Sadly Drawn Boy: Keaton Henson answers our questions via the medium of illustration.


Keaton Henson is a 24-year-old, London-based singer songwriter who is happiest (perhaps only ever happy) when in his own company. He doesn’t tour or do photo shoots or give interviews or go outside much at all, for that matter. Last month he released his second album – the brittle, leave-no-demon-unchallenged ‘Birthdays’ – which led to his first two live performances, neither of which were announced yet both sold out. And while all of this is a PR dream, like Nick Drake before him, it’s Henson’s personal traumas that have dictated how he operates, not the usual post-Burial hoo-hah of cash-in anonymity.

Henson – who’s an illustrator and poet as well as a musician – grew up on a diet of hardcore punk, although you’d never know that from ‘Birthdays’, which is largely made up of stripped-bare, acoustic numbers, plus ‘Kronos’, which erupts into unexpected, distorted grunge riffs and hard rock drums. Up until that point, Henson’s voice trembles beneath the most delicate of guitars and the occasional sombre string section, more akin to Elliot Smith or early Ryan Adams than the bands he used to listen to on the school bus.

It was heartbreak that forced this already introspective man further into his shell, to the point where he couldn’t even bring himself to leave home for work. So he started selling his illustrations online, designing T-shirts and sleeve art for other musicians. Someone even tried to convert him to Christianity to perk him up – it didn’t work.

For ‘Birthdays’, though, Henson had to leave the house and the country. He flew to Hollywood to record with White Stripes/Strokes producer Joe Chiccarelli, where he also met Tyler Ramsey of Band of Horses, Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, Sam Kearney of Alberta Cross and Matt Chamberlain, once a member of Pearl Jam. They all feature on the record, although it’s a little hard to see where.

‘Birthdays’ is a striking, personal, sad show of a man undistracted by anything other than his own thoughts, which is perhaps why Keaton Henson doesn’t feel the need to explain himself in interviews or even recreate his music for a live, paying audience. We asked him if he’d talk to us anyway. He said no, but offered to draw the answers to any questions we have.

1. What type of music can you identify with the least?

2. Who is your musical hero?

3. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music or drawing?

4. What’s your favourite word?

5. What was the last hardcore band/record you really loved?

6. How did you react when some people tried to ‘save you’ by converting you to Christianity?

7. What are your lasting memories of California?

8. What is success to Keaton Henson?

9. What’s the best birthday present you’ve ever received?

10. There are countless terrible things about The Brit Awards, but one of them has to be that they keep getting some designer to ruin the statuette each year. Can you design us an alternative please?

11. What’s your favourite film?

12. Finally, can we get a self-portrait so our readers can get an idea of what you look like?

Keaton’s Key:

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