Nick Capaldi first dabbled at singing and songwriting when he was a teenager. Around 400 songs later, he is pleased to tell me that this is something he has definitely improved on.
“I listen back to tapes of me playing at the age of 14, and I thought I sounded so good; I was trying to be Bob Dylan,” opens Capaldi with a smile. “It certainly took me a long while to find my sound.”
Now starting to make waves in the music industry, Capaldi’s most notable fan is old Whispering Bob himself:
“My Golden Summer EP got played on Radio 2, and Bob [Harris] is a very big supporter. My favourite thing to say is that he made me a cup of tea in his slippers [smiles].”
As we crack open a bottle of wine, Capaldi tells me his new album, Neon Heart, was inspired by growing up in the ‘80s. He used to love the artwork of the VHS covers back in the day, he tells me, which is why the album cover looks like it does (very '80s):
“It’s inspired by memories of those times, and it made me think about growing up in Bristol; but it’s not necessarily '80s sounding. It wasn’t until this album that I realised I just wanted to sound like me.”
Capaldi cites a string of musical influences, but in particular, The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson:
“I met Brian recently, actually; he signed a music sheet I had of God Only Knows,” Capaldi reveals. “I’m very into harmonies, and The Beach Boys are all about that. But then I’m also very into ‘80s heavy metal like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. My influences are pretty eclectic, really.”
Indeed..! All creative processes are carried out by Capaldi himself: writing, recording and production, and even the creation of his own music video.
“I created the video for Disgrace Face with a camera on top of a wheelie bin around the back of my house,” he laughs. “I used to use multitrack machines to record my material, but that’s only really good enough for demos. A friend of mine told me I should try DAW recording, but I wasn’t really sure how to do it. I thought, ‘where do you plug your guitar in?’ [laughs]
“He taught me how to use an audio interface, and once I got the hang of it, I was really chuffed with the sound; I was only going to do one song, so I did The Night Is Rarely Ours, and before I knew it, four months down the line I had 12 songs!”
Capaldi uses an sE Electronics condenser mic and an Akai Pro EIE interface; his DAW of choice is Samplitude. Rather unusually, perhaps, once he finished recording, he decided to sell off all of his audio kit..!
“I also bought a computer to do the music on, and sold that, too,” he says, with a smile. “So now I just have my laptop, but it has a faster processor than the main computer anyway; I just need to buy another interface and microphone, really.”
And he didn’t stop there. Such was his dedication to fund the next stage of his musical journey, Capaldi also sold off several guitars, choosing only to keep his prized ‘80s Epiphone Don Everly.
“Well, I have four dogs, and they’re expensive too, so it had to be done! They keep me sane," he says. I soon learn that he has four Jack Russells, so find this very hard to believe…
Talk turns to working with Chris Kimsey, renowned producer for the likes of The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Tom Jones, INXS and Led Zeppelin to name a few.
“I didn’t actually realise Chris did music, to be honest; somehow we became friends on Facebook, and I had a profile picture with Wharfedale headphones on. He messaged me saying, ‘are those teacups or Wharfedales?' headphones?
“He mentioned that he produced music, so I looked him up and thought, ’oh blimey, he’s worked with The Rolling Stones!’ So I sent him some tracks, and he came back to me and said, ‘this isn’t just a breath of fresh air, this is a gale force nine. I’d really like to help you.’”
Capaldi put the mixing of Neon Heart in the very capable hands of Tim Hamill, who owns Sonic One studio in Swansea:
“Tim's a great mix engineer, and I love what he does with vocals,” Capaldi explains. “I’m not a mixer, so I didn’t want to ruin it; I wanted someone who knew what they were doing.”
Talking about his goals for Neon Heart, Capaldi states:
“I was introduced to Colin Peter who does distribution for Universal, about getting the CD into shops. I need to produce a video for the new single, Don’t Go Too High, and maybe put some more dates in the tour; I have five booked at the moment. The CD is released on May 19th; I’m continuing to write, but I can’t record, because I’ve sold everything! [laughs].”
Quite a unique (and bizarre!) approach, one could argue, but it's worked so far. In terms of going forwards, it’s all about growing a fanbase, he says:
“I did a session on Gaby Roslin’s show recently on BBC Radio London, and on my way home, people were waiting outside with photos of me they’d printed off the Internet. Every time I went to walk away, someone else would come over; that was the first time I’ve ever experienced that. I had to carry my guitar by itself though, ‘cause I’d sold all of my guitar cases!”
Of course he had..! The end goal, Capaldi says, is to create a lasting legacy as a successful songwriter.
“Over the past few years I’ve really gotten into Ryan Adams music. He’s a really cool songwriter, and has an amazing career. If he walked in here, you wouldn’t know who he was, but he’s respected as a really good songwriter, and that’s what I want to be. That would truly be success.”
On May 18th, Capaldi will be performing at Yamaha’s three-storey flagship store on Wardour Street, Soho, as part of Yamaha Music’s first ever Live Soho Music Sessions. He will launch the event, which will be a one-hour performance to a live audience, but the whole thing will also be streamed live as part of a global webcast.
“Yeah, I’m really excited about that. I have a nice connection to the Yamaha brand because the first steel string guitar that I had was a Yamaha, and the first couple of hundred songs I wrote were done on that one guitar.”
But, of course, he sold it…
“I do wish I still had that one,” Capaldi reflects.
Headliner wishes Nick the best of luck, and hopes he manages to buy all of his kit back one day.
Register to see Nick’s live solo session here: http://www.yamahamusiclondon.com
Words Jade Perry