We have been very busy in the studio recording tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light”, a solo project that I have been working on for some time as a side project to The Small Change Diaries.
At the time of writing we have now completed all four tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light”
Dunning Kruger Blues
He’s shooting blanks
No more street parties
Hear in the silence
The musicians on this project are Adrian Knowles/Dave Bowie Double bass, Laurent Zeller violin, Rich Ferdi percussion, Alice Higgins, Paul Conway piano, myself on vocals and stringed instruments. Carl Rosamond is producing the material.
The music is different to what I have recorded with The Small Change Diaries and as suggested in the title some of the lyrics are pretty dark. This is proving to be a fascinating project and an opportunity to stretch out sonically into some very different territory.
On “He’s shooting blanks” I don’t play any instruments, rather focusing on singing. This is a true murder ballad and one of my favorite tracks to date. “Dunning Kruger Blues” reminds me of Steely Dan, which “Hear in the silence” has a more Indian feel with some extraordinary playing from Laurent Zeller who is key to the main sound on this project. “No more street parties” is possibly the saddest song ever written, a commentary on Brexit.
“No more street parties on this little rock,
Pack away the bunting, brace for the shock”
Many songs were written on the ukulele, but the final recordings to date contain very little uke, rather focusing on other instruments.
I am grateful to have the support of so many superb musicians and remain fascinated by the whole creative process. This material has “more bite” than what I have written and recorded to date and I plan to play this new material live in the UK and USA in 2018. I am also looking at a second EP for the back end of 2018 with different musicians and a different feel to this EP
The Small Change Diaries 2nd album “Lullabies for Cynics” is due for release in 2 week’s time. I’m also working on a solo album “Tales of Dark and Light” This project was initially intended as an EP, but I already have nine potential tracks and one “He’s shooting blanks” already mixed and mastered. Tales of Dark and Light will have some familiar Small Change Diaries musicians, as well as some new folks.
“He’s shooting blanks” has Adrian Knowles on Double bass, Alice Higgins on piano, Laurent Zeller on violin and myself on vocals. Yes you read that correctly, unusually I don’t play any instruments on this track. This may change with additional material, but it certainly won’t be just ukuleles. At present there’s also a possibility of including mandolin and Gregor Novak’s wonderful guitarelle.
I already have a gig scheduled in New York in 2018 and will be exploring other live opportunities. At a recent solo gig at “The Grove Inn” in Leeds I played “Here in the silence” which was well received. The graphics for this project are by Japanese illustrator Junko Hosomo who drew a sketch of me during a solo gig in Nagoya earlier this year which is just fantastic. I’ll be recording more tracks with SCD producer Carl Rosamond in the next few weeks and Laurent Zeller will be playing on the new material. This is an exciting new initiative and in many ways different to the Small Change Diaries material. The track “He’d shooting blanks” is probably the darkest set of lyrics I have penned to date and probably not for the fainthearted.
The release date for this will be the back end of 2018 if all goes to plan.
Now I am back from the USA, I am getting ready for a series of gigs. First up is The Ilkley Literature Festival which has been in existence since 1973. This is a great opportunity to play to a terrific appreciative listening audience. The festival is hugely popular and attracts a genuine cross section of people. This is a full band outing.
Next Saturday I’m doing a solo with friends gig at The Grove for charity. The theme is “We shall overcome” and I’ll be playing some protest songs as well as other originals. This is all unplugged and its unusual for me to be playing in this capacity, but I’m looking forward to it. I have support from my good friend Doug O Brien who is usually a keyboard player and my wife Sue. Its a bit of a jump into the unknown.
Four weeks later the full band and special guests play the album launch. Tickets are cranking for this evening and its almost fully sold out. Support is from Phil Doleman, Astraluna and Sleepy Kev Bishop. This promises to be a terrific night with food for all tastes and a full bar. This is also a beta tester for a bigger project.
Its great to have the opportunity to play to so many different diverse audiences and we already have gigs lined up for March and April, with a big festival gig in May
I just got back from one of the best music stores on planet earth, Hill Country Guitars in Austin Texas. They are a premier Collings dealer and I have done great business with them over the years, buying a walking bass dulcimer and a Collings tenor guitar. The family is now joined by a superb Collings Waterloo guitar.
Hill Country Guitars has an amazing selection of terrific instruments which include some of the best Collings instruments I have ever seen. Its important that such stores are supported by musicians as they are increasingly rare these days.
The Waterloo guitar is really exceptional and it sounds and feels like an old acoustic. I don’t know how Bill Collings managed it, but he has really captured the essence of these classic instruments. This one is definitely going to be used in recordings in the future.
I travel around the world a lot and see all types of stores and I can say that this is definitely one of the very best as they only stock great instruments and the staff are really knowledgeable about what is in the store. Austin is of course an amazing place for music and I love to come and visit here.
Since starting The Small Change Diaries back in 2014 I have increasingly appreciated the importance of regular vocal and instrument practice. I have learned to develop a regime that without doubt has hugely helped in writing, recording and performing music.
Every week I have a two hour songwriting slot with Jessica Bowie and we’ve been doing this for almost three years now. Its funny to listen back to early sketches of tracks like “5 string man” and “Perfect Place” and to hear how these developed to be finally recorded and often played on BBC Radio. In each case these tracks benefitted massively from being worked up and such work ups require a great deal of time. The writing partnership with Jessica and other members of the band mean that we get something quite unique with four very different views. It continues to be a fascinating process watching songs unfold.
When we were asked to play the 2016 Lagoa Guitar Festival we rehearsed every week before heading to Portugal. Without doubt this helped with the final performance. When Adrian Knowles joined the band and became musical director, we moved up a level in terms of our musical development and playing with Adrian and Rich Ferdinando is like having Sly and Robbie as your rhythm section, just terrific.
On an individual basis I always make sure that I have instruments at hand where I live are often on stands rather than tucked away in cases. Sometimes I might pick up a uke, mandolin or guitar and discover a musical phrase that’s really interesting. These sketches are always recorded for future development. Sometimes an entire song can reveal itself in a very short period of time and sometimes such sketches might remain dormant for many months. The same applies with writing lyrics. Often a real life event might inspire a phrase or chorus for a future song. The secret in all instances is to record these sketches for future development.
In working on my solo material for an anticipated 2018 release, I am deliverately working in a different way. Some of the tracks are written on ukulele but I’m working out the vocal parts to piano, focussing 100% on the vocal delivery. I’m lucky to have an excellent vocal coach in Alice Higgins and her input has become invaluable in developing my own vocal delivery. It also means that I have a totally different sounding board for this seperate project and the music is quite different to the band material. Working only with a piano in rehearsal sessions is a fascinating experience, On the first track “He’s shooting blanks” I sing and for once don’t play any instruments. With this track I have Alice on piano, Adrian Knowles on double bass and Laurent Zeller on violin.
Regular practice and interaction with other musicians continues to spark all kinds of create ideas. Many who know me, know I’m a big fan of creating original music rather than covering existing material. Playing an all original set live is certainly not the safe option, but its a real joy to hear a song you have created receive great feedback. At the heart of this creative process is regular practice which means songs have the chance to mature and develop. Another key consideration is to have lessons with really excellent teachers. I’m lucky to have both Martin Simpson and Phil Doleman on hand. Martin remains a big inspiration on my playing and writing and I generally spend a few hours at his house talking about musical development. Phil is a wonderful tutor and “reality checker” especially when it comes to all manner of good advice when playing live. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such terrifc folks which help deveop my own musical pursuits.
Many will associate me with the ukulele as an instrument with my band The Small Change Diaries and in Nick Cody music, but the uke is only one of many instruments I play and love. Others include acoustic & electric guitar, mandola, mandolin, dobro, walking bass dulcimer and of course concert, tenor, soprano, baritone ukuleles. Each instrument inspires different ideas, playing styles and different end results. My many years learning from Martin Simpson taught me the value of playing a variety of instruments and the importance of having an attitude of sonic exploration. This is a key ingredient to becoming a more creative and skilled musician.
For the last three years I have been writing and recording with my band The Small Change Diaries. To date we have recorded two albums (2nd album released Nov 3rd this year) and an EP. Its been an amazing journey and in 2018 we will continue to focus on live work and return to the studio in 2019. In the meantime I’m working on a solo project with the first track “He’s shooting blanks” already recorded, as well as a duo project with longtime bandmate Jessica Bowie and an instrumental project. The main band goes from strength to strength and we are delighted to be invited to play at some really wonderful events including Lagoa Guitar Festival, Ilkley Literature Festival and Wetherby Arts Festival. As a solo artist I also recently played in Japan and am soon to do the same in Austin Texas.
As Nick Cody the solo artist I am delibeately exploring sonic territory outside the ukulele and instruments like the Collings 4 string tenor guitar, mandola and mandolin mean thinking in a new way musically. When I first started with the uke I had no idea what I was doing and that naivity is actually quite useful in musical exploration. Of course when playing with a band some basic musical awareness and education is essential as well. I have always loved music and have a diverse set of interests. Instrument exploration and creating original material is a fascinating journey that means opening up your mind to all kinds of new possibilities.