AV: What does the title signify to you? What is this music a blueprint to?
BH: Since splitting up with my wife in 2011 I have been going to therapy. This is the first album since that process and it represents a new start for me - it is a blueprint for me from now on.
AV: Tell me about the roots of Blueprint and when it was that you recognized that you were working on material that would be a part of this album.
BH: I tend to have numerous tracks at various stages of development and work on them whenever I feel in the mood to add to them, or finish them. Obviously I am writing these to eventually release but the album did take a couple of years to complete. The tracks sort of chose themselves in the end - although whilst they are quite varied in style they do have similarities, particularly the cyclical nature of a lot of them. Whilst at therapy I noticed that my music was representing my internal feelings far more than I consciously realised, and the tracks were a sort of physical reflection of the work I was doing on myself.
AV: When you are writing material as diverse as this for a single project what is it that ties all of these styles together? Are there common themes or common musical elements that exist from song to song that can be heard as you go through each song?
BH: I am often writing, or playing with new ideas, and I noticed a big parallel with therapy and the way I write. Jamming around the same idea, developing it over time is very much like the therapeutic process in that, by exploring the same thoughts and feelings from different perspectives, often over and over again, one can move the track to a new place or resolution. The tracks are very cyclical in nature with various layers being added or highlighted, so that the pieces move and develop but still retain their central core.
AV: Do you consciously write music for a certain genre or target audience when you are composing music? In other words, bearing in mind who it is that will probably be buying your music do you have some limitations of what you will and won't do in a song that you are composing?
BH: I think I have an idea of my audience but I don't write deliberately for them. That is not to say that I don't appreciate them - I very much appreciate the support they have given me. However, I hope they will give me the benefit of the doubt if I decide to do something different, which perhaps they are not so keen on, because I can only write what I feel. I'm sure I do have a sound or style of my own, but then presumably most artists do, and whilst not wanting to alienate the fans I may have, I don't want to feel pigeon-holed into constantly writing in a similar vein, restricting myself into only writing one style of music.
AV: Is it an occupational hazard for long term musicians to go down the same path musically that you might have visited at some earlier point in your career? How is it that you resist the urge to use things that have worked on previous releases as you compose new material?
BH: It is often difficult to consciously write new material, especially if one is deliberately writing NOT to sound like the previous work. Most musicians do progress and want to work on new styles, but it must be incredibly difficult if you are known for a particular track, especially early in your career. I think the most interesting artists are those who try to explore new ways to write, but it does get progressively more difficult as we can get set in our ways. Again, I think the best thing to do is to try and reflect what you feel at the time. Even if it sounds similar to previous work it at least has an integrity to it which hopefully the listener will identify and relate to.
AV: Is there an emotional flow to Blueprint that you as a composer imbued the songs with as you wrote them and arranged them for this album?
BH: I hope so - for me my albums are about feelings. I spend a long time trying to sequence my albums as I do want them to be listened to as a whole and in a particular order, but I know that this happens less and less these days, especially with downloading, setting the iPlayer on random, Spotify etc.
AV: On an album like Blueprint are you ever hesitant about how much of yourself you pour into each of these compositions? I know that those who write lyrics have to face this dilemma when it comes to how much of themselves that they reveal in their lyrics but do instrumentalists have the same concerns in regards to the music that they compose?
BH: No not at all, I'm pleased you think it the album has an emotional style and feel.
AV: There were some excellent trumpet parts on Blueprint that really made those songs. How much input did you have from Kevin Robinson in the direction that those compositions would take?
BH: Kevin is a fantastic horn player and he plays with such feeling. I have a good idea of what I want him to play but he always comes to the studio and enhances it no-end. It's a joint process to some extent. I definitely know the style and sound of the part that I have written, but during the takes Kevin will always come up with other ideas, or try out playing the part in a different way, and it always worth listening to his ideas as they are usually fantastic.
AV: What did you find difficult about the Blueprint project as a whole?
BH: Assessing where the album had actually got to - was it finished, was it any good, should I keep tinkering with it ? etc.
AV: And what did you find most enjoyable about working on the Blueprint project?
BH: Working with my engineer and great friend Simon Painter, and all the other musicians who have played on the album. Also, having the time and freedom to exploring the tracks until I actually felt they were how I wanted them. Often, when a musician comes to play on a track they will do amazing breaks or fill that they haven't been asked to do, or play something really cool but doesn't quite fit with what I had in mind. But when listening to it again and again this can take the track off in a completely different direction as I can here something new in it that had never occurred to me before. In this situation it is great not to have time constraints, and again, also work with someone like Simon who is always willing and interested to see if these ideas are worth pursuing.
AV: Thanks for taking the time out to speak with me about your new album and I hope that it is another smashing success for you.