"My dad said, 'Turn off the demo, just play me it on acoustic guitar and sing it'": Inhaler's Eli Hewson on the advice he got from his dad, Bono

Eli Hewson and dad Bono
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dublin quartet Inhaler are one of the breakthrough indie-rock bands of the past few years, scoring a number one record in the UK Album Charts with their 2021 debut It Won’t Always Be Like This and a number two with the 2023 follow-up Cuts & Bruises. There will be those who pin the group’s success on the fact that frontman Eli Hewson is the son of U2 singer Bono but Hewson told this writer back in 2021 that they’ve been braced for any nepotism-braced backlash from the start.

“We definitely knew that it was it was going to be a bit of a twist on our band that was maybe different to other bands but we never let it frighten us or steer us away,” Hewson explained. “We always knew what we're going to do and we were going to deal with any kind of backlash that we would have had from that. I definitely wouldn't have made a good architect or plumber or anything, the only thing I really feel like I have a connection to is music.”

His famous father would be honest with him about his music, he said – “He loves it, and if he didn’t, he’d probably tell me!” – and went on to reveal the advice that Father Bono had passed down. “Serving the song is a big one,” he explained. “I think people get a little too distracted with stylizing their music and they forget about how much a song can do and how much a song can connect with people. Some great advice that I have gotten off my dad was when I was playing him a demo once and I was going, "this isn't right and that EQ isn't right and that guitar is a bit out of tune" and he was like "turn off the demo, just play me it on acoustic guitar and sing it”. I think we've always kind of come back to that mentality when we're writing a song because you can really get lost in the technicalities of it. Really, what it boils down to is the essence of the song and the melodies and the chords and the lyrics.”

There is no doubt that Hewson had a very different upbringing to most fledgling songwriters. Not only is his dad in one of the world’s most famous bands, the artists that inspired him were visitors to his house. Regularly being in the vicinity of Noel Gallagher, he said, was incredible. “He’s one of the greatest songwriters, some of those songs are just unbeatable,” Hewson opined. “I think just being around that kind of energy maybe inspired me to want to strive to that kind of level of greatness, whether that's even achievable or not, we don't know. But you know, it definitely makes us want to get there as a band, just being around it and seeing it first-hand.”

The most starstruck he got in his own family home though was when his dad invited The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas over. “That's just cos The Strokes are such a big influence of ours. We just thought they were deadly. It was kind of weird to see him in person.”

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.