Nikki Loy, English singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about writing fifty two songs in fifty two weeks and posting them weekly on line, being the victim of a drive-by shooting whilst in her campervan, supporting Sam Bailey on her forthcoming UK tour and the release of her latest album Pivotel
Nikki Loy is an English singer and songwriter, hailing from Oxford. Having released two EP’s, All I See and Now Or Never, a live album and an Acoustic Collection of songs, she is now touring to promote her latest album, Pivotal. Many of the songs on that album derive from Loy’s project to write fifty two songs in fifty two weeks and post them on line.
With a growing interest in Loy’s career she has given several radio interviews and received numerous plays on a variety of online and FM Radio Stations. She has also supported jazz great Janette Mason, Americana artist Lauren Pritchard, Decca artist Krystina Myles, Irish pop folk singer Wallis Bird, as well as many more, and has graced the stages of prestigious venues such as The 100 Club, London’s Ronnie Scott’s Bar, and The North Wall Theatre Oxford.
She has supported Shane Filan on his recent tour and is now about to go out on the road on a thirty two date tour with Sam Bailey. She travels the country in an adapted campervan which was damaged recently when she was the victim of a drive by shooting.
About to start the tour, she took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.
Hi Nikki, how are you today?
Hi Kevin, I’m very well thank you, how are you?
I’m great thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
That’s all good.
And just how is life treating you?
All is very good thank you. I am busy at the moment preparing for the tour but on the whole all is good.
That’s great then because they tell me that being busy keeps you out of mischief (laughter).
So they say (laughter).
You have recently supported Shane Filan on his Right Here Tour. How was that?
Shane is a really nice guy and he was really great. I really did enjoy working with his entire team together with the whole tour experience. It really was fantastic.
Did you learn anything from the tour?
That was the first tour of that nature that I have done and so it was eye opening to see firstly, how everything functioned and more importantly the role of a support act and just what they need from you. It was also interesting to see just how I could interact with his specific audience. Every artist’s audience is different and Shane’s audience presented some challenges for me and it was really good for me to expand myself more and get myself into that role.
How did you feel when you heard that Shane wanted you on board?
It was a very exciting time for me. It was really great and was in fact a momentous day for me (laughter).
And you are going to go through it all again with Sam Bailey?
(Laughter) yes, I am although I feel that it will all be slightly different with Sam. I’m now not such a newbie to it all and also Sam is a woman so her audience will be different again. It’s also a much longer tour than when I was out on the road with Shane. Sam is playing thirty-two dates plus I have got a couple of extra gigs too so I will personally be performing thirty-four dates within that time frame. With Shane, by the time that I had got into my stride the tour was over. With this one by the time that I get into my stride I will still have another three weeks of gigs to go (laughter). It will be great and I am really looking forward to it. I can’t wait.
You will be performing at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on Friday 3rd March. What can we expect?
Predominantly I consider myself to be a pop artist but there are also country and rock elements to my music. Although that is not so obvious when it is just me and a guitar. In Nottingham it will be just me and my guitar. I have a couple of pedals as well which enable me to add a little extra depth, and I will be singing songs that are about a range of human emotions. I believe that human beings do not feel just the one thing. So there will be a few love songs, a few angry songs, together with a few heartbreak songs as well (laughter). A nice varied mix of songs and emotions and I hope that the audiences will like me. Nottingham is the second show on the tour isn’t it?
Yes it is, so will it all still be fresh with lots of mistakes? (laughter).
(Laughter) yes, it will no doubt, but hopefully I will know my crew by then. I’m sure that all will be okay.
I have been playing your album Pivotal for a couple of weeks now and I have to say that I think that it is a great piece of work.
Thank you very much, so I am off to a good start there then (laughter).
Are you happy with it?
Yes I am, very much. I wanted to include a few more songs so we are going to release a deluxe version of the album. That has given me the opportunity to add on all of the extra songs that I wanted to add, so I find myself in a luxury situation really. Working with producer George Shilling was amazing. It allowed me to keep going until everything that I didn’t like about the album had been eradicated. It really was great.
So just how many more songs are there on the deluxe version?
There are four completely new tracks and regarding the original version of Under The Lightning, we did a radio edit which is the version that is on the current version of the album. So on the deluxe version there will be a slightly longer version of Under The Lightning. There will be a total of fifteen tracks on the deluxe version of the album. Funnily enough the album will be released on the same day that I will be playing up there in Nottingham (laughter).
Will it be on sale at the gigs?
Yes it will, fingers crossed (laughter).
And will there be a vinyl version?
Do you know what, I would love to put out a vinyl version but we don’t have plans for that just yet. I really need to sell a few more CD versions first. I will try to gauge just what the demand is for a vinyl version of the album. Quite a few people have already been asking me for it.
But have they been asking you for the cassette version?
(Laughter) no. Would they?
I was recently speaking to Grant Nicholas from Feeder and I asked him if they would be releasing their latest album on vinyl and he said that they had gone one step better and they were about to release their latest album on cassette.
(Laughter) really, well I certainly wouldn’t do that. Surely that can only be for the novelty factor.
He told me that it looks funky in the shops and that the kids are asking for it.
Really, that is very bizarre.
Have you been happy with the reaction to the album?
Yes I have, everybody who has heard it has been very enthusiastic. I was speaking to an American radio station the other day and they were talking amongst themselves, forgetting that I was on the line, and they were saying ‘ask her why she hasn’t been nominated for a Grammy’ (laughter). I had to laugh and thought ‘so that’s just what you want to hear’ (laughter). Bless them (laughter).
Would you agree that it is your best work to date?
Yes I would, and yes it is by far. I wrote fifty two songs in fifty two weeks for a song challenge where I posted a song on the internet that I had written that week, every week for a year. From the songs on the album, I would say twelve out of the fifteen came out of that collection of fifty two songs in fifty two weeks. Plus there was my whole back catalogue of everything that I had ever written before that so there were a lot of songs for me to choose from. It was the best opportunity that I have ever had to work on something until I had really got it exactly how I wanted it. So yes, I would have to say that it is most definitely my best work so far.
However, as is always the way, once you have done something and have finished it, I am now starting to write new songs and am getting inspired ready for the next project. We creatives don’t simply stop because we have created our first masterpiece (laughter).
When you have written that many songs and then you have to select fifteen or so for the album, do you then discard them and start again or are there some that will make it onto the next album?
To be honest I think that there are likely to be some that will probably make the next album. There are quite a few that I and my fan base like and want to know why they are not on the current album. The answer to that is simple, it’s because we couldn’t do everything. There are a few little favourites that I play in extended sets that I do sometimes, and those are the ones that I hope will make it onto the next album. Plus don’t forget that I also have to consider my vast back catalogue. The albums that I have recorded and released before are all acoustic shoestring recordings and whilst they are out there and my fans can enjoy them as they are, they have never really be given the full attention of my entire creative vision that I had for them when I first wrote them. I could probably get three more albums before I actually have to write another song (laughter).
Surely that has to be a fantastic position for you to be in?
Yes I guess so. It’s just the case that I am always writing something new.
On the point of writing, for you is it lyrics first or the melody?
Generally these days it is always lyrics first. In the past it used to be a bit more ‘sometimes it’s this and sometimes it’s that’ but the song challenge, if it has done anything, has made me write lyrics first. There are two ways I approach writing: usually there is a whole bunch of lyrics which I have been working on, and in fact I have notebooks full of them. And then sometimes there would be quite a lot of evenings where I would sit down by the open fire, with my guitar and I would just have a little jam and I would always end up singing something and in those cases if I had a good one of those, I call them soul songs because they just simply bubble out of you. I would then look for a bunch of lyrics that would fit the vibe of the melody.
I would then put the two together and go ‘there you go, those two go together, that’s that’ (laughter). And there you go, low and behold a song is born (laughter). So yes, most of the time these days its lyrics first because it happens a lot when I am driving. I do a lot of driving these days, hours at a time, and lyrics will just come to mind.
If you are driving how do you keep hold of them, how do you remember them?
(Laughter) good point. Well it’s like when you are trying to remember a telephone number, I just have to keep going over the same line in my head until I find a layby where I can pullover and write it down (laughter). The thing about them is, I think that if I can’t remember them then they probably weren’t catchy enough to make a song anyway. So if I can remember the concept then I am not going to lose the lyric, it is going to stay with me. And if it stays with me then it will make a song and if it doesn’t then it probably wasn’t worth having.
Does that work for you because my taste of music in the car is vastly different to my taste of music in the house, is that the same with you?
(Laughter) yes it is, and I know exactly what you mean. I have cooking music, driving music, cheer up music, in fact I have music for any kind of scenario. I was actually aware of that when I was writing the songs because I know that I create playlists. Sometimes I may listen to a whole album, for example Jack Savoretti’s latest album; I will listen to over and over and over (laughter). But mostly I will listen to playlists, and that will be just a single song from an artist. As I said earlier I write about human emotions and if I am feeling happy then I will listen to a happy song off one of my playlists. And if I am feeling sad then I will listen to a sad song off one of my playlists.
Generally I don’t like listening to an album of heartbreak music. It’s alright if you have just broken up with someone and all that you want to do is wallow in the misery, but mostly most listeners are not in that place, or if they are they are not there for very long. Mine is a very eclectic journey of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Hopefully it flows through because nobody wants to stay miserable for more than three minutes (laughter).
That is not unless you are a Smiths fan (laughter).
Well in that case you really do need sectioning don’t you (laughter). If you are a Smiths fan then being depressed is your trade mark (laughter).
I have to say that I love the acoustic and stripped back version of Under The Lightning. I think that it takes the song to another level.
Really, so you prefer the original acoustic version of the song?
Yes I do I think that it’s great.
So you prefer the naked version (laughter). Well that is what people pretty much get in the live shows. It’s great fun to play the song with the full band but I’m not afraid of the journey. I love the fact that people have the option to have whichever one suits them.
I also love Walk Away. What’s the story behind that song?
(Laughter) that song wasn’t even going to make it onto the album. That is pretty much literally how it happened. I was doing a gig; I was feeling very tempted, I caught a look of myself in a mirror, and I just thought that I was being very stupid (laughter).
Was it always going to be a career in music or did you have a Plan B?
To be honest I always desired a career in music but just in case it didn’t work out for me my Plan B was that I trained as an illustrator. I also spent four years running a property management centre so I am pretty much trained up on that as well. However, I really always wanted it to be music.
I have to ask you, life in a campervan…
It’s awesome (laughter).
When I read that, the first thought which came into my head was that you must be an incredibly tidy person?
Well (laughter) sometimes I am, but sometimes if I am not tidy then I end up tidying up very quickly (laughter). It takes me around an hour and a half to tidy the campervan. Basically I cannot drive if it is untidy.
Is living in a campervan here in the UK as exciting as it sounds?
That depends upon what you consider to be exciting?
Exciting as in a different town, a different city, a different location, a different view on the world every single day?
Well yes that can be exciting but remember, it can also become tiring if you don’t know where you are going and where you are going to park but then it is really fun discovering somewhere new. Let’s just say that it has its good days and it has its bad days.
And one of the bad days must have been when someone was shooting at you?
Yes I have to admit that was not such a great day (laughter).
Did the police ever arrest anyone for the shooting?
No they didn’t, although I have heard from friends who are still in the area that it has quietened down and there doesn’t seem to be any troubles and that really is all that I wanted to achieve. When I put the story out there to the press I simply wanted to let the community know what was happening so that if anyone knew who was involved or simply have a suspicion then they just might do something about it. I hope that behind closed doors that has occurred.
Who has musically inspired you?
I would have to say Jack Savoretti, India Arie and Alanis Morissette plus as I get older my pool of musical inspiration has become quite diverse.
What was the first record that you bought?
That was Bad by Michael Jackson and yes, it was on tape (laughter). Don’t laugh as I was only eight years old (laughter).
Who did you first see performing live in concert?
That’s a good question. I am very tempted to say that it was The Longpigs, at least I think that it was (laughter).
What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?
That would have been Skipping Stones by Claire De Lune. You know when you throw a stone out across the water and it skips, well the song is all about life when you hit rock bottom. When you finally hit rock bottom you can skip back up to the surface, in fact thinking about it now it is quite a miserable song (laughter).
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
I don’t know, perhaps on a little farm growing spring vegetables (laughter). Writing some books and perhaps writing some more music and gigging every now and again.
On that note Nikki let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s been great and I will see you here in Nottingham.
Thanks Kevin, thank you for talking to me. Make sure that you come and say hello when we get to Nottingham.