But he’s back in the UK now for a tour which takes in Worthing’s Coastal Connections (Coast Café, Beach Parade) on Friday, May 18 at 8pm.
“I moved out ten years ago. I had an opportunity to do some co-writing. I had a manager at the time who said ‘Do you want to go to Nashville and do a week’s co-writing?’ That was February 2007. I came over here and I just really connected with the city.
“Nashville is very much a community of songwriters unlike any other place I have ever experienced. People talk songs over here. It’s very much a community of songs and song-writers, and I just felt very much at ease in the city
“It did surprise me. When you go to a city, you are the outsider looking in, but I felt very much at home straight away in Nashville. The connection always comes from the people, and I just felt the connection with the people.
“I also met my wife to be on that trip! She was from Mississippi originally, but she was in Nashville. I had my mind and my world blown on that first trip! People over here actually talk about the process of song-writing, and I met this wonderful woman as well.”
But in a way, he doesn’t feel as if he has left the UK.
“I feel that I have one foot either side of the Atlantic. I still tour regularly back home in Ireland and in the UK. It has never felt like I have moved my life entirely across the Atlantic. Physically I suppose I have done, but it never feels like that, and that’s one of the benefits of touring. I get back home regularly.
“I remember very clearly on that first trip thinking that I would be back in Nashville, and I was back in two months.
“For the next couple of years, I made very regular visits and then in 2009, I thought ‘OK, I am going to make Nashville my home base.’ I don’t know if there was any one thing that made me think that.
“But I suppose it was just the combination of everything feeling right. I fell in with a really good group of people here and felt really settled and from a career perspective, it has been fantastic in terms of my development as an artist and as a song-writer, with the co-writing and the collaboration that it has given me.
“When people hear the word Nashville, they think country music, but Nashville is so much more than country music.
“I don’t consider myself a country artist. I am a singer-songwriter. I am a mil-lion miles away from commercial country. I am folk really, but all genres are here. It is just a really creative atmosphere.”
Shorebound sees him evolve even further as an artist and collaborator.
“Absolutely my music has changed. Sonically it has matured, just as I have matured on a personal and emotional level. Regarding the song-writing and deepening my artistry, it has been a journey of trying to become more true to who you are.
“I have tried to become more honest and more true to who I am as a person. I hope that that is seen in the songs. I am no longer tip-toeing around. I try to get closer to the idea.
“I’m a believer in cycles, and 2018 will mark ten years since I released my first album, so it feels very much that this album is a major turning point in a cycle.
“Shorebound is an acknowledgment of where I am and a celebration of the people who I’ve gotten here with.”
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2