With classic stories for days and so much vivid details, Nick Cody is at his hugely authentic best with the massively revealing interview all about busking back in the 70s, making more music and All Is Fine Til The World Goes Pop (feat. Towse).
Hello Nick. Thank you for your time. How have you been coping with all the madness in the world and where can we find you sitting as we speak?
Nick Cody: The last two years have been somewhat surreal, a bit like waking up in a sci-fi movie. I literally buried myself away in my home studio and started writing new songs. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to spark some inspiration. All my plans for travel and live work, vanished overnight, and to my total surprise and amazement, I wrote 44 new songs, 13 of which appeared on the “All is fine ‘til the world goes pop” featuring Towse. I was planning to be back in Japan, on holiday in New York, as well as on trips to India, all of which vanished! I’m now firmly rooted in West Yorkshire with my wife and two very demanding felines!
What was it like to be busking in Guildford City back in the 70s?
Nick Cody: This was such a different era and in some ways a classic period for music. The only way you could listen to albums was in record stores or on the radio. Guilford underpass was a great place to play acoustic tracks with my battered Kay guitar. I was playing mostly Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young covers and of course, everyone had Neil’s Harvest and After the Goldrush albums as well as CSNY’s 4 Way Street. You could buy an album for two pounds fifteen pence and we treasured such purchases. I could earn up to five pounds an hour on a good day and a lot of that income funded my vinyl collection!
Please tell us about your new release called All Is Fine ‘Til The World Goes Pop (feat. Towse).
Nick Cody: I wanted to create an album along the lines of my favourite album of all time, Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” which had great lyrics and melodies. I met Towse aka Grace Fellows online when she posted a sublime video of one of her original songs “When I Drive” on one of my music platforms and I was blown away by the quality of the song and the performance. I contacted her on e-mail and asked if she would be happy to collaborate on some songs. I’ve historically written songs with duos in mind and her voice reminded me of one of my favourite artists -Mary Margaret O’Hara- who released one great album “Miss America” and then vanished from the music scene!
What was planned initially as an EP grew and grew, so we ended up with enough material for two albums, the first being “All is Fine ‘til the world goes pop” which is quite stripped back and introspective and a second album with my band “The Heartache” called “Got a head full of music and a heart full of pain” which is rockier. The album is receiving great feedback and radio play to date and we’ll be showcasing some of this material on September 23rd at the 5 TH Music for the Head and Heart music evening in Leeds. These Head and Heart events are for listening audiences and to date, we have sold out every showcase, as the emphasis is on the very best music. The album title “All is fine ‘til the world goes pop” has a double meaning. On the one hand, it talks about the massive global changes that affected us all in recent years with covid 19, as well as talking about expectations of artists ‘in the music industry.”
Often the reality of being a professional artist is a mile apart from what is taught in music colleges or suggested on social media. A keen eye will notice the album is peppered with such references including the following, but the message is one of hope Hold fast to your instinct, stick with what’s real, The world is still waiting, for all you’ll reveal… (Thinking in circles) This world can’t wait, For you to play your part, Perfectly in place, Now go make a start…(She’s Tough Enough).
Your music has so much soul and genuineness. What is your vision for your project?
Nick Cody: This project is about creating original music that connects with people at a human level, especially in these tougher times. I had one hilarious comment from a music magazine that suggested that “The Leonard Cohen vibe maybe too bleak for some!”, while admitting that the album was “well crafted with fine musicianship and blended vocals.”
Others really seemed to better appreciate the real essence of this specific project and the comments below to date certainly reflected that view – “Towse (Grace Fellows) and Nick Cody make a special sound together. Two artists from different backgrounds who have found each other through the joy of music and songwriting.” Lendmeyourears “UK singer-songwriter Nick Cody is set to unleash his forthcoming album, “All is Fine Until the World Goes Pop”; the plaintive piano mockery of the state of our being at this crushing crux of humanity” Protest Musica All is fine ‘til the world goes pop’ is a magical piece, and the album cuts across folk to rock to Americana. The 13 tracks album, serves nothing else but classic music that takes you to another dimension, a world where nothing else matters.
Do you have any wild gig/festival stories that you’re allowed to share?
Nick Cody: One of the most surreal experiences of playing at a festival was playing The Lagoa Guitar Festival in Portugal. This was very early in my career of playing live and this was literally only the third gig I had ever played, so it was a total baptism of fire. I look back at some of the footage and I was playing everything 20% faster than it should be, so we were heading into “Ramones territory!” I remember stepping onto the stage and thinking “Well I’m in it now, so let’s go!” That said we were wonderfully received by the sold-out audience and as my producer would say “One live gig is worth eight rehearsals” I also met the brilliant Laurent Zeller who was headlining as the leader of his gypsy jazz ensemble “Les Kostards” playing amazing violin. We became friends and he plays on the new album. This May my acoustic ensemble is supporting Martin Simpson for the Music for Head and Heart 4 th showcase in Leeds.
If you could meet/play live with any band/solo musician in the world, who would it be and why?
Nick Cody: Two of my favourite artists are Nick Cave and Tom Waits. With Tom, I’d just be happy to be on stage even if it just meant shaking a tambourine. With Nick, I’d love to be a “Bad Seed” for a day and play “Red Right Hand” and “Stagger Lee”. Both artists have a very specific vision for their creative art. My good friend and world-class journalist “Sylvie Simmons” comments that such artists were “the awkward bastards” who refused to bend to the music industry’s commercial considerations, and the
world is better for such artists. Both Nick and Tom have always been mavericks, ahead of the curve creating inspiring, provocative and magical music. At times I’ve thought “What on earth is this?” before realising the brilliance of such creative talents.
Last, what do you hope changes in the music industry for underground artists to truly prosper?
Nick Cody: I set up Green Eyed Records to assist artists and to bring great music to a wider audience. The central theme of GER is “creativity through collaboration” and I am convinced that this is the best way forward for the health and development of great music. I discussed this in an interview with Jim Glennie founder member of James, who celebrate their 40 th anniversary, this year having sold 30m albums to date. The consensus is that a new way forward is needed, and the tide is already moving in that direction, with questions about streaming and how that affects artist income. The technology for recording and sharing music is extraordinary, but as my producer would say “Nick, it’s all about the songs.”
I’m unconvinced that having nine writers work on a single track on the insistence of a record company makes for great content. The responsibility for the future of music is as much with the buying public as the artists. Go see artists play live, buy their music from platforms like Bandcamp rather than stream it for free.
Otherwise, as Joni Mitchell once said, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone.’ I’m lucky to have some amazing artists as friends including Jon Gomm and Martin Simpson among others. I have massive respect for anyone striving to make a living from music. As the old musician joke goes “Want to make a million in music? Start off with two million…”
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Interview by Llewelyn Screen