Nigel Barker has, until now, been a hidden gem of the UK music scene. Two days ago, this exciting, unusual and wholly original, artist announced the release of the first single “Telling My Troubles To Strangers,” from his forthcoming new album Five which comes out later this year.
Barker has written, recorded, produced and mastered all parts himself on this innovative track at his own Wonderland Studios West.
If you imagine Beck with Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen with the Delta Saints and then dust in some Joe Gideon, Kurt Weill, Curtis Stigers, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel you might understand a little about where Nigel Barker’s music is coming from. His music is lyric oriented, with strong melodies and often experimental musical arrangements which keep things interesting.
Nigel only started his music career about 8 years ago. He had a bad car accident when he was 23 and lost the use of his left hand. For the young guitar player that was devastating. He switched to training as a recording engineer at AIR Studios and eventually went on to become a film editor and then an international award winning film director and writer. His 2003 film The Refuge, won him a Director’s Award at the 2006 Cinequest Film Festival, as well as a Best Screenplay award at the Napa Sonoma Film Festival in California- but he turned his back on film directing, “It was too hard getting money for films and too hard making them. I went back to simple film editing,” he says.
In the meantime the films bought him a Harley Davidson, and after a number of years using the heavy clutch on the bike, his hand came back to life. Nigel explains, “I was excited to be playing again, I went out and bought the guitar I had had when I was eighteen, a Les Paul, and started all over again. Four albums later, I have my own studio and twenty six guitars as well as a dining room that converts into a small film studio.”
As for the new track, Barker says:
I spent a long time on this one. Like most songs I create I usually have another artist’s song or body of work as inspiration. In this case it was Tom Waits. Waits in recent years has used found sounds and instruments to form his rhythm section and this track follows suit. Clanging bits of metal and foot stomps replace a conventional drum kit. It brings the track a big ‘Industrial’ sound. The strings and trombones are big too and were the first thing to go on the track. Guitars are minimal.
At an early stage I keep the musical arrangement and the lyrics separate. Only when they are reasonably coherent do I combine the two. I just put the machine in record and sing whatever comes to mind and I usually I have the song in a minute and a half, if not I dump it. With this song I was determined to have a particular meter or rhythm in the lyric.
The meter came from two sources. The first one was a song that came from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island written in 1883, Dead Man’s Chest. His first verse lyric was ‘I got fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Drink and the devil done the rest. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum’. It’s also the first line of Tom Waits ’16 Shells From A 30.6’. I think he got the idea from the same place. The rhythm it sets up for the lyric is great.
My version? ‘I got 25 cents on a dead man’s chest. Drink and the devil done the rest. I got a hole in my head. Got a hole in my shoe. Sixty feet under and no rescue.’ Good edgy lyric, big orchestra big rhythm section. Two weeks to record and mix it. All good. “I’m Telling My Troubles To Strangers Cos I Can’t Get No Sense Out of You.”
*Feature image courtesy of New Outlaw