INTERVIEW: James Leonard Hewitson | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hartlepool singer-songwriter James Leonard Hewitson has been a staple part of the North East music scene for several years now, and this month sees him release his much-anticipated debut album. With ten charming tracks of off-kilter slacker pop, Only The Noise Will Save Me was worth the wait.

I was basically just writing different songs and getting to grips with managing my own band. I’ve done bands before as a band member, but never my own solo project, so it was a totally new thing for me to take on,” explains Hewitson. “I suppose I had to write enough songs that fitted together as an album, I also suppose I had to make all the mistakes you make with band members, crap ‘managers’ and other things as well. So yes, in 2020, here I am with an album, after all of that.”

Though selfadmittedly a “good test of endurance” that left him feeling frazzled at times, an early indication of positive reaction to the record came from a successful Kickstarter campaign. “I’m teaming up with the lovely lads at Butterfly Effect Records to release the album on vinyl. The Kickstarter helped us gather some funds to make that happen, as well as fulfilling some of those first ever orders. The response was great, and it was really cool to have an interactive medium for people to see how much money was being brought in for the project. Money is fun.”

I struggle to regularly perform at places where loads of industry people show up to all the time, but so what?

After cutting his teeth with his first band Arcs & Trauma and playing trumpet and touring with North East heroes Kingsley Chapman & The Murder and Frankie & The Heartstrings, the years Hewitson has since spent honing his own art are very much evident in Only The Noise Will Save Me. In a world of cookie-cutter indie, he has succeeded in creating a sound that is very much his own, blending lo-fi, post-punk and smidges of psychedelia with flamboyant Pulp-esque indie pop to create a succinct package. It’s all punctuated by Hewitson’s slightly apathetic vocal delivery, which lends itself to the overarching theme of not grabbing life by the horns.

I’d say Gang of Four are a really big influence for me, for guitar style, vocals and lyrics. I may not sound like them, but it’s just the zany, abrasive feel they create at points in their music that really draws me in. That energy is rare. I also admire the lead guitarist from Drive Like Jehu for his style. I love the storytelling and aesthetic of Adam Green, Mac Demarco and bands from round here like The Chapman Family, Frankie & The Heartstrings and The Futureheads.”

When he’s not creating music or performing live with his band The Relevant People, made up of a revolving cast of talented local musicians, Hewitson has also been working hard to put his hometown of Hartlepool on the map. “I suppose I struggle to regularly perform at places where loads of industry people show up to all the time, but so what? I like life in the North East, I like my friends and my family too. Hartlepool has a really great music scene, and it just keeps getting better. I started a festival called Hartlepool Live last year to show all of this off, and now it’s a yearly thing. There’s lots of people writing good music here, and it’s cool that the town is starting to get some recognition for it.”

James Leonard Hewitson releases Only The Noise Will Save Me via Butterfly Effect Records on 28th February. He plays Bobik’s, Newcastle on Friday 13th and The Studio, Hartlepool on Saturday 14th March



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