Paul Heaton has been speaking to Sky Sports about his return to music and his love of football. Big Blades fan Heaton is looking forward to his trip to Wembley almost as much as his cracking new album 'What Have We Become'...
Last Updated: 10/04/14 4:24pm
Paul Heaton enjoyed great success throughout the 1980s and 90s with The Housemartins and later The Beautiful South before going on to release three solo albums between 2001 and 2010.
Now he has teamed up again with The Beautiful South singer Jacqui Abbott to record a new album, What Have We Become, due to be released on May 12.
He spoke with Sky Sports News Radio's Mikey Burrows about his latest project, plus his love for all-things football and in particular Sheffield United ahead of their FA Cup semi-final against Hull City this weekend.
Tell us about your new album
I've done a couple of solo records which can be best described as quiet releases and I just thought I'd get back together with Jackie (Abbott), who is the main female singer from the Beautiful South as she hasn't been doing anything musically for 10 to 15 years. I thought I'd see if I could write us some new songs and it's gone really well. We've had a lot of fun making the record and hopefully, now the release date is imminent, we'll have a lot of fun releasing it and touring it.
Is the music different this time around?
Not really. We've got different players but I tend to write in the same style; I write in my head then translate it to guitar later. So it's a similar process of writing, rehearsing then recording, and I wouldn't say the songs are especially different. I'm at too late a stage in my career to go in a dance direction or a hip-hop direction! It's traditional British indie pop.
Are you still as big a football fan as you always were?
I am, yeah. All the way through my career with the Housemartins and the Beautiful South I played Saturday and Saturday, I played around 700 matches in my football career, and I've kept the interest. I've got a fascination with almost every aspect of football. In front of me now are the new stickers, I've started my collection for the World Cup. I always have collected them, my first collection was in 1970.
Every part of football I love and every nation. too. People have me down as not being a big fan of England but it's quite simply that I love Spanish football, Italian football, German football, everything. I live and breathe football.
I love speaking to people about football and one of the good things about Sheffield United having a good season is - I've been all over Europe and parts of the world trying to engage people in football conversation and there's awful moment when they ask 'who do you support' and they're expecting Man United or even Tottenham but I say Sheffield United and the conversation just dies so I'm hoping this year if we win or take part in the cup final the conversation won't die for a change.
Are you going to be able to get to the semi-final?
I'm going, yes, but I've got to be very careful. The match against Charlton I was very careful with my voice because I had some singing to do a week later but I did literally lose my voice for a week so I'm going to have to use my daughters as my shouting because I've got a gig three days after the semi-final. If we get soundly beat I should be alright but if we're winning 1-0 with five minutes to go I can't sit there and say, 'sorry, I've got a gig on Wednesday'. Football is beyond that, it's more important than music. Unfortunately!
The success of Sheffield United is as important to me as the release of this new record.
Would you rather get to the FA Cup final or get promoted this year?
The cup final without a doubt. I understand the excitement of going up and I understand the awful feeling of relegation more than most as a Sheffield United fan but I'm happy where we are. That's an unusual thing for a fan to say but the higher we go, the more grief there is. Let's stay where we are and play teams that we can beat! I'd like to win every match but not go up because suddenly expectations are higher and players who looked brilliant are suddenly these awful figures of hatred for half of the crowd.
What's it like when you get together with other bands because there are a lot of football fans involved in music, aren't there?
There is. There are the genuine football fans and there are some who I would describe as vintage shirt wearers that perhaps haven't kicked a ball in their life and perhaps haven't had the longevity of interest. But what football has encouraged and what Sky's coverage has encouraged is for people to be proud of who they support instead of saying the first thing that comes into their head.
There's an identification people feel in bands, I feel, particularly in bands, of where they're from and the importance of supporting the team where the band are from. It's great to talk to other musicians about who they support because they're quite often oddities.
Given everything you've achieved in music, would you give it all up to have been a professional footballer?
No. I did play at a decent standard for a while on a Saturday but I wouldn't have been able to face the discipline of training. I wouldn't have been able to keep my mouth shut either! I'd have enjoyed being a football manager but as a player, playing in someone's system was going to hurt my ego. And I wasn't as skillful as someone like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, I was more of a Gary Mabbutt type player, so my rebellion would have gone unnoticed.
Listen to Paul's full interview with Sky Sports News Radio via the Soundcloud player below.
'What Have We Become', the new album from Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, is released on May 12 at www.whathavewebecome.net