultaneously by Smash Hits and The Face. “This feels to me like the first part of a solo career,” Nick says. “I don’t really see it as ‘solo’; I just make music, that’s what it is. When you’re a writer, that’s what you do, you don’t see yourself as a ‘solo’ writer. This is the first time in years I feel confident and I believe in myself. I want to do it properly; that means having a manager; it’s taken me years to get to this point – I’ve got two things right in my life now – my lady and my manager; they were the two things I had missing.”
It’s a treat to have Nick Heyward back making premium pop music. In 1985, Nick told Smash Hits that “I want to make the kind of LP you can wrap up and give to someone as a present. No duff tracks at all, just 12 shining wonderful singles, I suppose.” In 2017, with Woodland Echoes, he has achieved his goal.