Ex-Kaiser Chiefs songwriter and drummer Nick Hodgson released his debut solo album Tell Your Friends in January this year. After leaving the Kaiser Chiefs in 2012, Nick has spent that last Five years producing and song writing in his home studio. Working alongside artists such as Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson, Ratboy and many more. Now he wants his own words heard in his own voice. He finally finds a place in music that suits him to the ground and new album Tell Your Friends is just the way to do that. “ I’ve always written lyrics for other people. I thought I’m going to write an album, but not for others to sing, because that would be pointless. So I really wanted to speak from my own voice”
Playing in front of crowds of thousands in cities across the globe must seem like a lifetime ago for Nick. Nowadays, the drummer turned music producer, turned solo artist, is signing records at intimate gigs and record stores. With his involvement within the music industry for over 15 years, he knows what needs to be done to get his name back in the lime-light. He’s starting from the bottom and working hard to promote the new album. Hodgson has been so busy lately, he’s not had the time to enjoy the success of his new album and the positive reviews it’s had so far. I Caught up with a busy Nick at Headrow House in Leeds ahead of his promotional album gig. Leaving soundcheck to find a quiet room, we talk about the Kaiser Chiefs, climbing out of windows and the importance of heatwaves.
Hey, Nick! You’ve released your debut album Tell Your Friends, you been all over the place promoting, how are you feeling right now?
“It’s a very busy week. Everyone is like, oh you must be so happy, but I don’t really get time to be. It was the same in the band, when anything really good would happen, I remember being at the Brits and everything, and people going ‘oh you must be so happy’, but it was it was like, I love it but, we are on tour and have to get on the tour bus in five minutes . We had a day off yesterday but then it was rehearsing for tonight, we’ve been doing acoustic sets at the in-stores and it was quite busy. We did four of those, Friday was Edinburgh and Newcastle then Saturday Huddersfield and Sheffield.”
Are you pleased with the reactions and reviews you’ve received for the album so far?
“All the reviews have been much better than I could of hoped for, people seem to genuinely really love it. Someone just got engaged to Suitable, that’s amazing! I’ve only seen good reviews, mainly 4’s and a few 3‘s, even the 3‘s has been mainly kind. In the band we used to get 1’s & 2’s, 3, 4 ,5’s and people enjoyed slagging us off, they build you up to knock you down don’t they? After such a massive success of the first album with the band, it was popular to slag us off, you have to get used to people being horrible, the answer is not to look, I don’t look at bad reviews. Two things happen, first thing, it makes you feel low. Then it gets in your head when you are next writing, maybe you should please that person who slagged you off and that’s dangerous territory. So, you take all these things and you go, what would make it all worthwhile? I can remember getting the first really good review and I was thinking, okay- that would make it all worthwhile because it is a bit of a mad thing to do- start making a record and within a few months it’s out. ”
Are you still getting the first day back at school nerves when you head out before a gig or is it all ‘old hat’ now?
“I’ve done so many different strange things including Live 8. That was a mad one. There was a million people there in front of us in the square, watching and that was weird. So, you’ve got all this stuff that you’ve got under your belt. My brother’s best man speech was one of the most nerve racking things I’ve ever done. The thing at the round house when we played, where I came on first and played piano on my own. Having all these things in the background helps. The big gigs weren’t scary though, we were like a machine, we could go and do it anywhere. This is definitely more nerve wracking, I’ve got a bit of nerves now, but I’m more excited.”
You’ve spent a few years now out of the spotlight, firstly leaving the Kaiser Chiefs and going on to write and produce for other artists, what made you change direction and start a solo career?
“I was fed up, I enjoying it to a point, then it can of became, well…Being a song writer is all about how many songs you get released. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. It was actually a decent time when I decided to stop, I had a few decent things. The level of rejection is so huge and there’s so little reward it can make you miserable. You can keep doing that and for a few years that’s fine, but you need to do something where there is more direct communication with people. There are so many songs that you write and that you love that don’t make it,you work with an artist, but the majority don’t release the single. You work with so many unheard of people and they just get dropped, so you end up having a load of really nice songs that you think are great that sit on your computer forever, that’s boring.”
By your own admission, its quite a personal album in the sense that you play most of the instruments yourself and your wife Anna also features heavily on the album, why so personal?
“It was a good chance for me to write lyrics that I was going to sing, I’ve always written lyrics for other people to sing. I thought. I’m going to write an album here, but i’m not going to write stuff that other people are gonna sing, because that would be pointless. So, I really wanted to speak from my own voice. I don’t know whether my style has changed, its more mellow than the Kaiser Chief’s days. Yet some of the more mellow tracks from the early days like Loves not a competition could fit, I think there’s a few songs from the olden days that I think could fit on this album, Boxing Champ for example.
Are there any songs on the new album you think could be a big hit?
Basically, you need big singles to get attention. I’ve been surprised with what people have liked and have been people’s favourite tracks on the new album. My own American dream is one, which is something I didn’t expect. I played it to a few people, but they didn’t like it- but I like it and I can say I’m putting it on the album, because it’s my album I can do what I like. I’m glad I put it on because people love it. My choice would be for a potential big single would be Tomorrow I love You, Do you not think? I think the melody in it could be big.”
You play just about all the instruments on the album, your known for being a drummer: what was your first instrument you learnt to play, and which do you enjoy playing the most?
First instrument was a recorder [laughs] then the piano. My favourite is definitely still the drums, I don’t miss it as I have a set at home that I play. I love playing guitar, I love playing the piano and so I’m happy mixing it up.
Is it hard letting go and having a band play the other instruments for you?
No, it’s a total treat . I feel amazingly lucky to get this band together at the first attempt and they are all absolutely brilliant.
Whitey from the Kaiser Chiefs plays guitar on the track Feel Better and Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines did some photography for the album, they were obviously involved before the rest of us knew you were going solo, but did you approach the band and tell them about the solo album?
“I put it on twitter and that’s when they saw it, like everyone else. I’m not in the band so, I didn’t feel like I had to ask them permission. I love how they are all involved in some way. I don’t have those feelings competition or anxiety about what they think, I’m very comfortable.”
Your album was written and recorded in you London studio rather than Leeds, do you think that effected the way you wrote?
“Yeah, it was written in the studio in the house, you know what effected it the most? The weather, it was during the heatwave. It was important, I was waking up and everyday was absolutely glorious, 3-4 weeks of sun. Everyday I got up, I had a coffee and sat at the piano in my pyjamas and dressing gown, because it a great time to do it when you’re not really awake. A lot of of the songs wrote themselves and that’s how I knew I was onto a good thing. With Employment, we had an album title and 3 songs and then every 2 days we had a new song and it was a smash hit. Those are the periods of times you should be massively grateful, roll with it because they just stop. Then they start again if your lucky. I thought after the first album I might not write another song again, then I wrote Ruby, so brilliant—that made you feel ok! we’re doing this. The 2nd album was harder to write. After all those years being back in the studio writing for my own album and everything flowing, the term flow-where everything is perfect, and things just happen, and you don’t have to try, that’s the glorious bit that I’ve been going for, for the last 10 years.”
The video for your first single from the album, Suitable was filmed on an iPhone in Suffolk, was that planned, or did you just make a video while on holiday?
“I took my outfit, so I must have known in some way that I was going to. I can’t remember planning it. I must have thought of it because I took the clothes. Normally when we go away we don’t take good clothes- just walking boots. We knew we wanted to get the sunrise, which is at about 4.15am in June/July. So, we got up one day at the in-laws and went. We didn’t want to walk through the room where the dog was, otherwise there would be barking for the next 3 hours. [laughs] So, we climbed out the window and it was dark and mad at 4.30am in the morning and got on bikes, and rode down there half asleep.”
Do you think that happened because you were doing it for yourself this time?
“No, it could have happened in the band, you just have to be in the right frame of mind and everything has got to be in the right place and the stars are aligned, and when they are it’s a very pleasing thing. The last song I wrote was ‘I love the way your mind works’. I scrapped a couple cos I didn’t like them, so I need another one. But the flow was just drying up when I got the verse and chorus, but the lyrics couldn’t come for a month. There were actually two sets of lyrics for that. It was tricky to write, I had to stop and come back to it, so it wasn’t forced.”
How would you describe the album?
“Lush, Glorious, its nice. People call it a lovely album. I don’t think they mean that in a flippant, passing it off way. People like it, I like it- and that’s all you can do.”
What would you like us to take away from this album?
“I always said this about songs. A song should only really exist if it’s at least one persons favourite song in the whole world. If its one persons favourite persons album in the whole world, then that would be alright.”
Venues like the one we are in now, are either stopping live music or closing down completely limiting the venues available for new bands to play, do you think that’s going to have effect the future of music?
“Not in Leeds, places are opening up, but the answer to the problem of places closing down is for people go to the venues. There’s an old cinema in Hyde park that’s been threatened with closure many times then people make a fuss and go. It’s the same with venues, you need to go to them and-Tell Your Friends.”
I don’t think we could have got that album title in anywhere better if we tried.
You can catch Nick on tour at the the following venues.