• Scott Bates

Q&A: Jodie Nicholson

Darlington-based singer-songwriter Jodie Nicholson released her debut album Golden Hour last year, and has been on the up ever since. The record is a fresh, engaging listen, full of sweet, bright and soulful tunes that mark her out as a name to watch in 2020. The B-Side is very proud to have an in-depth Q&A with Jodie for our first-ever piece.

How did you get into music? Does it run in the family?

I definitely come from a family who loves music, growing up there was always music playing in the house. Both my parents used to be in club bands before I was born, my dad played guitar and my mum sang. I remember asking my dad to teach me the beginning of Brain Damage by Pink Floyd on guitar and showing me a few basic chords. When I was in primary school I started keyboard lessons, which again showed me the basics, but for the most part I’d say I’m self-taught in both instruments. I would sit in front of the computer with guitar tabs up and go from song to song. I’ve never been able to read music, tabs and chord diagrams helped me with guitar a lot, but I mostly learned by ear. There would be songs I’d listen to and think ‘oh I’d really love to be able to sing/play that’ and I’d sit down at the piano/keyboard to work it out as close as I could get it. Years later I discovered this magical platform called YouTube where you could watch someone play and break songs down note-by-note - it opened up a whole new world. When I was 15, my dad gave me the push to play at open mic nights and next thing I knew I was playing every Sunday in a local pub, growing bit-by-bit in confidence and starting to write my own songs.

When did you decide to actually pursue it as a career?

At the beginning of 2019 I decided to take a ‘year out’ to put more time into music and see where the year would take me. I graduated university in the summer previous, up until then I had been playing in pubs, restaurants and small events in my local area throughout my education, so it really felt like it was now or never. I guess you could say it was at that point where I made the decision, but even with where it’s gotten me now I still think I’m just taking it more seriously, as opposed to pursuing it as a career. I take each day as it comes and try to not think too much about where I’ll be in the future. All I know is I’m sharing my music with people and that alone is pretty amazing.

Is there much of a music scene in Darlington?

It may be a bias opinion, but I think Darlo’s music scene is pretty ace. I would say it’s an especially good hub for people who are just starting out and finding their feet. There are brilliant open mic nights, including The Quakerhouse and Hole in the Wall (known as Soapbox Sessions). It’s a really supportive, friendly community of people who love and appreciate live music. Venues such as The Quakerhouse and The Forum have live music on almost every day of the week, and there are some amazing events that happen across town each year including Last Train Home Festival and Music Box Festival which showcase a wide variety of up and coming artists from in and around the area. A collective called Tracks, I would say, have become the glue in keeping Darlington’s music scene together and alive through events they organize and their support for local musicians. To me, they’re really helping keep Darlington on the map.

Tell me a bit about your writing process - where do your songs come from?

It’s very rare I sit down and think ‘okay, I’m going to write a song about this, this and this’. I tend to write out of an urge to get something off my chest and get a feeling out of my system. Songwriting comes from a very personal place for me, it’s quite a cathartic process. Nine times out of ten I don’t know truly how I’m feeling or what I’m going to write about until I play a few chords and start singing. My approach to songwriting is organic in the sense that I feel my way through the music and see where it leads me. There are certain songs I’ve written where I couldn’t actually tell you what they’re about, they’re just a mish-mash of thoughts and feelings I had at the time of writing it. My songs are heavily influenced by people in my life and experiences I’ve had, and with each song there’s an element of longing or a need to heal from something. Songwriting is my way of ‘checking in’ with myself every once in a while, understand how I’m feeling and allow me to let go/move on from things that might be on my mind.

When did you begin work on your album Golden Hour?

Golden Hour is an accumulation of songs I’ve written over the past 6-7 years. The oldest song on there is ‘Oceans’, which I wrote when I was around 17/18. Before deciding to create the album in February 2019, I was going back and forth with the idea of just releasing singles or an EP, but it felt wrong pushing so many songs I loved to one side. It was a pretty ballsy move considering I’d never released a single before and I was about to release 12, but an album meant that all of these songs could be in one place and people didn’t have to see me live to hear them. I have a very basic studio set-up at home and had a few songs recorded already as rough demos, so it was really a case of sitting down with the software and taking it much more seriously, navigating and learning a huge amount along the way.

How have people responded to the album?

Better than I ever could have imagined. I find it hilarious because I anticipated that the album’s release would be the end of the chapter and I’d just return to ‘normal life’. Since it’s release I’ve met some amazing people and had really lovely opportunities come my way. For example, I’ve had the joys of supporting Cattle and Cane, Baskery, She Drew the Gun for Independent Venue Week, Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra and Harri Endersby at sold out shows. Tracks off the album have received amazing support from BBC Tees Introduing and Losing Track bagged airplay from Jo Whiley on Radio 2 last month! It’s getting a lot of love from blogs and playlists that are continuing to push my music all over the world. People are loving the album and responding to it in ways I could never have imagined, it’s all a bit crazy actually. I’m so grateful.

What do you like to get up to when you aren't writing or performing?

It’s quite sad, but I find myself often stuck down a YouTube whole. I recently discovered a channel called Never Too Small which explores micro-homes around the world; hearing about each of the spaces from the designers and architects is really fascinating to me. I also love watching vlogs whilst people go about their day-to-day and pretty much anything revolving around food. Baking and cooking for family and friends makes me very happy, and I get a lot of joy out of planning/organising things, whether that’s to do with music, something fun with friends and family, or even what I’m going to make for tea (dinner). It sounds a bit boring I know, but I love the simple things. Of course, I’m always singing, listening to music, burning a candle and drinking copious amounts of tea along the way.

How has the Coronavirus affected your planned gigs over the next few months?

It’s proving difficult, I’ll be honest. All the dates I had been planning have had to be put on hold - it’s quite sad really. All my plans are well under wraps at the moment, so I’m unsure whether my management will let me share at this stage for the interview/blog. I did a livestream on Facebook just last week - it received much more reaction than I anticipated! I will be doing it again, but I’m unsure exactly when.

Do you have any goals for 2020?

To enjoy what I’m doing (which is the main goal), read more, buy less, keep my plants alive, catch up with friends and family more regularly, not think too much about the future and not buy any more candles until I’ve used up a load – I have quite the collection.

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