Nicola welcome and thank you so much for being my quest today.
You are VERY welcome!
What was it like growing up on the farm in Cumbria?. As I'm your cousin, I always thought your life was idyllic.
Yes, you are correct, it was! We lived on a tiny smallholding in the middle of a peat bog two miles away from any civilisation. When I look back now I can see that it must have often been very difficult for my parents, we were pretty poor (!) but we were a close, happy family. My memories of the farm are of a little plastic orange basket I used to collect eggs in, a water-well at the bottom of a field with water beetles and newts in it, and collecting hay by forking it loose up on to trailers and then my brother and I stamping it down in the barn to make more room. My dad was a bit of an inventor so there were all sorts of machines around doing strange things: my favourite was a windmill he built in a particularly wet field but he forgot to build solid foundations for it so it sank completely underground without ever leaning over by a single degree! One for the archaeologists of 3013 to discover I think! Fiona, I remember you and other cousins coming to stay at Easter time, with people sleeping all over the place on old army cots!
When did you first start playing and writing your own music?.
My dad plays the piano and him playing waltzes is my first memory of music (I always say he taught us how to play a waltz on a piano, paint a water colour and jump start a tractor - what more does a human being need!). He built me my first guitar when I was eleven but it was my mum's love of The Beatles that inspired me to write. I probably wrote my first song when I was about sixteen but I'm a very slow writer, I have to 'live' the song and let it develop over days or even weeks.
When did you first start playing in a band and what was it like touring festivals?.
I played in a duo with a school friend and thena couple of club bands but I wanted to play a different kind of music, then a dear friend of mine called Geoff Walker stopped me in the stairs in Carlisle Labour Club and said, 'Ay-up Nicky, want to be in a Cajun band?' I was so in awe of him and his music that I said 'yes' immediately, even though I had no idea what Cajun was! Come to think of it, we never did play any Cajun songs so he probably had no idea either! That band 'Nemo' was by far my most happy musical time. We were lucky to have an agent who ran festivals so he booked us in all sorts of places, but my happiest memories were just sitting in Mike, bass player's, living room, thinking of songs to play and then completely 'ripping them apart' - changing everything, adding in bits, changing the rhythms, adding wonderful solos by Geoff's brother Ian and just being generally creative and silly.
You have an album out of your music, how did that come about?
After Geoff died, Mike, the bass player and I played Brampton Live Festival and it went so well we just decided to record an album. It was produced by Lakeside Recordings, who normally are booked up years ahead but luckily he could fit us in and was so lovely. Its very strange hearing your songs 'at a distance'. For a while radio Cumbria played a couple of tracks and sometimes at parties someone will just stick one on and for a moment you don't recognise it and then - you notice all the mistakes! The album is dedicated to Geoff Walker, 'It would have been much better with you, but wouldn't have happened at all without you'. The attached track is called Salinas Harbour and is about my love of the author John Steinbeck.
Has your love of music been passed down to your on children?.
I am so, so happy that my love of music and art has grown in them. The most joyous thing is that they are both much, MUCH, better musicians/artists than me. I went to see my daughter sing in Lancaster last week and my son is playing in a little bar in Carlisle tomorrow. I've learned so much more from them than they learned from me but I'm glad that my musical influences have rubbed off on them, my daughter is as big a Joni Mitchell fan as me and my son loves celtic music and we have just got back from dancing at Music on the Marr Festival to a wonderful Scottish band called Manran - check them out on youtube!
Are you surprised by the amount of artistic people within the family?.
Surprised isn't quite the feeling. I remember, from when I was tiny, my dad and his family singing and playing records together. I always knew my cousins Gerard and Catherine wrote and my cousin John and his son sing. When we recently got back in touch with family members that we had lost touch from over the years and found that they too were creative it was like that feeling when someone tells you the meaning of a song lyric and you think, 'Oh, of course, how could I have been so stupid as to not realise that!'. I think we are so lucky to have inherited a creative gene and to have that available to us. The challenge is to use that tool in a way that is both fulfilling and meaningful.
Nicola it's been lovely to have you here thank you so much.
If you would like to hear Nicola playing album there's a link below.