Hi everyone and welcome to a new post for all those Laurence Fox and Hathaway fans. This is in today’s Telegraph newspaper. The article is by Guy Kelly.
Laurence Fox photographed in London last week CREDIT: CLARA MOLDEN /THE TELEGRAPH
There are some musicians who refuse to be drawn on the real-life inspiration for their songs, no matter how obvious. There are others who are happy to entertain theories, but would rather the themes stay universal, thank you very much. And then there are a few, like Laurence Fox, who will just shrug and tell you all about it.
Fox is, of course, far better known as an actor – both in his own right, playing DS Hathaway in Lewis for nine years and as Lord Palmerston in Victoria, and as a member of the Fox dynasty, which includes cousins Emilia and Freddie, brother Jack, father James and uncle Edward – than as a singer-songwriter, but he’s about to release his third album.
Called A Grief Observed, the record diarises the last four, traumatic years of Fox’s life, which started with the breakdown of his nine-year marriage to the actress Billie Piper, with whom he has two sons, Winston, 10, and seven-year-old Eugene. The eventual divorce crushed Fox, who went on to move house twice, eventually settling with the boys near several family members in south London (Piper lives elsewhere with her new partner, the musician Johnny Lloyd, and their baby daughter Tallulah). Then, last year, he lost his best school friend to a long illness.
Fox, 41, is excellent company: a publicist’s fever dream, but charming and energetic enough that I expect they forgive him for never turning up with his filter. I’ve interviewed him before, around the time of his second album, at the end of 2015. It was, I remind him, at his marital home – Piper opened the door brightly, the children’s toys were scattered… it seemed like happy chaos.
“Really? That would have been really close to the end of the marriage. The…” He mimes an enormous explosion with hands and sound effects. I didn’t sense it at the time, I say. “No, well, who did?”
Fox and his ex-wife, the actress Billie Piper, in 2014 CREDIT: REX
That second album contained allusions to trouble. “Don’t fall in love if you don’t want a gunfight,” one song began. “Yep, and it was like that for quite a long time,” Fox says. “People can be your muse but also be, you know…”
A Grief Observed is every bit as honest, and easily his most accomplished record as a result. There are a couple of guest vocalists (one is the actress Laura Haddock, recently seen in The Capture, who stars opposite Fox’s hippy drug dealer in Netflix’s upcoming drama White Lines – the reason for his temporary scraggly blonde hair extensions) but many songs feature just a guitar and Fox’s gravelly baritone. Vocally, think George Ezra with a seething hangover, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen by way of finishing school.
The first track, ‘Say Goodbye Properly’, is directed at an actress with “an emptiness inside”, who leaves abruptly.
“That one was written in a theatre dressing room, literally The Day Of the life change,” he says, looking over the tracklist. “So were a few of the others. ‘Die On My Feet’, that was early on. Shaky times. It’s weird looking back now. It’s like a diary, that’s why I do it.”
The album’s title comes from CS Lewis’s collection of reflections on bereavement after the death of his wife, Joy, in 1960. Fox was given it “by someone who cares about me” when he was at a low ebb after the divorce.
“What struck me was how he talks about his wife’s death ruining memories she wasn’t even part of. Like childhood memories. It has an amazing description of how all-consuming that feeling is. It’s true that it touches parts of your life the person had nothing to do with. You become quite objective, observing grief. Not yours, but everybody’s.”
Piper isn’t dead, of course, but studying bereavement as a means of coping with the sudden upheaval in his life has helped Fox.
“It’s grief for what a family is. It’s an irrevocable change, so there is a sort of death to it, in a way. That’s why you have to reboot and realise there are brilliant bits to it. But it’s for the best, even if at the time you don’t feel it’s for the best,” he says. “A woman from one of the boys’ schools described it brilliantly to me. I was probably looking pretty ropey at the gates that morning, and she said, ‘The thing is, Laurence, you’ve been run over by a train, and you’re f*****. But you both get run over by that train, it just happens at different times.’”
He sits up. “It’s so true. You’re the one who gets smacked over at the beginning, but further down the line they’re hit, too, when they realise their life has also changed, even if in the moment they felt strong and empowered and mended. But everyone has their own process [in divorce]. The only consistent thing is it takes 18 months to two years before you go, ‘Wow, it’s actually sunny and nice out.’”
Are they both at that point now?
“Yeah, I think so. It feels calm and nice now.”
‘I can see it’s sunny now’ CREDIT: CLARA MOLDEN/THE TELEGRAPH
After the initial venting – the “Oh my God, what the f*** am I going to do?” – the rest of the album concerns itself with Fox’s resurrection. Songwriting replaced counselling, the sharp-sounding financial implications of the divorce were finalised, he threw himself into co-parenting and, it seems, calmed down a bit. He’s “sort of” single.
“You’ve got to take a bit of responsibility for yourself,” says the man who was expelled from Harrow in sixth form for smoking, womanising, and being a general jack-the-lad. “It’s like Type One and Type Two fun, as my little brother Jack [currently Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon] calls it. Type One fun feels really good when you do it and f****** dreadful afterwards, like a massive night. Type Two fun feels f****** dreadful when you do it and really good afterwards, like going on a long run. My life was quite a lot of One, now it’s Two.”
Winston has just started secondary school, while Eugene flogs to a primary in north London every day. Will either go to boarding school, like their dad? “No, no way,” Fox says, before remembering it’s not entirely his choice. “Oh, well you never know, but I doubt it.”
It’s all “very full on” lately, he says, but having been away filming, he “needs to get back to the kids, homework and football and things. We’ve managed it pretty well.” Still, he always seems to have energy spare for a good rant. There’s one more song I’m eager to hear about: it’s called ‘The Distance ’, and seems to be about free speech.
“Ah, that one’s because I’m sick of all the censorious people in the world, telling us how to live. People say I’m right wing and believe in Brexit, but I don’t, I didn’t vote and don’t care about it, but I do care about how we’re no longer a democratic country,” he says.
“And I’m sick of being told by Lewis Hamilton that I should eat vegan. I’m like, ‘maybe you should give up your private jets?’ It’s an elitist class who say they know better, but they don’t have to live by those rules, we do… And I know this is all pretty rich coming from the son of an actor, but I hate hypocrites, and it’s probably because I am one. We hate in others what we see in ourselves.”
He stops himself, and soon bounces up for a cigarette. School pick-up time’s approaching. Outside, he asks how he seems, four years on. Like you’ve been through it a bit, I tell him. He takes a long drag. “Well I have. It was f****** dark. But I can see it’s sunny now. And in a weird way I feel better than ever.”
A Grief Observed is released on November 8th, and available for pre-order now
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