Happy Holidays

A lovely reunion in Key West with Mr Ian Shaw. Great to see him! I made Kite with Ian when we were just a pair of nineties nippers. Now things have channelled beautifully and we both have twitters More fun vicars! 20140108-203457.jpg To be flap packing my merry way around the bars and cafés of Hemmingway Central this late in life is ever so slightly elemental. Enjoyment is my middle name. Love is all around and it’s wet wet wet, just like the UK.

I met Flip outside the The Green Parrot listening to Bill Blue. Flip’s been coming here to listen to bands for twenty years and says that “everyone here is one human family“. Certainly feels that way – Key West is lovely and dinky. 20140108-203625.jpg Immense regardenings,

Nick

All recording’s going well! (No. 9)

Last week was spent mostly working on the new Haircut 100 material and passing it down the line to Graham and Marc like a scrum half. And I also took some time out on Friday afternoon to plant (record) another new species of flower (song) for the Nick Heyward album. It’s a grower…

About to record hand-claps in our residential studio (Oliver’s bedroom)

The 3 Nicks Charity Cook-Off – a 5 star review *****

The 3 Nicks - Heyward, Kershaw & Beggs. Image copyright 2013The night of Sandra Dickinson’s 3 Nicks Charity Cook-Off began with a fantastic sunset. I attempted to Instagram it, but couldn’t quite do it justice. Later, I tried capturing my curry, but it was a bit blurred. Must have been the heat of the kitchen tension affecting my phone ;) I took one blurred picture of Nik Kershaw and one clear picture of Nick Beggs throwing a rock shape, but couldn’t get the colour right. So, I didn’t Instagram those either. This isn’t a blog about not Instagramming pictures, by the way. It’s about the (old) spice of life.

Nik cooked a lovely beef bourguignon, Nick B cooked a lovely vegetable chili and I cooked a lovely Sri Lankan salmon curry. There’s cooking for two at home and then there’s cooking for 89. It’s quite something. This was the first time I’ve chopped up 10 enormous onions in one go, but thanks to our helpful assistants, I know now how to chop one properly.

My original recipe was based on Rick Stein’s Sri Lankan fish curry. Loved his programme. He was so passionate about curry and visited unpretentious local restaurants. I’ve only been to India once, but the programme has inspired me to visit again – this time to explore all the nooks and crannies and back yards like Top Cat.

Fortunately for this Nick, one of the chefs happened to be from Sri Lanka, and this helped give my curry a new coconut twist and transform it into something more authentic and fragrant than I’ve made at home. Tragically, I didn’t have my newly acquired spice grinder with me, so I didn’t crunch up my cinnamon sticks properly and had to pick all the bits out one by one. Treat others as you wish to be treated I say. I wouldn’t want big chunks of cinnamon bark in my mouth!

When our cooking time was up, we all had our pictures taken and began mingling with our lovely diners. I felt great in my apron – kept it on all night.

Bigger Than Mary, led by Mark Osmond (Sandra’s husband), who had been entertaining us all night, invited us up to play a few songs after dinner. First up was Nik with Wouldn’t It Be Good. I sang along during the choruses and it felt … good! Watching the chord structure unfold like an origami swan was fascinating. Ben, or was it James(?), handed me his fabulous Gibson SG. So, with some slight distortion on it, I launched into Fantastic Day like it was the very first time I sang it to my chocolate brown bedroom wall. I never tire of singing this song (unless somebody wants to play it one more time in rehearsals!) Nik might feel the same with I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which he sang next. I’ll have to ask him, but when he began singing it, it smelt as fresh as a fantastic daisy. What a cracking chorus. I somehow managed to find myself singing the high harmony – must have sung along to it on the car radio at some point because it felt nice and easy. Nick B was Too Shy to play any of his own stuff, but suggested doing a funky jam which turned into Favourite Shirts, which turned back into a funky jam. What an amazing musician this man is! Ability, rhythmic synchronicity and passion, that’s what he is. It was an honour to play with these guys. It was our first time and totally unrehearsed, which always puts hairs on your chest.

The food was a three-way draw, but Nick B got the biggest cheer. Lots of money was raised for our charities and that will be a three-way split too.

Our charities:

- MS Society
- Down’s Syndrome Association
- Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service

Kind regardenings,
Nick

New album update

The GreenhouseI have five new species of flowers (songs) ready in the greenhouse (home studio) and I’m very happy with all of them. So, when we make it to a happy ten I will mix them all, master them all and share them all.

It’s a joy recording with my son, Oliver. We’ve worked together for years on live shows and it’s great to finally work together in our greenhouse. This flowerbed (selection of songs) is turning out to be quite a mixed media affair of left-field pop, not dissimilar to the direction I took with Kite. Anyway, whatever it is, it feels nice and natural. If it suddenly veers off and goes jazz, I’ll let you know. (I do want to do a jazz album next, by the way. It’s in me. It’s in there somewhere!)

Kind regardens,
Nick

Thanking you

Penn Festival 2013Thanks to everyone who came to see my lovely band and I perform this summer. It’s much appreciated.

Anatoliy Vyacheslavov – sax
Andy Mallen – keyboards
Dan Western – drums
Don Maxwell – bass
Matt Backer – guitar
Oliver Heyward – sound engineering
Rob Digweed – sax
Stu Henderson – trumpet

By the way, who took this picture? Being a photographer (aren’t we all these days) I’d like to share the source of this creative click with everyone. It isn’t always the professional photographers with backstage access who capture the essence of the day, or indeed my favoured side!

Kind regardens,
Nick

Nick’s holiday top 10 listening post

This was my holiday soundtrack while in Santorini this past May. (I went early in the year because I didn’t think we had summers in the UK anymore. How wrong was I?!) Anyway, I went nostalgic, I went current, I was swept away, in fact, by the whole caboodle. Music is the food of love. Read on and enjoy!

1. New Radicals – Get What You Give
I got to know Gregg Alexander through my friends Steve and Liza. When I first met him, he put his mobile phone to my ear and played me his answer phone message, which was ‘ring and a ring and a ring…’ from the chorus of ‘Love Plus One’. I know Susan too, who Gregg wrote the song about. But it just so happens to be one of my favourite songs when I want to feel inspired. I totally love it. It’s like Todd Rundgren on a quadruple espresso.

2. Shearwater – The Hunter’s Star
Shearwater are one of my girlfriend’s favourite bands. I initially thought they were quite noisy (not that she’s a noisy band lover), but then I began to listen to this one song over and over. I can play it five times in a row and it’s fresh as a daisy every time. It’s ethereal work – hooks me up like a vicar. I melt every time the double bass comes in and when the cellos come in, I evaporate. And rhyming robin’s breast with lioness fills my slippers with gladness.

3-4. Supertramp – Logical Song and Dreamer
The 1970s was a very special time for pop music, wasn’t it? Supertramp just came up with a bunch of beautiful juicy surprises. ‘There are times when all the world’s asleep’ – when this simple lyric collides with a simple melody over a subtle chord change – it can transform my whole world. The way these songs have been crafted and the musicianship is just so creative. It’s like musical storytelling at its best. How well do these guys play together too? That’s the magic of bands – people that spend time together making music is more potent than people forced together to play music for a living. I’ve often observed expert classical musicians at concerts playing the greatest music ever written with the passion of a delinquent teenager. It simply doesn’t compare to groups who regularly play together. Take a look at the film The Late Quartet for a prime example of this. Basically, if a band can put up with each other that’s when the magic happens. It’s all part of the creative process. Right, I’m off to read Rudyard Kipling’s “If” again.

5. Villagers – Set The Tigers Free
This song is like short holiday train journey. It starts off partly cloudy in the built up areas of the town, becomes brighter just after lunch and ends up by the sea in full sun. You grab your bucket and spade and make a sandcastle in anticipation of the tide coming in at the end of the day. This tune is a perfect clear landscape. I love how everything is simple and close by. It’s a nice tidy frame too – natural wood, painted white. Lovely.

6. Bill Evans & Jim Hall – Skating In Central Park
Ok, the sun’s going down. Your skin feels sunblessed, your heart is rested and your mind peaceful. It’s time to pop back into town for something to eat. You find the perfect place and to your utter amazement, Bill Evans is on the piano and Jim Hall is on the guitar. Maybe you’ve gone to jazz heaven. So, where’s my dad? He’s at the bar ordering a pint. This music is so organic, it’s like watching two whistling spiders weaving a web together. The thing is, it’s a more like a bouncy castle, more fun that getting stuck in a web. Actually, I just remembered I got stuck in a bouncy castle once. It was one of those big moving ball ones. I think they’re banned now. See where music can take you? Into a fight or flight memory. Music is healing. I will heal this now. Thanks guys. Cheers.

7. Gaz Coombes – One Of These Days
The first time I heard this song on 6music, I thought, ‘hmm I like that.’ The second time I heard it on 6music, I thought, ‘beautiful strange sketchy feel. I wonder who is making such lovely music.’ The third time, I nipped over to the radio quickly to see who it was and to my utter delight saw that it was Gaz Coombes. I’m a Supergrass fan and I hadn’t recognised who it was. The fourth time I heard it was when downloading it onto my phone to listen to it for a fifth time. On the sixth play, it’s a classic. It’s an absolutely lovely song. Love is strange. So here’s proof of the importance of a radio station that supports great artists such as Gaz Coombes. In a healthy music business, sad reflective songs like this would be sitting in the top 10 happy as Larry. I do believe a healthy music business is on its way back after a rough night out. But if it doesn’t make it, we’ve got 6music and we’ve all got our own charts.

8. Billy Joel – She’s Always a Woman
Only Billy Joel is able to capture the essence of such a female with this precision – glad he was the canary in the coal mine here. Had he not experienced it though, we would’ve never heard this song. And for that I tip my hat and respect to you, Billy. Not only as a supremely gifted composer, but also as a fellow human being. Your vocal delivery and piano performance is like that of Aramis, from The Three Musketeers – graceful and effortless. This recording captures an artist at the height of his abilities and here he is giving us a display of his swordsmanship. En garde!

9. Gabriel Fauré – Requiem Op. 48-7. In Paradisum
I’m writing this in an easyJet queue – apparently not considered to be a paradise situation. Maybe I should listen to it because it’s a fast track to paradise. Again when the deep double bass arrives I arrive into the sound of gold (quite close to easyJet’s orange, isn’t it?) Paradise? It’s always here, whether I’m connected to it or not. Taking a deep breath or two in a very stressful queue does work wonders though. Take that paradise situation and put it right! Actually, as I reach passport control it’s “The Last of the Melting Snow” by The Leisure Society that’s put a tranquil smile on things. What an amazing recording.

10. The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
Right chaps, chocs away! Here I am in this metal tube with my fellow brothers and sisters ready to return home to the green and pleasant valleys of the English countryside. I haven’t listened to this song in ages, let alone on this holiday, but here it is, “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees. The metal tube now throbbing with love and we’re bouncing over clouds. Turbulence means nothing. Bring it on! We’re stayin’ alive. Wooooo! The weaving guitar, the frantic pace, the ace musicianship, the brass lines, the string lines, all perfectly placed to get the heart pounding. This aeroplane is alive with the sound of music! Why, if I had lederhosen on now, I would slap my bare knees and get everybody up boogying on down. It’s a nice windy day and quite a bumpy landing as it happens. Great to be back home.

Q: What effects/amps did you use to get the guitar sound on Tangled?

Kevin Woodruff writes, “I have been revisiting some of your albums, especially Tangled. The guitar sound on that album is epic. Do you remember what effects/amps you used to get that sound?”

Nick replies, “My particular favourite guitar sound was on ‘She’s Another Girl’. That was from the first recording session at Park Gate Studios in Battle, East Sussex. Julian Gordon-Hastings, Jim Kimberley and I spent a whole day getting the guitar, bass and drum sounds right and were beyond happy. We were going to use the sound for the whole of the album, but the next morning all the equipment was moved for another session. We tried, but never got the same sound and vibe back. So I ended up doing most of my guitars with Ian Shaw at Shaw Sound. I plugged into his trusty old beaten up 100 watt Marshall combo amp with a vintage Les Paul borrowed from my manager, Graham. It just worked a treat and there were no pedals used.”

Q: Do you go to the gym? How do you keep your youthful vigour?

Tim Burt asks, “In the video ‘Today’ you had your shirt off for one scene and it looked like you worked out. Do you go to the gym? How do you keep you youthful vigour?”

Nick replies, “Thank you, Tim. I was hitting the weights around the time of that video, although not so much now. Hardly touch them these days, in fact. I do Pilates, tai chi, light cycling and as much walking as I can. Walking in nature in sandals is blissful. I could also say the same about walking in the sunshine, but actually I like walking in shoes anywhere. I just love to walk. Walking is the spice of life.

The video where I really wanted to get my shirt off was Kite. I was in my physical prime at the time and a photographer took some photos of me swimming in the country house pool. A couple of weeks later she rang and said her flatmate wanted to have a word. And the next minute, I was talking to Kylie Minogue and she was telling me how great I looked in the pictures! I should have taken some tips from her on revealing oneself in one’s physical prime. I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, say no more. My Kite could have flown to some dizzy heights, at least higher than 44! Although I’m very proud of my tweed-suited no. 3 position in US college radio charts.”

Q: Do you like cooking and what’s your favourite dish to cook and to eat?

Kathy Jones asks, “Do you like cooking and what’s your favourite dish to cook and to eat?”

Nick replies, “I love cooking at home because maximum nourishment and an abundance of the sun’s energy are not high on the list of a restaurant’s priorities. I’m feeding my body and soul. The mind does like to go to cafes though. Actually, loves going to cafes. The body says, “No! Take me home!” and the mind replies, “You need to get out more. Socialise Nicholas. You never know who you might bump into.”

My favourite dish always involves quinoa. I lightly steam vegetables and mix them up in a wok with organic rapeseed oil, adding seeds, fresh herbs and chopped birds eye chilies. It’s all got to be organic and natural.

I see food as energy, which totally goes out the window the moment I step into Ottolenghi and see the cakes. Some of those cakes are deadly little Trojan horses that I can wipe off the face of the planet in one fell kestrel swoop. I love life – especially eating it.”

Q: Do you feel you possess more of the characteristics of Taurus or Gemini? Do you enjoy performing concerts/shows or would you rather be in the studio?

Melissa asks, “Nice to see your new and improved site. There have been some twitterings about your upcoming birthday. As you are on the cusp, do you feel you possess more of the characteristics of Taurus or Gemini? Not sure if I can ask two but my second question would be this: Do you enjoy performing concerts/shows or would you rather be in the studio? Hope you have a great birthday!”

Nick replies, “Thank you, Melissa. Well, this end of Taurus does feel more flexible than the other end going into Aries. There’s a lot to learn being born on the 20th of May – maintenance and finishing what’s on one’s plate being two biggies. Still, Jimmy Stewart seemed to manage it, didn’t he? So I tip my 20s trilby hat to him and all 20th of May people and birthday people. Learning is the spice if life! But I would say that, wouldn’t I, being so close to Gemini. The Birthday Book is always a fascinating reference if anybody wishes to dive into the world of traits. But I would say that again, wouldn’t I, being so close to Gemini. Apparently those born on my day love to know how things work and are known to be chatterboxes. I’ve overcome that one on stage, thankfully! Get on with the music, that’s what I say.

Second question is an easy one. Studio. Love it. Creating musical pictures is a thrill beyond words. Once they’re completed and you sit back with a cup of tea surrounded by the beautiful people who so lovingly helped you achieve your masterpiece is wonderful.

Then again, regurgitating creative works live can be sublime. Please excuse the metaphor. Ha! I really don’t see myself as a mother fox or people as fox cubs and my songs as nourishing food. Hold on a minute, I know I’m on holiday and have had a glass of local wine, but actually I do believe my songs are rather nourishing. Darn tasty!

When I listen to The Hunter’s Star by Shearwater, I’m an inspired fox cub. No, no! I’m a starving starling nestling begging for more nourishment.

On the aeroplane here, I listened to The Logical Song by Supertramp. The aeroplane turned into an eagle, soaring above the prairies of North America. This is how inspiring music is to me. And if I can capture even the tiniest essence of this, I can hopefully bring you the same feeling.

Music is the food of love. After my father died in front of me for the first time, he woke up and wrote those words to me as he couldn’t speak because he had emphysema. But that is exactly what he’d just experienced. And that is what we are underneath all the pain of living. We are music and we are the food of love.