Home to a prolific bunch of creatives, both London and New York offer plenty of appeal for those of an artistic inclination. Among their number is singer, songwriter, and composer Nix Nought Nothing, who recently left behind the bright lights of the Big Smoke in favour of Brooklyn, New York.
With his beautifully beguiling vocals, Nix Nought Nothing’s newly released album, “The Storm”, is currently on repeat at Hg2. We caught up with the man behind the music to find out a little more.
Tell us a bit more about Nix Nought Nothing. Has your music changed under this moniker compared to music previously released under your own name?
I am a composer, singer and songwriter from London, and I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I compose a lot for film, and for production studios. Last year I took some time to do the RPM Challenge and wrote and recorded an album of songs, “The Storm”, in just one month.
My music since taking the name Nix Nought Nothing has definitely developed and grown with time. It hasn’t really changed in style, but because I’ve learnt and explored more I’m able to make more informed decisions with the music I make, which I ultimately think improves my ability to write what I want.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music, and when did you first start writing your own songs?
I was playing concerts and gigs at a very early age and I think most people knew it was what I’d eventually end up doing. I remember writing my first piece when I was 11 or 12 and having the school music teacher help me write it out as a score. I was pretty much hooked from then on.
You have experience composing for films, adverts, and have even created a track for the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A. Do you see these projects as distinct from Nix Nought Nothing, or are they created to complement each other?
I’ve often been asked to compose things that stretch beyond what I would naturally think of writing for myself, but I’m always excited to create new music. For me, this is how I’ve been able to learn new techniques that I wouldn’t have explored otherwise. Being able to incorporate these ideas when writing my own music is a fantastic benefit. In that way, they complement each other perfectly.
These distinct worlds are definitely merging though. It’s exciting that more and more of the projects I’m involved with now are where the producer or director has heard my songs and wants me to write something comparable.
London has a worldwide reputation as a thriving cultural capital. What is your experience of working within the music industry in London and how does it compare to New York?
Both cities have really amazing music scenes. My work changed from playing out a lot more in London to focusing on writing when I moved to New York. It took a while to figure out, but New York has given me a lot of opportunities. One advantage of writing music in the age of the Internet is that you’re not fixed to one location for work, so I still do a lot of work in London and Europe in general.
Has the way in which you work changed since moving to Brooklyn? What is it about living in New York that most inspires you?
I’m definitely working harder since moving to Brooklyn, but it’s a good thing. Space is precious in New York and I’ve had to scale down the amount of instruments I keep, but it has definitely given me the opportunity to focus on my production skills.
There’s such a “go-getter” culture among Americans, and New Yorkers in particular, so it’s hard not to get swept up in all the excitement. I’ve been able to connect with some incredibly talented composers and songwriters in the music world here and I’m lucky to live within walking distance of some of Brooklyn’s best new restaurants and bars.
As a spectator, where do you most like to catch a gig?
My favourite so far is Le Poisson Rouge. The artists I like the most seem to play there and the venue has a great sound system that gets the best out of the musicians.
Which musicians would you most like to collaborate with right now?
There are so many people I’d love to collaborate with. My friend Son Lux has some incredible music out at the moment and I’d definitely like to work with him at some point. Of course, a dream musician to work with would be Prince!
Your music is described as using elements of traditional folk music. What is it about this genre that attracts you and how does it complement the music you create?
I tend to describe my songs as having elements of folk music because they use guitars and mandolins and autoharps, but there is definitely a broader brush when it comes to my musical influences. For example, in a lot of jazz standards, there’s an innate, natural way the music interacts with the lyrics. I try and follow this example, writing the music and the lyrics at the same time so that the essence of the song always feels as one.
Your latest album, “The Storm”, was written in two very different destinations (Brooklyn, New York, and Hampshire, England) and recorded in just 28 days. What effect did this have on the finished work? How has the tight time frame and varying locations impacted on the music?
These days, it’s a bit of luxury to work exclusively on one project for a whole month, especially on material for myself. But I had had so many projects fall by the wayside from lack of time, that once I had set these days aside, I was pretty determined to make sure it all worked out. I wish having different destinations would have played a more important role, but in reality, I spent up to 20 hours a day locked away in darkened studios. I did however have access to an amazing number of instruments in Hampshire that I didn’t have with me in New York. These instruments were used a lot during the writing process so I don’t know what it would have sounded like if I hadn’t split the recording locations, or whether I would have finished the album at all!
Would you consider working in this way again, or was this more of an experiment? What are your plans for future releases?
It was very much an experiment to see if it was possible, but having such a strict deadline was definitely a technique that worked for me. I was ultimately very surprised and happy with the results. I’m unlikely to write in just a month again, but I’d definitely like to figure out similar constraints that inspire the same level of creativity. It’s very early days, but I’ve actually started writing the next album already. I hope to get another Nix Nought Nothing project out before the end of the year.
You’re currently working on a project with filmmaker Tom Gilroy? Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from this and the part that Nix Nought Nothing will play?
I was recently approached by Tom to collaborate with him on a project surrounding his upcoming feature “The Cold Lands”. The idea came up that Tom wanted to team with musical artists to create new works using the bonus footage from his film. We spent a lot of time together exploring the themes and the visual language in The Cold Lands and I ended up going back into my studio and re-recording sections of two of my songs into a single piece for the project. There are some amazing artists such as Michael Stipe and Azure Ray collaborating with him in a similar capacity, so I’m very excited to be chosen alongside them. We’re expecting to be able to release the piece before the film premieres on the 14th March 2014.
Nix Nought Nothing’s album “The Storm” is released on 28th February as a digital download, and is available from iTunes
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