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joni Mitchell

Harmonising Gems: Nick Cody’s Journey Through ‘Covering These Tracks Vol II’

Nick Cody

This week, A&R Factory had the privilege of sitting down with Nick Cody, a maestro in the art of musical reinvention. We explored the intricate layers of his latest masterpiece, ‘Covering These Tracks Vol II‘. This album is a mosaic of musical exploration, blending classic hits with lesser-known treasures. Cody’s approach to this project was akin to a musical alchemist, transforming and transcending genres with a simple yet profound setup: a guitar, a violin, and the harmonious interplay of two distinct voices. As we delved deeper, Cody revealed the nuances of his creative process, the challenges of embodying other artists’ universes, and the exhilarating journey of bringing this ambitious project to life, both in the studio and on the stage.

Nick Cody, thanks for sitting down with us to discuss your latest release. Could you share the creative spark behind the conception of your second ‘Covering These Tracks’ album? 

Originally the plan was to create an EP with my Californian friends Towse and Corwin Zekley with Harry Orme from the UK. This EP idea became a mini album ‘Covering these tracks volume I” and we had so many ideas and magical moments, I decided to do a second album.

My rule of thumb was that we would only have two instruments, guitar, and violin and two vocals from Towse and myself. Covering these tracks volume II is even more ambitious than the first album.

As well as recording classics like Joni Mitchell’s “Case of you” and Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s baby now” I also chose some hidden gems like “Gold” from Peter Blegvad and “Name Hoppin” from Ray Wylie Hubbard, two fantastic songs that deserve to be heard. So, the creative spark was finding well known and hidden gems that have great melodies and sharp lyrics, transporting the listener to a new space of magic and fascination.

How does it differ from your previous projects? 

This project is more ambitious in that when you step into another artist’s universe when recording and that’s a very different experience than simply listening to their songs. A good example is one of the verses on Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” . This is where on the second line Bruce adds a huge number of words that all need to fit with the melody.

The first part – “Now I been looking for a job, but it’s hard to find” is simple enough, BUT the next line is –

Down here, it’s just winners and losers and “Don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line”.

This requires the singer to really focus in articulating every word and delivering it all in the same bar.

Bruce is mostly about telling stories and the lyrics are invaluable in every song with no waste. I first came across him with the brilliant Born to Run album and have been listening ever since.

With Joni Mitchell it’s a very different style, but also with killer lyrics including the following first verse of “Case of you

“Just before our love got lost you said,

“I am as constant as a northern star,”

And I said, “Constantly in the darkness,

Where’s that at?

If you want me, I’ll be in the bar.”

This project is about travelling to and inhabiting other artist’s universes in creating new versions of their songs. This is both equally fascinating and challenging. I’m really pleased with the final results and can’t wat to play these tracks live.

How did the collaboration with Towse, Corwin Zekley, and Harry Orme shape the sound and direction of this album? What unique elements did each artist bring to the table?

On this album, Harry Orme plays all the guitar parts. Harry is a truly gifted player and quite brilliant at 100% nailing the sound. If he were a chef, he’d have three Michelin stars, without doubt. Once I have the guitar parts, I’ll lay down my vocals. The mix then goes to Towse, and I will say “Do what you think works best, I trust your musical instincts”.

This is our third album, and this has always been my approach. Towse always knocks it out of the park and Carl Rosamond (my producer) and I love to receive those parts. It’s like Xmas day opening a great present when those files land.

Once we do the mix with towse, the file then goes to Corwin who has a unique sound unlike anyone else. Corwin and Towse are like creatures from another dimension and the result is to my ears pure magic. I played Jon Gomm a couple of the new tracks “Gold” and “Crashing and Burning” by Fred Eaglesmith and his response told me we really had something with this collaboration.

With the live showcase in Leeds on the horizon, how are you feeling about bringing this album to life on stage? What can your fans expect from this performance?

Leeds April 26th will be a special album launch with sets by Harry, Towse and Corwin as well as all of us playing together with other members of the expanded Heartache ensemble that include David Bowie Jnr on bass, Rich Ferdi on percussion, Jon Burr on Harmonica. I’ll also be doing a set with my Caravan of Dreams ensemble that includes the brilliant vocalist “Agi” who I have been working with for many years.

This new album is more challenging, so we are rehearsing hard to deliver the very best performance. At times there will be up to eight of us on stage, so that’s a lot of moving parts! We’ll be playing many of these tracks for the very first time, so are rehearsing hard in the forthcoming weeks.

How does the dynamic of your fluid band line-up influence your creative process and the final output? 

My producer Carl calls this way of working “The Steely Dan model” where I surround myself with a tapestry of great musicians who can be brought in as and when needed on several projects. This fluid band line-up allows for a huge number of sonic possibilities and of course, I’m often working on a number of projects simultaneously.

Really excellent musicians are of course always busy and not sitting at home waiting for calls. I have a 12 – 18-month timeline for projects and I often choose songs and write with specific musicians in mind. With the Covering these tracks albums, I deliberately chose to work with three other musicians from the core group and the results have been so good, we’ve kept going with releasing a second album as well as more material “in the vault” for future release.

Rich Ferdi and Dave Bowie Jnr are my live ensemble choices for bass and percussion and of course, I’ve been working with these guys for years, so the dynamic works well. On the April 26 launch at times all eight of us will be playing live, so it’s going to be one of those “I was there!” nights I’m always on the lookout for exceptional talent to add to the growing ensemble and recently joined a choir as a side project where I’ve already spotted some gifted artists…

With performances planned from Leeds to Osaka, how do you approach adapting your music to resonate with such diverse audiences?

I’m choosing to only play very specific live dates these days and after the album launch, the Osaka date will be with my good friend Brian Cullen. Brian is an excellent mandolin and guitar player as well as a great vocalist. My experience is that most audiences love something that is performed really well and engages them both musically and lyrically. This is universally true regardless of whether I’m in New York, or at The Lagoa Guitar Festival in Portugal.

The Lagoa Guitar Festival main stage in Portugal was only my third-ever live performance back in 2016, a baptism of fire, equally (at the time) terrifying and inspiring! Since then, I have had a lot more experience and doing support for artists like Jon Gomm and Martin Simpson has really helped me develop my skills when playing live. 

How has working with Carl Rosamond influenced the production of your music? Can you share any insights into this creative partnership?

Carl Rosamond is like my “George Martin”, the hub of the sonic wheel in all my projects. We’ve worked together now for many years, and I’ve always had a policy of sitting in with him throughout the whole mixing and mastering process. He’s massively in demand, so I block book studio time for projects, and we’ve always got something on the go. We also work in a very relaxed manner and since COVID I’m doing all my vocal parts in my own studio with the excellent Austrian Audio mics. The Covering These Tracks project is the most stripped-down work I have done to date, with two instruments and two vocals, but it’s a huge sound. The press feedback increasingly highlights just how great the production is and of course that helps massively with radio plays.

We have our recording ritual where we start at 10 am on a weekday. We have all the raw tracks ready to be mixed and I turn up with vegetarian sushi made that day by my wife Sue, for the session. We then go to work and the rule of thumb is that we’ll work straight through until 6 pm to mix a track. I estimate we’ve worked on around 80 – 90 tracks to date and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.

Is there an element of your music that you feel is best captured in a live setting?

The live setting is unlike any other experience. I spend a lot of time designing a set to make sure like a movie, there’s a beginning, middle and conclusion. I really like to stretch out and improvise with some songs and am reminded of the many years when I saw The Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theatre in New York. They would invite special guests and have great sections of improvisation in songs that are sonically pure magic.

I’m interested in creating the same dynamic and when you have access to artists of the calibre of Corwin, Towse, Laurent Zeller from France, Michael Ross from Nashville, and Jon Burr, live performances can be pure magic. Some of my original tracks like “Slow News Day” and “Perfect Place” are great for showcasing fantastic improvisational passages and letting these great artists really go for it!

Looking beyond the release of ‘Covering These Tracks’, do you have any future projects or directions you are particularly excited about exploring?

For the first time involved in a choir project and have become absolutely fascinated by the experience. It’s a totally different way of working, essentially ‘an orchestra of 60 voices”.

I’m pondering a cover single release using a choir for 2025. This is extremely ambitious, but I can already hear how this would work on one of the tracks I already have “in the vault”.

The plan is for a third “Covering These Tracks” album, but this will be with an expanded ensemble and there’s no rush to complete this, I’m taking my time. As well as all this I’m finalising the second electric Nick Cody & The Heartache album, “This is Love and Heartache”.

One thing is certain, there’s a lot more music in the pipeline and we’ll as always be pushing the boundaries of what we are creating.

Stream Covering These Tracks Vol II from April 19th on Bandcamp.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Leah J Jones captured the grace of grief in her latest single, Saints and Stars

As tenderly compelling as I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie, with all the ethereal iconography and tonality to boot, the latest stripped-back and sonorous score, Saints and Stars, from Leah J Jones strikes all the right evocative chords while establishing the singer-songwriter as the Joni Mitchell of our generation.

With a perfect touch of baroque melancholic malady to tinge the magnetic release with a mournful resonance, it’s impossible not to be affected by this attest to grief which captures the interplay between sorrow and gratitude for what a loved and lost figure granted us with their life. It’s a stunning testament to how influence is one of the few things in this life that isn’t ephemeral. We can’t wait to hear what is in the pipeline from the celestial song crafter.

Saints and Stars was officially released on November 5th; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Susan Ritchie lit a beacon of tranquillity and wisdom in ‘It’s High Time’

Susan Ritchie, whose name has become synonymous with authentic artistry on the Central CA Coast, lit a beacon of tranquillity and wisdom in the standout single, It’s High Time, taken from her debut album, Life is for the Living. So much more than solely a musical score, it’s a journey into the heart of what it means to find peace and meaning amidst the chaos of modernity.

Ritchie gave the adage ‘live and let live’ brand-new potency within It’s High Time by speaking chapter and verse on how it takes nothing to accept trans men and women who are just looking to align their minds with their appearance. Her ability to weave everyday experiences into her songwriting, while giving a nod to the universal experiences we all share, is on full display here. The song is a reminder to pause, reflect, and embrace the moment, a message that resonates now more than ever when it is too easy to be consumed by the insanity which breeds on every corner of the internet.

The influence of her early inspirations, from James Taylor’s finger-picking to the sweet yet sassy blues of Bonnie Raitt, is evident in the song’s composition. Yet, It’s High Time is unmistakably a Susan Ritchie creation. It’s a song that showcases her evolution as an artist, blending soul, blues, rock, and folk into a seamless and captivating experience.

Regardless of how many people find comfort in Susan Ritchie’s soulfully sonorous sound, she speaks directly to you through the intimacy of her lyrics and the magnetically powerful delivery of her gilded-in-introspective-gold lines.

Stream It’s High Time on Spotify now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Susie McCollum – New Year’s Eve: part love song, part soulful indie-folk ode to bitter-sweet tradition

If it isn’t too early for commercial stores to deck their aisles with items that prove we’re in the midst of a consumer-industrial complex, it isn’t too early to pontificate on what will be the staple fixtures on our holiday playlists, especially when the singles are as superlatively resolving as New Year’s Eve from the folk singer-songwriter Susie McCollum.

Part love song, part soulful indie-folk ode to bitter-sweet tradition, the loungey and luxe feel of the NYC singer-songwriter’s debut single allows you to slip into a reflective sanctuary of a soundscape. The gentle piano keys against the minimalist acoustic guitars construct an absorbing platform for McCollum’s endlessly sonorous harmonic notes to drift into as the lyrics go beyond the commodification of the holiday, which, whether we like it or not, forces us to take sentimental stock of the year gone by and anticipate what we’ll be grateful for next year.

However you choose to spend it this year, there isn’t a situation McCollum can’t elevate with her Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones and Janis Ian-esque sound.

Add New Year’s Eve to your Spotify playlists now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

MANELLA “Young Girls” Ought to Appeal to Audiences of all Ages!

If you’re looking for a fresh new voice in the world of music, MANELLA (Maria Jimenez) is an artist you need to check out. Her song “Young Girls” is a stunning example of her talent as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. With a blend of genres that is all her own, Manella creates a performance that is both memorable and moving.

Her vocals are enthralling, drawing you in with every lyric and note. She has a powerful stage presence that makes you feel as if you’re right there with her, experiencing every emotion. And her songwriting is nothing short of incredible. With a feminist lens, she tackles subjects of loss, love, and strength in a way that is both honest and heartbreaking.

Manella’s recent graduation from McGill’s Schulich School of Music with a double major in Jazz Performance: Voice and Composition is just the beginning of what promises to be an incredible career. Her debut album, “Songs My Mother Never Taught Me,” is an autobiographical account of heartbreak, mental health, objectification, and the loss of innocence in your 20s. It’s a powerful statement from an artist who is just getting started.

If you’re a fan of Joni Mitchell, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, or Fiona Apple, you’ll love what Manella brings to the table. She’s an extraordinary musician with a dedication, ambition, and command of the stage that is truly a force to be reckoned with. “Young Girls” is just the beginning of what promises to be an amazing musical journey. Don’t miss out on this rising star!

Succumb to the cinematic nostalgia in Molly Murphy’s folk-pop single, I Miss When We Drove Shitty Cars

Taken from her phenomenal EP, Were You Digging for Some Deeper Meaning? Molly Murphy’s nostalgia-soaked folk serenade, I Miss When We Drove Shitty Cars, will drive you right back to the days when it was okay if everything wasn’t Instagram-worthy.

With all the grace and beguile of Joni Mitchell, this sepia-tinged stripped-back single allows Murphy’s celestial vocal timbre to float atop the quiescently cinematic melodies that lull you into a state of calm before the orchestral chamber strings chorally caress the non-lexical harmonies that will make you Dream Baby Dream.

The NYC indie-folk singer-songwriter is a soulful force to be reckoned with. Watch this space. Or better yet, succumb to the choral mesmerism.

I Miss When We Drove Shitty Cars is now available to stream on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Layla Frankel evades genre and embodies soul in her standout single, Dear Jennie.

Layla Frankel’s recent releases may evade genre, but they revolve around style and soul. Her standout single, Dear Jennie, is a stunning testament to her effortlessly uplifting sound. With her influences ranging from Bonnie Raitt to Sheryl Crow to Joni Mitchell to Bob Dylan, she found her own voice in between, and what a voice it is.

With the same ABBA-Esque piano chords that allowed the Manic Street Preachers to get to the top of the album charts when they used them in their latest album, The Ultra Vid Lament, Dear Jennie brings just as much euphoria with her complexly layered sound that indoctrinates unpredictable progressions, cathartic crescendos and sheer vocal dynamism.

Dear Jennie is available to stream on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Julianna Sweeney tells us like it is with her jazzy soul-pop single ‘all talk’

With a sound so celestial it sounds like it has been pulled from the 5th dimension, it’s safe to say the lead single ‘all talk’ taken from Julianna Sweeney’s debut album ‘Exit Fo[u]r is stunning.

The 21-year-old singer-songwriter’s approach to jazzy soul pop will undoubtedly enamour fans of Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones and Carole King while arresting you with the originality of her sound. Nothing is forced, everything is effortless, at least on the surface there’s no diminishing the amount of nuanced skill in all talk. With smooth jazzy instrumental interludes between Julianna Sweeney’s vocals, there’s plenty of room in the soundscape to drink in the romantic frustration which transpires before you learn that actions speak louder than words.

You can check out Julianna Sweeney’s debut album for yourselves by heading over to Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast


Charlotte Morris Bares Her Soul on new single ‘Three Hearts’

With a delicious blend of folk, pop, rock, and Americana comes ‘Three Hearts’, the new single from Charlotte Morris’ new album ‘Songs For My Next Ex’, and that title probably gives a pretty good lead into what’s on offer here; beautiful, soulful, confessional and personal, soft and gentle and tugging on the heartstrings. There’s a little of Joni Mitchell, a little Sheryl Crow, and a lot of Delta Rae and Brandi Carlisle; a tender and compassionate vocal sitting over gently strummed acoustic guitar chords and a sensitive backing of drums and bass.

Listened to in its entirety, ‘Songs For My Next Ex’ is a soul-bearing ‘story album’, tracing the highs and lows of relationships; her first full-length album, following up 2018’s ‘To New York With Love’ EP, it’s a perfect showcase for Morris’ stunning, plaintive voice. ‘Three Hearts’ is the impeccable, sublime introduction.

You can hear ‘Three Hearts’ on Soundcloud and follow Charlotte Morris here or on Facebook.

Review by Alex Holmes

CORBETT – Under the Tree: An Alt-Folk Festive Playlist Staple


Usually, when you think of Christmas music, you think of the grating classics you hear in supermarkets or whichever iconic track John Lewis has decided to butcher with their Christmas ad, but CORBETT’s forthcoming single ‘Under the Tree’ will shatter your perception of festively-inclined aural offerings.

With the London Folk singer-songwriter’s enigmatic whiskey-soaked raspy vocals which will send an ethereal chill up your spine interlacing with a stripped-back jazzy Folk arrangement and lyrics lamenting over lactose intolerance, it’s impossible not to be endeared.

I didn’t think that I’d ever see the day where a Christmas song touched my soul and made me turn a smile, it’s practically a Christmas miracle.

Under the Tree is due for official release on December 1st. You’ll be able to check it out via Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast