Music Monday, April 17th Words by: Mark Bowen, pictures by: Mark Bowen

Q&A: Leominster's Dan Nicol

Music Monday, April 17th

Q&A: Leominster's Dan Nicol

Classic songwriting has not gone out of fashion - it just disappeared from view for a while. If you don't believe us then you need to take a listen to Leominster singer-songwriter Dan Nichol.

His songs are traditionally structured with considered lyrics, memorable melodies, and rewarding chord changes.

They are delivered in Dan's deep, polished voice and his musicianship on guitar, ukulele and dobro is outstanding.

Last year played at Lakefest on the same bill as Newton Faulkner, The Coral, and Primal Scream. Despite having played quite a few festivals in the past this was the first time he has done so as a solo artist performing his own songs.

He has previously performed under the name Dan Nichol and The Strange Delights and more recently has stepped in to play with The Three Disagrees. Not bad for a musician who has operated under the radar largely because of his long-term battle with the depilitating illness ME. 

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Last year you played Lakefest, the biggest festival held in Herefordshire in 2016. 

Andrew Marston had just played one of my songs on his BBC show (BBC Introducing) for Hereford and Worcester. I got an email two weeks later asking me if I could do a 40 minute set at Lakefest so I was quite surprised and very pleased. I went along and did 10 of my original songs. They recorded four of them which were broadcast in October. 

One of your original songs is called ‘The Room is Getting Smaller’. 

I actually wrote it about 18 months after my gran had died and I was missing her. I’m an atheist so I’m not going to say I had her spirit with me but it was more knowing what she thought about things and feeling that was nice to have someone’s presence there in a psychological sense, not necessarily in a spiritual one.

You have a song which is pretty much a poem with chords set behind it. 

That’s the ‘Only Game in Town’. That’s an odd little poem from a dream. I dreamt the melody and I’d already got the hook. I tried to write what happened in the dream. In it I was being chased around by vampires that turned into a woman who wanted to marry me.

You do a cover of the 1920’s song ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams'. 

I love that song, I really do enjoy it. I saw Joe Brown do it (at the George Harrison tribute concert). He does it on the uke. I decided to do it on the guitar. I thought about doing it on the uke but I didn’t because he does and because he does it in a very different key from me. I’ve got a much lower voice than Joe Brown by quite a long way. I have to go up into falsetto at about middle c.

It’s the sweetness and the chord changes I like. Those American song book type chord changes, classic things like when you play a major chord and drop it down to a minor chord. The chord changes in it are stunningly beautiful. Really clever chord changes. The lyrics are gorgeous and the melody is so sweet. I also like it because I’ve got a slightly 1920’s voice in a way. I sing in my own accent which is more or less Received Pronunciation except from the point of view of someone in London who thought I was Welsh.

You sent your song ‘Everything Stops For a Kiss’ to Tony Bennett.

His secretary sent it back to me saying he does not take unsolicited submissions so I might try Michael Bublé. Tony Bennett is still doing masses. His voice does not seem to have suffered either, some people are blessed by nature. He’s not a belter. He’s not doing what Rod Stewart does to his voice.

What’s ‘Everything Stops For a Kiss’ about?

I started off wanting to write an American songbook style song. That one line came to me at one point – ‘everything stops for a kiss’. I wondered whether anyone had written a song called that and I googled it and they hadn’t, so I thought I would have a go at writing that. It’s about the moment when you meet somebody and you’re enjoying that anticipation. I quite enjoy a certain amount of tension in life. I’m a bit highly strung.

And you play Dobro?

It’s one I play on my knee rather than with a slide so I play it as a lap steel sort of instrument.

You supported the campaigning singer Grace Petrie at the Conquest Theatre in Bromyard. How did that go down?

She’s a great political artist and songwriter and is quite sweary. Grace Petrie was worried that Bromyard was going to be hostile. She said she was worried about appearing but then realised it would be ok when she saw there was a band called Vaginapocalypse playing there in a few weeks.

It was great. We just did five numbers. I was playing guitar with them (The Three Disagrees). I’m normally playing dobro, but with that band that’s what I joined to do as the lead singer, who also plays guitar, needed an operation so he couldn't play. The Three Disagrees have been about for a bit but there were four of us on that occasion!

 

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