The son of a steel worker, Hawley was raised in Sheffield and grew up listening to folks such as Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. He learned guitar at an early age from his father and uncle. During the '90s he built up a reputation as an ace guitarist and, in addition to his stints in Pulp and Longpigs, did session work for U.K. artists such as Robbie Williams, Beth Orton, and All Saints. He released his self-titled debut in April 2001. Hawley's sophomore effort, Late Night Final, which cloaked his sweet baritone and heart-worn songs in lush arrangements, followed in 2002 on Bar-None Records. Hawley toured behind the album, opening for the likes of Coldplay and Pulp. Also in 2002, Hawley and Pulp leader Jarvis Cocker recorded a track for the tribute album Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazlewood. The next year, Hawley returned with the personal Lowedges, which was named for a place just outside Sheffield.
In September 2005, Hawley released his first album for Mute, the bittersweet Coles Corner. He followed it in 2007 with Lady's Bridge. Hawley was approached by Mute label boss Daniel Miller, who asked him if he had an album in him that he'd always wanted to make regardless of commercial concerns. Hawley responded in the affirmative and underscored his remark with "There won't be any singles on it." Miller told him to go ahead and record it anyway. That album, Truelove's Gutter, was released by the label in 2009. He followed it in 2010 with a four-track EP entitled False Lights from the Land, featuring two originals and two covers. In the spring of 2012, Hawley released Standing at the Sky's Edge on Parlophone, an aggressive, two-guitar, bass, drums — and rocket noises — rock & roll album, which stood in stark contrast to his previous full-lengths. His catalog was also used as the soundtrack to the documentary film Love Is All. Part of the Crossover Music Archive film project, the doc featured film clips from over 75 different sources set to some 20 of Hawley's compositions.
After a couple of short tours, Hawley retreated to Sheffield and suffered a broken leg. During his recuperation, he wrote Hollow Meadows (again named for a location in Sheffield). The album was recorded at the Yellow Arch Studios and co-produced with longtime guitarist Shez Sheridan and Colin Elliot. It featured guest appearances by Martin Simpson, Jarvis Cocker, and Nancy Kerr, and was released on September 11, 2015. After recuperating and playing select dates, Hawley settled back in Sheffield and wrote the score for the film Funny Cow, written by Tony Pitts and directed by Adrian Shergold. The finished score (which also contained additional songs by Ollie Trevers) contained the duet single "I Still Want You," recorded by Hawley and Corinne Bailey Rae. The recording was released as a stand-alone document by Laughing Girl in the spring of 2018, just as the film was widely screened on the U.S. indie circuit. ~ Erik Hage