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Music interview – Tony Hadley: ‘I’m not a nostalgic person’

Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley
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It is surely commonplace for artists to have doubts about their records of old. While some will defend their duds to their dying day and others never warm on the hype of their best-loved critical hits, there’s still plenty of performers out there who look back on past endeavours with a twinge of apprehension. Tony Hadley is no different.

“The first solo album I ever made is a bit of a misfire for me,” he recalls with a touch of humour. “There was this big fanfare about me signing to EMI and all that. But it’s a weird thing when you’ve been in a successful band and you go solo; you’ve got to make the decision whether you want to sound like your past or something else.

“I got caught up in this whole LA radio-rock vibe, mostly REO Speedwagon and Foreigner, only to realise halfway through that I’d made the wrong kind of record.”

He doesn’t seem overly ruffled by it now.

“There were some good songs. But I made an error with it. You make mistakes when you first strike out on your own, I guess.”

Hadley is striking out for the second time now. Once the frontman of Spandau Ballet, he initially went solo following the group’s acrimonious split in 1990 and has done so again now, after he announced he was no longer part of the reunited group in July last year.

Tony Hadley

Tony Hadley

His latest LP, Talking to the Moon, represents his first album of original compositions for well over a decade; needless to say, he isn’t dwelling in the doldrums.

“I’ve had a great time making this one, going through the process,” he states cheerily. “This is probably the first fully self-penned contemporary original record I’ve ever done when I think about it.

“I always used to pepper my work with covers but this time I just wanted to have it done under my own steam.

“I’m very happy with the results – but then, you’re not going to try and make a record that’s intentionally crap, are you?”

I’m not a nostalgic person. I don’t go back and listen to old Spandau in my spare time and marvel over it.

Tony Hadley

Despite a myriad of wide-ranging musical tastes spreading from The Chainsmokers (“I love what they’ve done for dance production, it’s something rather unique to me”) through Be Bop Deluxe (“I’m a massive Bill Nelson fan, he’s an amazing guitarist and brilliant songwriter”), Hadley has taken more conventional influences, though he does admire and take inspiration from genre-welding acts.

“I’ve always liked the idea of splicing different elements together; I like quirky stuff. Robert Palmer and Roxy Music were great for that. This album tries to replicate that idea of combination.

“It touches on four-on-the-floor dance music but it’s an anthemic record too; there’s nods to The Killers, to Queen, to Muse.”

Is there a reason why he eschews referential recall of the blue-eyed soul superhits and new romanticism that Spandau Ballet spearheaded? He seems mildly affronted at the notion.

“Well, I’m not a nostalgic person. I don’t go back and listen to old Spandau in my spare time and marvel over it. It annoys me slightly when people tell you that the 70s or 80s was the best time to live through; they seem to be stuck in the past, hankering after rose-tinted glory days.

“There’s great stuff out there in the world right now. My daughter Zara is rather helpful in keeping me up to speed; she’s always putting me in contact with new things.”

Hadley is still, in his own words, a great believer in giving people what they want though; he won’t discard True or Gold from his touring show any time soon. “Whenever you play live, for me, you’ve got to send people home with a smile.

“I’ve been to see artists who have completely denied their fans the hits that put them there in the first place and just played an hour-and-a-half of obscure stuff. Say you go see Sting; if he doesn’t play Roxanne, you’ll be disappointed. It’s the same with me for True, Gold and a few others; you’ve got to strike a balance.”

Hadley’s upcoming Leeds date will, he hopes, give him the chance to sample some of the city’s local breweries; he is a well-known beer aficionado and has been involved in the business for over a decade.

Currently partnered with Cropton Brewery in North Yorkshire, he is just as proud as his ales as he is his tunes.

“We’ve got a terrific brew called Moonstone, very much inspired by American IPAs. We partnered with Mitchell and Butler down in London to sell it, and that’s going down quite well, if you excuse the pun!”

Is he looking forward to the local craft in West Yorkshire? “Definitely! We always stumble across a great place to wet our whistles; my wife says I have a nose for a good one!”

Tony Hadley plays at Millennium Square, Leeds on Saturday July 21 with special guest Gabrielle. tonyhadley.com