Yorkshire raised singer-songwriter Paul Heaton has fronted two successful bands in his career.
After being front man for The Housemartins in the 1980s, who were formed in Hull, and released two top 10 albums, Heaton left to become a singer for another Hull-based band, The Beautiful South. Between 1989 and 1992, this group released three albums, each of which made the top five in the UK charts.
In 1994, Jacqui Abbott was brought into the band as a third vocalist. The Beautiful South arguably achieved more commercial success with Abbott on board, releasing two number one albums, including the multi-platinum Blue Is the Colour.
Abbott left the group in 2000 to focus on her new family, her son having been diagnosed with autism.
The Beautiful South added a new female vocalist, Alison Wheeler, and continued without Jacqui.
They released three more top 20 albums before finally disbanding in 2007.
After the split, Heaton pursued a solo career and has released several albums under his own name. Last year, fans of The Beautiful South were delighted to hear that Heaton had begun to work with Abbott once again.
This month sees the release of their new album, What Have We Become.
Speaking to Paul over the phone not long after the album’s completion, he explained how he ended up reconnecting with Jacqui.
“I’d not spoken to her for about 10 years, and somebody said she was on Facebook under a different name. I just got together with her and it was really nice to speak to her again. I said I’ve written some songs and I hope you fancy singing, and she was delighted. I wasn’t sure whether she’d want to sing because she’s sort of set up a life away from it, really, but she’s loving it.”
Equally welcome news to Beautiful South devotees was the news that Abbott and Heaton would also be touring with the new album. “I think people just need to be reminded that me and her are there. I think, as long as they know we’ve got new material coming out and we’re not just harping on about the past, people will come along,” Paul says.
Although originating from Sheffield, Paul has always been linked to Hull because of his bands. However, it is surprising to hear that his move to Hull was a complete spur of the moment decision.
“I moved down from Sheffield to Surrey, and I had a mate in Surrey, and said ‘Look, I’m moving up North, do you want to come with me?’ And he said, ‘I’ll come with you if you move somewhere near the seaside!’” laughs Paul.
“I’ve got a lot of German friends and I was showing them all the beautiful parts of Britain. I’d just been to the Yorkshire Moors, and I said, ‘Come on, we’ll stop in Hull on the way’. We had a little drink in Hull and bought the Hull Daily Mail and found a flat and I moved there straight off.
“I’d never been there before, so I just did it, basically. I thought I was only going to stay a couple of years. I stayed for 19 years.”
Since The Beautiful South broke up, Heaton has embarked on several solo tours.
In May 2012, he set off on his 50/50 cycle tour, which called at many British pubs to play gigs.
He even owns a pub of his own, these days. Paul purchased The King’s Arms in Salford in 2011.
He has been active in the music industry for over 30 years now, and after selling millions of albums and touring the world, it is no great surprise that Heaton finds it difficult to think of one particular highlight of his career.
That being said, he can certainly remember the poignant moments right down to the last detail.
“Here’s a good one for you,” laughs Paul. “On my bicycle tour, I was actually, at the time with my partner, trying for a baby; and one thing you’re not supposed to do is drink, and you’re not supposed to cycle. On the tour, she came over to a place called Hutton Cranswick; I did one of the pub gigs there, and that’s where my daughter was conceived... after all that cycling and all that alcohol!
“I don’t want to go into details but the magic Yorkshire air must have worked, which is a modern day miracle, is it not, for a 48-year-old man, full of booze and sore k******s in Hutton Cranswick?”
Paul and Jacqui embark on a UK tour this month. Yorkshire will see the duo call at venues in Sheffield, Leeds and, of course, Hull – all three of which have sold out, as have most of the other venues on the tour.
May 24, O2 Academy Leeds, 6.30pm, sold out – returns only.