PAUL HEATON has just come in from his latest driving lesson moments before our chat begins.
At 55, the former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer has finally decided to get behind the wheel.
“I’d never bothered before, so that means I’m starting from square one,” he smiled.
“I feel I need to do it now because I have three daughters who need ferrying around and it can be a hassle with buses and trains.”
Despite his long and successful career, which started in the ’80s and boasts record sales in the tens of millions, Paul remains one of the most down-to-earth stars you’re ever likely to come across.
He’s currently enjoying a purple patch after teaming up with Jacqui Abbott, his former Beautiful South band mate.
The duo release their third album, Crooked Calypso, on Friday – their third record since 2014.
Their previous efforts, What Have We Become? and Wisdom, Laughter And Lines, both reached the Top 10 and this one will likely scale the same heights.
“I really enjoyed making the record,” Paul continued.
“It’s been picked up by radio, which is great because airplay is important. I don’t have a cult following like Paul Weller or Morrissey, whose fans will go out and buy whatever they do.
“I think my audience still listens to the radio, and if they like it they will go out and buy it.
“I have a natural cycle to my writing but Jacqui has certainly made the process easier.
“I know what makes me write and where to go to do it, but she’s given me a fillip.
“When you have two mouths it allows you to put another opinion into the song.
“But I do think I’m inspired and happy at the moment.”
So was he angry before?
“People around me would say I’m the same as I always was – I shout at the news a lot!
“I have a strong opinion but I don’t shout at other people these days, just politicians. I used to pick a fight with anyone!
“I feel happy in myself, although I don’t think unhappiness made me more political.
“It occasionally spills over into my work but this album isn’t party political.
“I just write about what I feel and I’m inspired by and I don’t find topics like Brexit and Trump inspiring to write about. I would just be echoing a lot of what’s already been said.
“I feel I can write about what I want now. I’m 55 years old – they don’t care about me or what I say.”
Paul has a songwriting process that he’s followed for the majority of his career.
“I go to Holland to write the lyrics,” he explained.
“I always go north of Amsterdam, somewhere like Alkmaar, and will find a bar after a cycle ride and sit there and write for the day.
“I originally went to Holland because that was the closest place where I wasn’t famous. I just jumped straight over on the ferry from Hull.
“I used to go alone in the winter and get into a rut. Now I go anytime and take my wife with me. I’m more relaxed about it now.
“I find it easy to come up with a tune. Quite often I already have it in my head. I go away with my songwriting partner, Jonny, to Gran Canaria to write the music.
“I’ve been going to the same hotel since 1991 and every album since has been written there apart from one.”
One thing that has changed recently is the way he records ideas.
“I had been using the same tape recorder since 1985, but the rewind button broke,” Paul said.
“You’d think I’d be crying but I was more in a panic about what to do. Now I just use my phone.”
Paul and Jacqui have announced a tour in November and December that takes in Glasgow’s Armadillo, as well as dates in Sunderland, Belfast and Dublin.
“There’s 10-15 Housemartins songs and 20-30 Beautiful South tracks that people would recognise and then all of our new stuff,” he added.
“It’s good fun writing the set list these days.
“And hopefully I’ll have passed my driving test by the time I come up to Scotland!”
Crooked Calypso, Released on Friday