A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS & MEMORIES
Peter Dennis talks to local musician Nigel Lewis about his new musical venture as a singer/songwriter, following his past as a member of a punk covers band. They discuss the writing and recording process of his new album, as well as, musical memories and influences, and what Nigel has planned for the future
Peter: What are your earliest musical memories?
Nigel: Listening to the radio in our kitchen in the late 1960’s to music of that era.
Peter: What was the first music or artist that captured your imagination?
Nigel: David Bowie because his music and dress sense were totally different to other artists especially at the beginning of the 1970’s. One of the first albums I listened to was The Man Who Sold the World. It blew me away. Artists that inspired me to write and perform cut across all genres of music including Ray Davies, Lennon & McCartney,Gary Brooker, Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, Neil Finn, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega, Bob Dylan etc. So many more. I also have great respect for classical composers such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky etc.
Peter: Can you tell me about your early forays into music. First bands and early gigs etc…
Nigel: I learnt a few chords from a mate on a cheap acoustic guitar and gigged a bit with his band as a favour in return. Just performing popular covers. I started writing with another mate and joined his punk band in early 1980’s. We were called “Unsung Heroes” but again eventually we all went our own way as bands tend to do. After that I took a different direction covers from the 1960’s & The Jam with a newly formed band named The network and after several changes in line up and names we became we became known as Initial Motion. This was the first time I started to take songwriting seriously and we ended up dropping all covers and performing only original material. It was also the first time I met bassist Simon Lockyer who I later worked with again when I joined Punk/New Wave covers band SO77 in 2011. After Initial Motion disbanded in late 1985 I continued to write but did not do much solo performing. Being a solo artist was harder in those days to get gigs and no open mics. I took a substantial break from music and performing for a number of years. I did continue to write on and off.
Peter: Your current incarnation as a singer/songwriter is markedly different than your previously singing in a punk covers band. Was it a big leap from raucous punk to acoustic songs? Or was it a smooth transition?
Nigel: I had started to attend a few open mics prior to finally leaving SO77 and I must admit as I was previously lead vocalist in the band it took some getting used to performing on my own and having to reacquaint myself with the guitar for live performances. I had also reignited the spark to write songs that are more personal to me. I occasionally perform some covers in my set. My preference is to perform and record my own compositions.
Peter: From writing to release how long did it take for the album to come to fruition?
Nigel: Some of the songs were written in the late 1990’s, however the majority were recently written. I started recording the album at “Tu-kay records” in July 2018 and it was completed in June 2019.
Peter: The coast is a recurring theme in your lyrical writing. Do you find it inspiring? If so why? From where else do you draw lyrical ideas?
Nigel: I love my country, it’s rich history, coastline and countryside. The album is not only a reflection of true life events that have played a part in my life, it hopefully captures places I have lived, visited and have left their imprint on my life.
Peter: I detect a little Ray Davies in your descriptive lyrics. Fair comment? What other artists influence your lyrics?
Nigel: Fair comment. There are too many artists to mention as previously mentioned.
Peter: What musical influences (if any) helped shape your album?
Nigel: I guess some of the artists I have already mentioned, although as a songwriter you want the sound to be fresh and new I don’t think it matters if listeners believe it falls under a certain genre or category. If listeners like the album, and they engage with the songs then that’s a job well done.
Peter: Can you tell me about the recording process: where, when and how…
Nigel: We started recording the album in late July 2018 and it was completed in June this year. The album was recorded at Tu-kay records in Stoke Bruerne. Ash Tu-kay Woodward produced the album and he did a cracking job. He came highly recommended. A guide vocal and acoustic guitar were laid down first then other instruments and backing vocals were added.
Peter: How about the musicians you recorded with? Did you have a good chemistry in the studio? Rebecca Ryan appeared on several songs. Do you feel your voices work well together?
Nigel: Ash & myself played the instruments on the album. We had a fantastic time in the studio. Great atmosphere and we found time to mix work with banter & laughter. Working with Ash and Rebecca was a pleasure. It’s fair to say I have learnt a lot from the experience. I consider them good friends. Rebecca’s vocals work really well on the songs and she is an incredible vocalist.
Peter: Now the record has been released for a few months, how do you feel? Is there anything you’d go back and change?
Nigel: I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything. It would have been nice to include more songs, but you have to set a limit and budget.
Peter: What are your future musical plans?
Nigel: The next project for next year is a website, currently writing more songs for recording next year. More live performances. I really love what I do and I feel very privileged.
Peter: Where can people find you on social media?
Nigel: They can currently find me on Instagram at nigelhatlewismusic and my music page on Facebook is nigellewissinger/songwriter. If people go to my Facebook page they can find alternative contact details.