Joe Brookes, print music editor, talks to Nadine Shah about how her haunting new album, Love Your Dum And Mad, has been influenced by East London and her hometown, Newcastle.
Joe Brookes: How long did it take to write and record your new album?
Nadine Shah: Oh, bloody ages! Well, we finished it a while back now. The writing was actually a really quick process. I kind of lost my way because I told my producer I had loads of songs, even though I only had one. In the time between him hearing the only song, and our first session, I wrote ten or fifteen bits and bobs. I’d probably say, though, a year and a half in total.
JB: And how did you get signed?
NS: A lot of people couldn’t really believe my luck, in the sense of, like, “You jammy bugger, you’ve written one song, get lost!” Between finishing the album and now, we had a year and a half playing at gigs constantly. Like, really shitty gigs – two people in the audience – so I think I’ve kind of earned my place, maybe.
JB: So were they all over the country, or more specifically in the North East?
NS: No, all over, lots of weird places. It was just me and the piano then. We had no financing to pay for other players to come round with me, so they were pretty shitty times.
JB: But you are classically trained?
NS: Erm, vocally, yeah. I was involved in lots of amateur musical productions when I was younger.
JB: So that didn’t really affect the songwriting at all?
NS: No, no. It’s embarrassing but I still can’t read music, so I can only play my own songs on the piano.
JB: Yeah, it’s kind of the same for me…
NS: But I am learning some other instruments now!
JB: Oh nice one. So, are you living in London at the moment?
NS: Yeah, I’ve been here a long time actually – obviously my accent’s deceiving. I’ve been here nearly ten years, but I had a three year gap when I went back to Newcastle.
JB: So how important do you think London is for a musician, and for you specifically?
NS: Well it’s kind of two-sided. It’s brilliant because any artist could put on three gigs in London in the space of a week. You’ve got access to a wealth of things that are going to inspire you, like other musicians, you’ve got a lot of tools at your disposal – you get a lot more opportunities here I think. But at the same time, when I moved down, I was barely aware of just how many talented people were in existence. They all do a brilliant job, but I think you get that ‘big fish small pond’ thing, which can be really good to nourish talent. You can really stand out because you’re getting the local press. But I think as a musician (I sound like an old lady when I say this), because of the internet, it really makes no difference where you are – at all. In fact, it’s probably a little bit easier if you’re not in London.
JB: Ah yeah, that’s answered a lot of my questions actually. Is it true you run a management company?
NS: Yeah I did… I did, I do and I did. We’re managing a band called Symphonic Pictures from Newcastle – it’s psychedelic, really wonderful. It was just because I was very aware of how difficult it is starting up in Newcastle, disconnected from London and the scene of what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m the best person for it, but it’s really satisfying passing on the advice.
JB: You grew up in the North East of England, how do you think the scenery affected you?
NS: In fact, I wrote my first ever song when I went back home for three years. But most of the inspiration for songwriting was actually from London. The people I was meeting in London inspired the sound when I was studying in art school.
JB: Oh, cool. Where did you live in London?
NS: Well, I was in a very trendy part of London, I was in East London. Yeah, it’s a nice place. It’s cool because it’s like a city within itself, and all the areas are self-sufficient.
JB: Yeah that’s true. Well, thank you very much Nadine. This was the first interview I’ve ever done so you made it very easy for me!
NS: No problem. Take care love!
Have a listen to Nadine Shah’s chilling debut single, Dreary Town.