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Wee Shall Overcome
As frontman of Littleboy, Neal Hughes is at last growing into his husky vocals. He talks about life, his struggles and the true meaning of art. Words Colin Carberry.
Colin Carberry, 17 Oct 2012
Operating as ‘Littleboy’ (“it comes from the secret codename for an atomic bomb, and is a nod to the fact that everybody calls me ‘big fella’), Neal began honing his new sound at Start Together with Barrett Lahey and Ben McAuley, before moving onto the attic studio of his drummer, Gerard Gallagher.
Littleboy’s debut album, Man Called Horse, blends countrified ballads with squalls of feedback and art-rock noise.
In many ways, it’s a perfect encapsulation of everything he’s done to date. In other ways, it’s a total bolt from the blue.
“Singing and performing is in the blood and, well, it takes time to do things in an artistic way that you’re happy with,” he explains.
“And I like to dissect and rebuild all of the things I am into. It’s an analytical view point that I get from painting. I have always preferred the title of artist.
“Music isn’t really where I come up with song ideas. Rather, it springs from observation and free-form sketching and painting. The two go hand-in-hand and represent my politics, my point of view about things in my life. And music to me is no different.”
In the past, Neal’s voice sounded like it belonged to someone else. At least someone who wasn’t fronting an indie band. Now, in his mid-30s, it seems both his music and his life have finally caught up with it.
“I feel that,” he smiles, “yeah, I have grown into my voice. Sometimes I think it’s the smoking, other times it’s the mileage. Or the suitcase full of experiences.
“Going from the good times of being in the spotlight and the security of a publishing deal and the ability to travel to the likes of South by South West and play wonderful gigs to then absolutely nothing – playing to empty rooms at singer-songwriter nights – is a hard thing. A hard thing for a singer with big ideas.”
Man Called Horse is out now.