Topic: Uncategorised

Back in the studio working on “Tales of Dark & Light”

I now have 4 fully mastered and mixed tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light” and I’m really happy with the recordings to date.

The tracks are

  1. Dunning Kruger Blues
  2. Here in the silence
  3. No more street parties
  4. He’s shooting blanks

I’ll be back in the studio mid January to record a fifth track “When the pain begins”

This is a very different project to the Small Change Diaries material, although Adrian Knowles and Rich Ferdi feature on some tracks. The extraordinary Laurent Zeller plays on the above tracks, but the final track is only going to be piano and vocal. 

The material is a lot darker than SCD material, and although I use the ukulele as a writing tool, the ukulele doesn’t really feature in the final recordings. The sound is much more piano, double bass and violin based. Carl Rosamond is once again the producer. I’m working with a number of other new musicians for the first time and each one adds a different dynamic to the material. 

The opening track “Dunning Kruger Blues” was written after some exchanges on social media and reminds me greatly of Becker/Fagen Steely Dan material

 

Dunning Kruger Blues (Nick Cody)

King of the tiny island, no bigger than a hill,
Centre of attention, is how he gets his thrills
Two fake Rolex, one on each arm
Listened to Elvis, but never got the charm

David and Justin got a Nobel prize,
Some understood, others rolled their eyes,
A New pecking order is now coming through
Bet your wondering if this songs ‘bout you….

Chorus
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues,
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news….
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

Bridge

Waspie women and the yummy mums,
Got the king’s number, done the sums,
But nothings really adding up so far,
He’s convinced he’s some kind of star…

Teenage kids just as bad,
All the smiling, covers up the true sad,
This dam of tears is about to break,
A parental vice, she just can’t shake

Chorus
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues,
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

 

I’ll be playing some of this material live in the USA and the UK, before releasing the EP as a physical product as well as in digital format

tales of dark and light

Working on solo release for 2018 – Nick Cody

In the lest two months having completed The Small Change Diaries 2nd album, I have started working on a solo project “Dark Tales” This is a very different style to The Small Change Diaries material to date. The instrumentation is also different and the first recorded and mastered track has mysef on vocals. Alice Higgins on piano, Adrian Knowles on double bass and Laurent Zeller on violin. For once I’m not playing anything, just focussing on vocals.

The material is lyrically pretty dark and also different to the SCD material. We are recording with Carl Rosamond who did all the SCD material and its sounding great. There’s not a ukulele in sight and I suspect a few folks will be surprised at how different this material is to what I have written and released previously. I’ll be back in the studio before the end of the year as I have two more tracks ready to go and several others waiting to be finished. 

The plan is for a 2018 release and some live gigs to showcase the new material.

Nick Cody

Beyond the ukulele – instrument exploration

I never consider myself “a ukulele player” rather a musician who plays ukuleles along side many other instruments. Here are some of the ones I love and have or will use in recordings and live work. Please excuse the chat at the begining of the mandolin track, this was one of our “sketch ideas” where what you hear is the first time the others in the ensemble had heard this idea and it shows how quickly these guys can pick up a musical thread and run with it which is why they are so great to play with! 

As much as I love ukuleles, I’m not a ukulele evangelist and have a great love of all instruments that help produce really sonically great music. Bill Collings, Stefan Sobell are great makers and Gibson despite its recent history has had some periods where they made really excellent instruments.

Each instrument inspires a different way of playing and I’m a great believer that learning and playing a wide range of instruments only makes for becoming a more skilled artist. These days I’m mostly looking for how things sound regardless of whether I have immediately play what is in front of me, I’ll figure that out later. 

After signing off on the second Small Change Diaries album due for release in November (digital world wide release in Oct) I have started working on some solo material with the addition of some new musicians as well as old colleagues. The first track is now fully mastered and sounds great. It also doesn’t have me playing any instruments, I leave that up to my colleagues who supply piano, double bass and violin. This is a different direction to The Small Change Diaries and the solo material is planned for release in 2018.

I have always had a great love of music and am fortunate to know some really talented musicians who have helped shape my own ideas on musical direction. Those who know me also appreciate that I have a love for original music and tend to speak my mind while also appreciating that others may have different views. As a collector of instruments I have over 25 ukuleles,  a great electric and acoustic guitar collection and one off instruments that include a Sobell mandola, Gibson mandolin featured here, National dobro previously owned by Martin Simpson, walking bass dulcimer from Austin Texas and other items. 

“Getting in state” – developing live performance skils for musicians

In my other life for the last decade I have been teaching communication and performance skills across the globe in the USA, Europe and Asia. In fact I was doing this long before I started playing live gigs. The most common anxiety on planet earth is fear of public presentations, which often starts at an early age. Over the years I have also had many well known professional singers and musicians as private clients. 

Even the most seasoned performers can get stage nerves or in extreme situations have melt downs on stage. Its therefore highly useful to develop  set of skills that allows people to mitigate against this. Many clients I see 1 – 1 and by skype have previously sought help for these issues without success. Often they have talked about the issue for hours on end and may have had “general relaxation” but crucially not found a way to change their feeling state when on stage. I created a model called “Provocative Change Works” or PCW that is now publised internationally in a number of books including “Innovations in NLP” and “Transforming Negative Self Talk” by Steve Andreas. I have also have articles published in numeous magazines as well as UK newspapers on this subject.

I always tell students that once you have seen your first 5000 clients as a coach or therapist, you start to notice that its all about the process of thinking – feeling – final behaviour. Any feeling state has to be created by some form of thinking and this splits down into four main catagories which are

  1. What you see externally 
  2. What you hear externally
  3. What you picture internally
  4. What you say or think to yourself internally

In sort every feeling state is created by a way of thinking and the common factor in performance issues is that the person’s brain is running too fast which means they are in a right old state rather than the right state for the performance.

One of the most common themes is that a person can play with absolute confidence to friends or a small group and have no unhelpful self talk going on, but when on stage they start to think very differently. Often the internal self talk starts to crank in an unhelpful manner and they arev literally talking themselves into an anxious state. No amount of reassurance or analysis usually helps change the anxiety, instead the key is to change the speed of thinking through specific exercises which then means the person feels more at ease. Usually the negative self talk splits into two forms

  1. A self diagnostic with the person giving commentary on their own state
  2. A commentary on how they imagine others are thinking ablout their own performance

Examples of number one include

“Don’t feel anxious!” (thought in an anxious voice) or “Don’t fuck it up!” (thought in an anxious voice)

Examples of number two include

“They are not enjoying it” (thought in an anxious voice” and “We are losing them” (thought in an anxious voice)

This internal messages creating an unhelpful feeling of being way too self conscious which then triggers the feeling of anxiety.

The anxious feeling usually locates in one or more of the following places

  1. Head
  2. Chest
  3. Stomach

The key is to teach the person to slow down the feeling, so they them find a greater sense of ease in the previously problematic situation. 

These state control skills can usually be taught comprehensively in a couple of hours and I’m pleased to have helped many performers over the years. I teach some of this material in the UK and New York workshops I run with my co trainer Doug O Brien. We are also currently writing a book on this subject which focusses on developing creative writing skills as well as developing excellent state control. Some of these groups I teach are pretty big and this work allows me to fund all my musical explorations and to sponsor stage opportunities for other creative artists.

SONY DSC

That’s Entertainment Part 3

The previous two blog posts were about folks who I considered as artists to be great entertainers. These were entirely at random and the posting was purely on the subject of ENTERTAINMENT and nothing else, despite what some may imagine or insist!

Here are some more great examples of folks who I personally think are great entertainers. These are some of my personal favorites and of course each person will have their own as this is 100% subjective.

Expanding sonic horizons – Nick Cody

As well as finalizing The Small Change Diaries second album “Lullabies for Cynics” due for release November 3rd, as Nick Cody, I’m starting to put in place a number of side projects. These will unfold in 2018 and 2019 with a focus on expanding sonic horizons. Some of these will be with “SCD fractions” and I’m keen to use “the King Crimson model” where alongside the full band there are smaller band units that work up material. The reason for this is to maintain creative momentum and also to explore other musical dimensions.

My plan is to release a series of EPs that showcase different musical explorations and these will be quite diverse and probably a bit of a surprise to some people.

The Small Change Diaries is a long term project and “The Small Change Diaries universe” is not just about the music, it incorporates other mediums like movie shorts. In 2017 ts obvious to me that there is a danger of artists becoming pigeonholed into very niche mediums and of course in the ukulele world this is not uncommon. SCD is not in my view a stereotypical ukulele band a point noted by both Phil Doleman and Ben Rouse in reviewing the “Adam Blames Eve” album. Martin Simpson also commented “You don’t sound like anyone else” which I take as the highest comment. SCD is not “The Nick Cody band” but rather four distinct musicians that create the whole. 

The move to greater sonic exploration also includes incorporating new instruments and artists. This adds a very different sonic dimension to the mix, both literally and metaphorically. One of these instruments is a Gibson A50 wide body mandolin from 1937 which I recently acquired. This was previously owned by Martin Carthy and is very different to anything else I have played to date. My good friend Doug O’Brien commented “But you don’t like mandolins!” This is not strictly true, a more accurate version is that to date I have never warmed to them despite many attempts. The Gibson changed this view and I already have the basis for a track around this wonderful instrument.

I have never considered myself to be “a ukulele player” rather someone who plays (and loves) the ukulele, alongside many other instruments including mandola, walking bass dulcimer, electric and acoustic guitar, national reso uke and dobro. I don’t claim to be a virtuoso on any of these, they simply support my musical intentions as a songwriter. The OUS project will continue, but I’m going to change aspects of that in 2017/2018 so it remains creatively interesting and more diverse. In recent times I have become more aware of ensuring the best use of time and energy and this has given me great pause for considering which projects and who I want to be most associated with in the musical realm. I think such reviews are healthy and I’m excited about the new changes ahead.

Expanding sonic horizons makes playing and recording far more interesting to me personally. The exploration is for the love of music and inevitably some will like what results and some definitely won’t. All such sonic explorations will involved creating more original music and certainly a lot (but not all) of it will be lyric based. I plan to start recording over the next few months, but the EPs won’t appear until 2018. I’ll  be trialing some of the new solo material in Japan this July to gauge audience response. 

Different acoustic spaces for live ukulele playing

David Byrne in his excellent “How Music Works” talks about different acoustic spaces and how they change the experience for both artist and audience. My own personal experience is that this can be a fascinating process and its amazing how quickly the brain adjusts to playing in different situations.

The first time The Small Change Diaries played The Grove in Leeds I thought “Where are we all gonna fit?” Now we have played a few times, its obvious how we organise “Grove Formation” Of course platforms like “The Tiny Desk Concert” show that even in the smallest of spaces its possible to deliver a great performance. When my band first played GNUF last year, we played the underground stage which was more like a club to great effect. I looked at the main stage and thought “Wow that’s big!” After playing The Lagoa Guitar Festival where the stage was literally three times bigger, this time when playing GNUF main stage I thought “Wow it’s shrunk!”

The physical is neither “good” or “bad” just different of course, but dies result in some very different experiences. Its not just the space that determines the overall experience of course. The acoustics of a venue make a big difference as well as “the sound guy” In Lagoa we had brilliant acoustics as the venue was built with acoustic playing in mind. Also we had a brilliant sound guy and we had lots of time to sound check, something which is all too often very rare.

The strangest gig to date was a duo set in Leeds market. Yes, there was a PA, but the acoustics were terrible and during the set I kept hearing the memorable chant “Get your fresh fish, best price today!” All these experiences are invaluable in building stage awareness and this is why such performances make live playing such a fascinating experience

live ukulele

live ukulele

Earn a living from music? No Thanks!

A number of people have asked me recently about the possibility of earning a living from ukulele music. I can’t imagine anything I would like to do less for a multitude of reasons, some of which I’ll detail in this blog.

For the sake of 100% clarity let me remind folks “THIS IS A PERSONAL VIEW ONLY” It would bonkers to suggest that nobody should earn a living from music as there would be no seasoned artists! Ok, now that’s cleared up, read on…

I am lucky enough to know a number of professional musicians and there’s a good reason why they call it “the music business” Any profession requires investments of both time and money. Often people have a romantic and quite delusional idea of what its like to be a professional artist. Its a similar situation with authors.

Years ago I had lunch with a friend who had written a biography on George Harrison. He had previously written one on Carlos Santana but was especially pleased with this new piece of work. I said “If its not too impolite, does being an author pay well?” “Yes he replied this one generated a full 9k, but it did take almost a year to write” I said “Is that an annual anticipated earning” “Nope he said, that’s what I expect in total…”

My point is that few writers earn a reasonable living from simply writing and its the same with other artists including musicians. Of course its important to clarify that independent musicians work in a very different manner to signed artists and performers, but either way there’s a lot more work involved than many might imagine! Shows like X Factor and American Idol  do little to dampen the illusion of instant fame without developing a craft…

Two good friends of mine have been earning a living from music  for 30+ years. The first one I have known since the early 1980s when after being played on the John Peel Show got signed to Sire Records. The band was on an 8% royalty rate which is similar to a book royalty. This was the deal and the band were delighted to be signed. This delight soon subsided when the record company lost interest in promoting the band. Of course every “album advance” was simply a loan against future sales. the record company holds the rights to the master recordings and is keen to protest their business investment. 

In recent years I have been quite shocked at the amount of record company advances and how small these can be. I appreciate that “the record company” wants to protect its investment and to have input into what is released and when it is released. They can also in fact refuse to release any material at all. Bruce Springsteen’s excellent autobiography “Born to Run” is a brilliant insight into a lot of what happens in the “music business” and an essential read for any artist.

Robert Fripp released an excellent audio book on his experiences in “the music business” and commented “Every time I hear a band is signed, I think oh dear…” His observations are quite fascinating, especially around record deals. 

“I recommend my students not to be professional unless they really have to be. I tell them, ‘If you love music, sell Hoovers or be a plumber. Do something useful with your life.’

“Being a professional musician doesn’t mean you spend 12 hours a day playing music. It means you spend up to 12 hours a day taking care of business, dealing with litigation, with the various characters who’ve stolen your interests, or fending off hostile lawsuits from former members of the band”

Robert Fripp

Of course this isn’t every artists experience, BUT often from the outside people don’t see how hard it is to maintain consistent regular predictable income in being “a professional musician”

There’s an old saying in show business – “It takes ten years to become an overnight success”

nick codyIn my other life as “the other Nick” it’s taken that time to develop a unique skill set that means I’m in demand across the globe, BUT it’s taken a massive amount of time and energy. In 2001 I released a spoken word CD called “The Adventures of Well Being Now” I did all the writing, production, artwork and recording myself. The unit cost of a proper glass mastered CD as a pound a unit and I pressed a thousand. I sold them via distributors for between 6.25 and directly to the public for eighteen pounds in CD format. In total I sold over two thousand which I am told was pretty good, my first foray into music. 

In niche musical circles including ukulele music, often people can imagine a wonderful life playing gigs and receiving wonderful applause. The reality for most (not all) is of course somewhat different. In recent times I saw a jazz musician selling beloved bass with regret and I have known many artists part with treasured instruments to make ends meet. Those who earn a reasonable living have to mostly tour endlessly and that can be a big strain on relationships. 

Many artists have posted on social media requests for couches, advise on whether anyone knows of available part time jobs and many other factors that suggest it’s tough to earn a living in this way. Don’t get me wrong I APPLAUD any performer that decides to go this route, BUT I’ll never do it, even though I have already had a good taste of some financial success from music alone. This is 100% a personal choice NOT a suggestion for all creative artists on planet earth of course.

I am lucky to be able to fund all band recording and rehearsals from my other life. This means we can record how we want and when we want. We can play as much or as little as we want and are not beholding to anybody. Its a wonderful freedom, but it requires an immense amount of unpaid time and energy. I reckon on at least a full day and a half each week dedicated to the band or my own musical education. Its a wonderful life and I have met and continue to meet many extraordinary people. 

There’s nothing so fulfilling as being asked on a number of occasions to play overseas and to date to have played a major guitar festival. The invite came form the work done on the band’s online presence. There’s nothing so great to hear your own material played on the radio and to have respected musicians applaud your work. Personally I find it impossible to really take a view on my own work and there always the thought that it all might in fact be a bit shit! For that reason external appreciation and positive feedback is always welcome! 

 I would never want to solely reply on music for income, sign to a label or “be managed” All of those factors would eat into the absolute joy of doing what I love.