PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Taylor
IT has been a while since I have featured…
an artist from Liverpool. Nicola Hardman tells me about the fantastic new music coming from the city; back-story regarding the songs Little Fish and Just Human; the artists she was raised on – and why she decided to release a double A-side. I ask her about the albums that mean most to her; what she would say to any new artists emerging – and the tour dates we can all look forward to.
Hardman talks about her creative process and how her music has changed in the last couple of years; why Just Human’s lyrics were penned in two parts – and whether we can expect a music video (or two) given the release of new material.
Hi, Nicola. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, thanks for asking. It’s been a total bag of mixed emotions - mainly excitement, stress and lots of honey, lemon - and herbal tea to keep the voice soothed!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Liverpool-based musician, of sorts. I play the piano and sing songs I write. I do play some covers too - but I’m mainly interested in writing music and performance.
Tell me the stories behind the songs Just Human and Little Fish…
These are two very different songs of mine I have released this month (on 14th).
Just Human is a new political track which I wrote in the wake of Brexit and shares my concern for the future - not just of the U.K. but for the mentality and idea that ‘nationalism’ may becoming something that is causing so much hatred, generally.
Little Fish is an original re-release which featured on my debut album, Full Beans, in 2015. It is a theatrical and experimental track with various imagery and messages.
Is it true the words/music for Just Human was written in two separate parts?
Yes! I had written the hook/music on the piano a good few years ago and exhibited it in a short film of mine. The music, itself, fitted with the emotions of the short film scene - but it wasn't until the ‘Brexit’ circumstances that I wrote the words to the song - and then realised that they were the words I had been waiting for to fit my song.
This is not something that usually happens when I write songs at all - so I couldn't be happier the two found each other.
What was the reason behind launching a double A-side?
When I released Full Beans, it was the only option for me, mentally, at the time. I did not want to release a single, first, as the build-up to the album was extremely cathartic for me - and it was necessary to have an album at that time. As my career has progressed, I have discovered myself more as an artist and really homed in on my sound as the type of performer that I am with my keys and vocals.
As I have been performing in this way for the last two years, I wanted to release my new song Just Human as a single in my solo style - and I had always known that Little Fish would be released as my first single outside of the album.
So, I just decided that it would be both fun and exciting to have a double-launch as my Little Fish song has become known and supported throughout my career.
Do you plan on releasing videos for either/both songs?
As a matter of fact, yes!
I’m working on one as we speak but, for now, it is a little secret to be excited about sharing!
Last year was a busy and memorable one for you. How has this year been? Do you have any particular standouts?
I knew this year would be a great one - no matter what level of ‘great’ that meant to me - because I knew that I would be working very hard to release the singles. For me, starting the year with the N.Y.E. party at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic alongside my friend and peer Ian Prowse (who had been so kind in giving me the opportunity after me bugging him to play regularly at his Monday nightclubs at The Cavern), was a cool start.
I really worked hard to ensure some festival performances, too, and getting shortlisted to play at Threshold festival - supporting the great Kalandra - was thanks to Liverpool Acoustic. That was an immense gig! It was really exciting to be featured on MADE in Liverpool TV - and my song, Little Fish, got to number-two on an unsigned artists music chart too - which has all been wonderful experiences and confidence building material.
Who are the artists you grew you listening to? Give me an idea of the musicians you count as influences…
Weirdly, I was a bit of a musically-sheltered child, to be honest with you, as we didn’t have MTV or any music channels like that in my family! So, I had to depend on other people’s music such as friends and family - and it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I got a hold of my friends’ music channels at their house when I stayed over - and started playing music with other people.
Some of my very first influences were Alanis Morissette, the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sting, Fleetwood Mac; The Rolling Stones, The Beatles; Radiohead and Michael Jackson! After this, I then found a plethora of various artists to fall in love with - and the list is endless.
I love so many types of music.
Liverpool is your base. Is it quite an active city - and what is it like recording and gigging there?
It’s very active: especially now, more than ever. Having only really properly moved back to the area three years ago, I’ve never known it to be more receptive to live music, especially. Yes, there are circles and cliques - and you still hear people churning out Beatles covers in every corner of Mathew Street – but, if you look, there are more open mic. nights than ever. I feel we are seeing more opportunities for original artists to do their thing and share their music with a more vibrant and supportive network of artists.
It’s really great when you realise that people putting on these nights actually want to hear original music more than covers - and some of them still pay you for it!
IN THIS PHOTO: Rachael Jean Harris
Which new artists do you recommend we check out?
In Liverpool? I’m lucky because I actually got the opportunity (through being in the scene a lot) to host one of those open mic. nights I was talking about; so I have been able to meet quite a few brilliant local musicians and singer-songwriters. My night is strictly for female performers - called We Want Women - hosted in Lennon’s Bar. I’ve met so many wonderful artists for various reasons; artists like the ones who supported me at my launch: Rachael Jean Harris, Vanessa Murray - and others such as Camilla Sky, Maddie Stenberg; Sara Wolff are all excellent.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sara Wolff/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Stephens
It sounds like I just love everyone, but sincerely, there are so many talented musicians out there…and that’s just Liverpool!
IN THIS PHOTO: Lilium/PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecka Slatter Photography
What tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we catch you play?
So; here’s my confirmed list so far!
Sat 21st Oct – Northwich – House of Quirk
Fri 10th Nov - Liverpool - The Pilgrim
Friday 1st December – Liverpool – The Epstein Theatre
Sat 2nd Dec – London – Maddens (East Finchley)
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Lally Photography
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
This is super-hard (and mean) to only give me three - so I’ve gone for initial finds!
Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
One of the first albums I listened to that really spoke to me on a personal level which I could understand and make sense of - also, one of the few strong female artists to inspire me.
I love the honesty contrasted with the metaphorical scenes she creates - as well as just pure brilliance in her songwriting.
Radiohead - The Bends
As for (undoubtedly so many people) this album from Radiohead just hits every single emotion - and plays it over and over until there is no more left until you reach the end of the album…and then immediately have to put it back on. I adore this band and they were one of the first (bands) I really felt were performing those songs for their listeners to engage with and share in.
What I love about the album is the perfect combination of small and personal with huge and evocative.
AFI - Sing the Sorrow
This album really is one of AFI’s best pieces of work. I don’t love everything they have offered but this album is an exception-and-a-half. I love the enveloping darkness and acceptance of sadness (or frustration) in this album.
The songs are crafted beautifully and transported me to a dark place of support through some hard times.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
1. Have the confidence. You don’t think you have to write your songs and get out and share them because, if you weren’t so reserved about it, then you probably wouldn’t be as good (as you probably are).
2. Be great at what you do and own it: don’t copycat or follow what someone tells you is the ‘new sound’.
3. Do it because you want and need to…
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Taylor
Christmas is not too far away. Do you all have plans already or will you be busy working?
I am going to be performing on Xmas Eve, but then, I’m lucky to be taking some time to see my loved ones and rest this year.
Do you have any goals for 2018? What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?
I have a number of mind-brews that I’d like to do: one will be the release of at least one music video and the rest will happen with the strength of intention. I know that I want to tour further afield next year - and write, write, write!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Excellent. After the advice you just asked me to give about musicians coming through now, I thought of a gorgeous Cat Stevens song called If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out - which always makes me smile.
I’d love for everyone to listen to that and feel really good and inspired. Thank you!
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PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Lally Photography