Recording Diary

This last few days we've been recording again at the delightful Old Granary Studio, just over the border into Suffolk. It is primarily a venue for classical chamber concerts, but is also fully equipped to record in the warm acoustic of the live room. Set in pastoral beauty, surrounded by the fields of the Raveningham estate, birds flitting and singing all around, it is perfect for the 'getting away from it all' vibe that we find conducive to focusing and making music. And the laid-back environment is enhanced by the calm and supportive work of Ben Giller who is engineering the sessions.

Over the years we've recorded in lots of different studios, from the grandeur of Great Linford Manor to studios tucked into box rooms in London suburbs. For us, successful recording usually flows when we can switch off from the concerns of everyday life and focus on relaxing, ideally without worrying too much about the ticking of the metaphorical clock that heaps pressure on the already unforgiving scrutiny of the studio.  If you're worried about how much time you've got to get something done, it usually yields poor results. Having said that, it is also easy to drift into weird studio time, where hours and days pass with nothing much to show for it. Certainly in years passed it has probably not been the healthiest environment for us, with late sessions, smoking, drinking and takeaways all playing their part. But these days we seem to have found a slightly better routine that allows us to give our best performances - well rested, well nourished and basically observing office hours. Not so rock and roll maybe, but hopefully, ultimately giving better results!


Some songs take a while to find their feet, and others you start with a clear idea of how they should sound. 'Heel & Toe' was always going to work best with lots of people singing along in the final section, so it is great when this happens in gigs. Here's a video from us playing it at the end of our set at Norwich Arts Centre last Saturday:

Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks for making the sounds in my head real!

In praise of John Hartford

Like many people, I'm sure, I have always discovered music by slow degrees, working from one artist to another by influence, collaboration or scene. Through that process, I sometimes stumble across artists that I can't believe I haven't discovered before, because they seem to be so linked into lots of other things I like. One such joy came recently when I checked out the work of John Hartford. He was an American songwriter and artist who wrote Glen Campbell's hit 'Gentle on my mind' and worked extensively with one of my favourite guitarists, Norman Blake. He also appears on the soundtrack to 'Oh Brother where art thou.' I had actually heard his work through a cover by Gillian Welch (another favourite) of his song 'In Tall Buildings', though didn't know who was behind it.

When I finally heard his own performances of his material I immediately heard in him that same melancholy, yearning beauty that I cherish in the like of Gillian Welch, Kris Kristofferson and, another recent 'discovery', Mickey Newbury.  Although his songs vary from straight ahead country to more reflective whimsy, he seems to have a consistent, intelligent soulfulness married to a fine songwriter's craft and true musicality. This performance of the aforementioned 'In Tall Buildings' gives a flavour of what he's about:

Sadly he died in 2001, but I think he may be someone who will remain in my life for a long time.

Raveningham days

We've been having a delightful time recording in the pastoral idyll of Raveningham in our home county of Norfolk. Even in the depths of winter The Old Granary Studio has a real vibe to it, with beautiful pianos, a warm and resonant live space and the charming Giller family to make us welcome. All-in-all it gives us the chance to let the world retreat for a moment and the music a chance to breathe, maybe to catch a little magic in the air. We've been simply sitting and playing, relaxed but focussed, and the songs have felt right at home...

Southern Tenant Folk Union Gig

We are delighted to say that we shall be supporting a fantastic band at the Norwich Arts Centre next year. On January 26th the mighty Southern Tenant Folk Union will be heading to Norwich to give us a taste of their unique blend of celtic folk and bluegrass.

Formed by Belfast born five-string banjo player Pat McGarvey in 2006 and taking their name from the groundbreaking multi-racial union of sharecroppers and non-landowning tenant farmers founded in Arkansas in the 1930’s (the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union), the Edinburgh-based Southern Tenant Folk Union are now the most highly rated folk and bluegrass outfit in the UK today. Now with their fourth album 'Pencaitland' they’ve continued to appropriate themes and ancient sounding chord progressions from traditional folk songs. Using these to document and reflect modern life they keep the essential simplicity and directness of style but often with a modern update to the underlying lyrical subject matter. New tunes that touch on atheism, intolerance and most recently (on ‘The New Farming Scene’ and ‘Pencaitland’) a post fossil fuel, post technological, agrarian future.

Nobodaddy will be playing a short set at the beginning of what we expect to be an unmissable night of top quality roots music. Tickets are £12 and can be bought from Norwich Arts Centre.

This ain't love...

Our first album 'There must be less to life than this' was recorded a few years ago, and we still play several of the songs from it. This is a version of 'This ain't love':

This Ain't Love (2011) by Nobodaddy

The version on the album is a gentler finger-picked arrangement, but this is a slightly poppier version.

We often revisit songs, trying new versions to see how they work, and certain songs will work in multiple arrangements with differing moods and energies and no single arrangement being necessarily definitive. Other songs seem to find their optimum version and stay settled, but I do have a sneaking love of the songs that keep bringing you back to them and stand up to this process of renewal.

Some artists (such as Christy Moore) revisit songs and record new arrangements throughout their career, and I don't think that's because of dissatisfaction with a certain song or arrangement, more that the creative act is not restricted to the writing of the song, but finds an outlet in this ongoing revisiting with new eyes and ears. This is obviously central to the traditional folk approach, with songs being really just starting points for individual singers to take on for themselves, bringing their own approach and self to the song, before someone else may try it another way. Thus songs slowly evolve over time, never perfect, always evolving in a relay race of singers.

Wensum Lodge

We got to play at 'The Music House' at 'Wensum Lodge' last Friday 4th November. We had a great time and really enjoyed listening to 'Concrete Pigeon'. It is such a wonderful place to play and the audience there really know their music and are a joy to play for. Thanks to Jason for inviting us and we really look forward to returning there next year. Here are our opening and closing songs from that night. 'Nobodaddy Chorus' an 'Heal & Toe' Enjoy!

Nobodaddy Live At Wensum Lodge by Nobodaddy

A video encounter...

Inspired by watching the fantastically inventive videos that Adam Buxton plays at his 'Bug' evenings, we have put together this short video for our song 'Brief Encounter':

Not having really made any videos like this before, we've just experimented with editing together footage shot around Norfolk, learning about what works in terms of cutting music to images. It's not going to challenge for inclusion at Bug any time soon(!), but was still a fun experiment in responding to our music in an unfamiliar medium.

The Roses - (Slight) Return

For those of us who were teenagers in the late 80s and early 90s, last week's announcement that the Stone Roses were reforming to play some gigs and maybe record was a momentous one.  I think it's fair to say that they were a big influence on us. The whimsical, summery pop of their first album tinges one of the first songs we ever wrote in about 1991 called 'Watercolour'. We were just kids, and the naive, lovelorn shuffle of that first album resonated with us as we wandered around Norfolk's pastoral landscape, falling for unattainable girls, and discovering music, poetry and ourselves. I think this recording of it from our 2004 EP retains some of that feel:

Watercolour by Nobodaddy

By the time their long-awaited second album came out in 1994, they had hardened into a more overtly rock sound. By now, we had moved on as well, with Mike studying in London and myself in Leicester, but this was a huge album for us, despite its lack of critical acclaim. It brought together the guitar riff-based rock redolent of Led Zep (who we had obsessed over at school) but retained the grooves and shuffles of the dance and club culture that we were both independently discovering at the time. It had a fantastic muscular production, with huge guitar, bass and drum sounds on tracks like 'Love Spreads', but also found time for lighter, poppier moments with beautiful, lyrical melodies such as on 'Ten Storey Love Song'. Again we both lived in the album for weeks and months, and it flooded our consciousnesses, seeping out again in the songs we wrote and recorded over coming years. 10 years later in 2004, I think the influence of their second album can be heard in the track 'Time Out of Mind', particularly in the swaggering bass part laid down by my brother Matt:

  Time Out Of Mind by Nobodaddy

These days we are focused on exploring what we can do with our simpler canvas of acoustic guitars and voices, and have found a more authentic voice in doing so than we ever did emulating rock stars, but the nostalgic opportunity offered by their reunion gives us good reason to look back and remember what a big role they played in our musical evolution.

Wayland Radio

Thanks to Dave, Jane and Rod for hosting us last night on the last ever Wayland Radio Folk show. We had a great time singing our songs and choosing songs from some of the greats who have influenced us. It is really sad that the station is having to close owing to funding issues, depsite the hard work of the team there, most of whom are volunteers. The good news is that Dave, Jane and Rod are going to carry on promoting the folk music they are so passionate about via so have a look at that and support them where you can.

For the record, the songs we chose:
  • Gillian Welch 'The Way it Goes'
  • Donovan 'The Seller of Stars'
  • Fleetwood Mac 'Man of the World'
  • Christy Moore 'The City of Chicago'
  • Nanci Griffiths 'Speed of the Sound of Loneliness'
  • Duck Baker 'The Duke of Fife's Welcome to Teeside'
  • Iris Dement 'Let the Mystery be'
  • Wilco 'Jesus, etc'
  • Billy Bragg 'Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards'
  • Johnny Cash 'Solitary Man'
We'll post some of the live tracks we played over the next few days.

Say it simple

Last Friday we discussed songs for our upcoming appearance on the Wayland Radio Folk Show. Choosing our own material is fairly straightforward, but in the second hour of the show we'll be choosing tracks from artists who have influenced us. This is where it gets difficult. An hour seeems a long time but actually only give time for around 10-12 songs once we've said a little about them.

Anyone who has ever made a mixtape will know the way that the mind introduces competing objectives. Let's face it, this is not the place for us to show off knowledge of obscure Donovan bootlegs, or pick a load of field recordings from Alan Lomax simply to prove our folk credentials. And, most of importantly of all, we are doomed if we try and be cool so folk-hop mashups are right off the table. No, we are resolutely sticking to things that we genuinely love. But that then throws up another challenge, namely that we both love Dylan, but he looms so large over the world of singer-songwriters that everyone chooses a Dylan track. And, despite all we've said, we don't want to be boring so here's the thing - we'll probably have our cake and eat it by playing a Dylan song in our set, namely 'I'll be your baby tonight' from John Wesley Harding:.

I love it partly becuase it is so un-Dylanesque. It comes at the end of John Wesley Harding, which, although a straightforward album production-wise with relatively short songs, still contains typical Dylan traits of elliptical lyrics, heavy with reference and allusion. I think that 'I'll be your baby...' therefore prefigures the simple, heartfelt, orthodox country songs of Nashville Skyline. For me, that album is Dylan's take on the great tradition of country song-writing running from the Carter Family through Hank Williams to Willie Nelson and beyond. Now I love difficult Dylan as much as the next English major but Nashville Skyline is one of my favourites, and not only because it features the great Norman Blake on guitar. I'm not of the mind that that art should be deliberately simple, but neither do I value wilful compexity. Sometimes, even for great artists, less is more.

Thinking tonight

Here's a video of us playing the Carter Family classic 'I'm thinking tonight of my blue eyes'.

The Carter family are considered one of the prime movers of modern country music, and the songs they wrote and collected are central to the canon of Bluegrass, Country and American Folk artists.  I think I first came across them through Sid Griffin but it may have been through Johnny Cash, who was married to June Carter, from the second generation of the family. Her mother Maybelle Carter is incredibly influential as a guitarist - her style is at the root of so much flatpicking - I can't think of another female guitarist who has as much influence. I wonder whether had she been a man she would appear in the lists of most influential guitarists more often than she does...?

Brief Encounter

Here's a demo we recorded of a new song 'Brief Encounter'. It's a simple story of chances not taken and the way such moments can haunt you.

Brief Encounter by Nobodaddy

“I know that we are going to meet again,
I know that we can be the best of friends.”
Well I knew that I should not just let it end
Right there and then…right there and then.

We currently tend to start our set with this, so you can hear this live on 28th July at Olive's, Elm Hill Norwich.

We hope you like it as much as we do. 

Dark Clouds...

Our set at the moment contains a couple of songs that we still love to play from our first album 'There must be less to life than this...', including the album opener 'Dark Clouds'. Here's a video of us playing this at our showcase a couple of weeks ago:

Songs are born in all sorts of ways and this one was born some years ago in Northern Spain (at the same time as "The Birds" incidentally). The weather rolls in from the Bay of Biscay, and the sense of foreboding as a storm builds is palpable. It can get heavy and that's where the song came into being, in the growing darkness that can hang over the mountains and plains. It was never intended to have any Latin influence, but as we've played it over the years it's taken on a slight Flamenco tinge. Maybe a song always betrays its roots?

But is it folk?

You may notice that we describe ourselves as 'folk music'. We do so advisedly, because, as with any genre label, it is one that is endlessly debated. Mumford & Sons seem to be the latest popular band to be the lightning conductor for this debate (for example the comments on today's Guardian seminal moments in the history of folk music). I have added a comment to this discussion which explains a little of how we think we relate to that description. Anyway, suffice to say, for the time being it feels like the right fit in order to give a general audience a sense of broadly what style of music we play. We're not claiming to be of or in any tradition, but what we do is so heavily influenced by squarely folk artists (Christy Moore, Gillian Welch, Dylan etc etc) that it seems as close a match as we're going to get....but hey, maybe we're missing something?