Liverpool based singer-songwriter and guitarist Nick Ellis is nothing if not prolific, having released his third album in three years in October. Nick’s sound is distinctive, being described as a conversation between Elvis Costello and John Martyn, along with other influences such as Nick Drake, Nic Jones and Billy Bragg.
Speakers Corner is filled with songs that develop Nick’s blend of streetscape noir; combining mercury-quick finger picking with a no-nonsense Tin-Pan Alley approach that brings to mind an early career Bob Dylan. As the title suggests, the power of words is key to the concept and is what lies at the heart of Speakers Corner.
Nick digs deep into Liverpool’s radical history of social, cultural, artistic and political rebellion to find the roots of what gave the city its most defining characteristic: a voice. The title Speakers Corner, refers not to London’s Hyde Park but to the now defunct speakers corner in Liverpool. Nick explains here: “In 1973, Liverpool based sculptor Arthur Dooley and architect Jim Hunter were commissioned by the Transport & General Workers Union to design an iron podium at the Pier Head, Liverpool’s centre-point of maritime activity, which would be intended for public speaking. It was used by protesters and trade unionists for 20 years until it was quietly removed by the City Council in 93/94, and never replaced. I felt this was a very suppressive, symbolic gesture – like taking away the focal point of the city’s voice. The disappearance and subsequent lack of a current ‘Speakers Corner’ in the city left me concerned, so I invented one of my own. I’ve created twelve characters to stand on it and talk, brought them alive through song and made them into a record. You see, despite the dominance of modern technology over the average person’s methods of communication, word of mouth is still king – folklore will always prevail. And, folklore is best preserved in songs and stories…”
The album is a multi layered work that opens with an upbeat relative of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, ‘I Get Love’. A song that is almost elegiac in tone, ‘Blue Summer’ comes towards the end of the album and provides the perfect tail to the top of ‘I Get Love’.
Before you read on, Nick is giving a FREE download of “Impractical Ideas”, to Angry Baby readers. If you’re not already subscribed to Angry Baby, just pop the email address that you’d like it delivered to here and it will be on its way to you straight away, together with a bumper collection of music that has been shared by Angry Baby. The music comes from outstanding artists that you may not have heard before. With a mix of rock, pop, folk…you name it…there’s bound to be something new that floats your musical boat, and all for free! What’s not to like about that?!
As well as the influences of Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello, 50’s rock and blues music make their voices heard on this album. ‘Around Midnight’ is the song that I’m still singing a week after first listening but the blues can also be heard on ‘Wrote My Baby a Letter’ and ‘The She Club Mystery’. ‘Around Midnight’ is my stand out track; it’s rhythmic, heaving with blues but as tight and efficient as song as you’ll come across.
The album hangs together as a coherent whole and the presence of three instrumental tracks gives the listener time to process what’s already been heard. Speakers Corner is an album from an artist with something to say that’s worth hearing, a rare commodity these days, and the interspersed instrumentals make the listening experience complete.
Now, with an artist that has something to say, you might think that Nick’s advice to young musicians would not be short and sweet and it’s not! However, the first thing he has to say is very realistic before he gives his advice proper:
My advice to young people seeking to make a start in the music industry is quite simple: don’t! It no longer exists in the context as it once did. You will never make a single penny unless you are prepared to get a proper job that’s secure, gives you a basis for development and pays a good, regular wage. On the other hand, if this hasn’t deterred you, and you can’t help yourself, then I have additional advice that may help.
1) Practise – Devote your time to the exploration and development on your instrument, in your own way. Figure out your own unique way, to respond to the sounds that you make. Then, seek out a teacher. Learn the basic rules from them, then you can go out and break them.
2) Collaborate – Go out and find like-minded people, who are on your wavelength and have fun making something new. Never underestimate finding and the ability to learn something new from collaboration.
3) Homework – Do your homework on how the industry works and what sectors it is broken down into. There’s a lot of different paths you can take that may open up new directions for you. Then, go out and learn it for real. Throw yourself into the deep end and you’ll come out stronger, smarter and a better person.
4) Original – Be original. Search for your own vision and when you find it, dedicate yourself to the craft of fine-tuning your sound, words, concept, band or whatever it is that allows you to express your creative and artistic visions, like you intend.
5) Fake – Don’t be fake. An audience will spot a fake faster than a hole in their pocket. If an audience thinks you are not sincere, they will carve you up like a piece of dirty, burnt meat.
Speakers Corner was released on October 6th on Mellowtone Records. Get your copy here.
Follow Nick at:
And get your free download of music from Angry Baby now, including Nick’s “Impractical Ideas” – just pop your email down below!