After a hiatus, Rhett Nicholl returned to music earlier this year. Having been away from music for some years, we caught up with the singer/songwriter to see what inspired his comeback, what he’s been up and what he’s got planned for the future.
Waves is an emotive record, what does it mean to you and why did you choose to shoot the video in your childhood home?
Waves is about becoming abstracted from yourself, I wrote and recorded it a few years ago at a point in my life where my mental state was in tailspin. I’d written myself off a long time before this but really that was a defence mechanism and when the hyper-sensitivity and emotion I’d shut out for so long started to really fade out I had a moment of clarity; I realised that I was selling my soul short. This didn’t stop me from handing it over but I guess this was just me being honest with myself and admitting that I wasn’t in the drivers seat anymore. Life felt like I was watching myself in a dream sequence where I knew what was inevitably gonna happen but I couldn’t stop myself. If I had to describe what the inside of my mind looks like it would probably end up looking like a composite of my parents house, the video was an externalisation of that feeling of watching yourself from the 3rd person, of me being locked inside my own head.
Do you remember the co sign/feedback you got that initially made you take start taking music seriously as a career choice?
It’s funny I was thinking about this the other day, everything that’s happened with this music thing can be traced back to one night. About 5 or 6 years ago we would always link up at the Bricklayers Arms in Shoreditch- if you know anything about that boozer you know pretty much anything goes- graffiti writers, shoplifters, out there kids and artists from all over London would kind of converge there after whatever antics we’d been on during the day, we’d be 25 man deep in there getting stuck in, everyone was kind of lost, having fun and still young enough to pull it off. On one of many of these kind of nights I met someone who would become a really close friend, a photographer that made up one half of ‘The Lurkers’.
I was showing him pictures of this huge 2×10 meter painting I was doing as part of this immersive theatre/party group and offhandedly I ended up playing him a song called ‘Borderline’ that I’d recently recorded. Needless to say he was like “Fuck the art, this is what you need to be doing” and we went on to do a video for the song with the Lurkers. Those guys have had my back from day dot and really helped me get on the path to do what Im doing now, the response to that song wasn’t particularly big but it resonated with a lot of the right people and gave me some sense of self-worth to cling onto when I’d lost everything else. I wasn’t capable of really taking it seriously and “career choice” isn’t in my vocabulary but that was the spark for sure.
What’s it been like working on your EP?
The songs on this EP were recorded kind of sporadically over the past 6 years and to be honest it’s been a tough process. It was such a period of growth for me that I could come back to a song after 3 months or more in between sessions and feel like it didn’t represent me anymore at all, these songs were the only good thing I had going in my life, I put everything into them and it was heart wrenching when they weren’t sounding like I wanted them too. I still feel that way today, it really fucks me up but I guess i know how to manage it a bit better these days. This is more than made up for on those days where everything syncs up and you can really just leave it all out on the floor. Having it finished is something Im really really proud of, I could be brown bread tomorrow and I’d go happy but Im glad I made it out alive.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst creating your EP and why?
It’s hard to pin down but I guess the sessions when we did the vocals for ‘Haunty’. It’s all kind of a blur but the energy in the room when Nasty Poet and Bapou Costi did their verses was intense, it was a full moon and both of those parts deal with a whole bunch of heavy duty stuff . Seeing the plan come together like that, watching them shine in so boldly in such unfamiliar territory was incredible to be a part of. Also if this EP is a cross section of my life in music through those years then ‘Haunty’ is the bridge that kind of takes it up to the present day so I still have a real relationship with that song.
How many songs did you record for this project and how hard was it to get it down to the final selection?
I recorded 5 songs all of which are on the EP, Im not into throwing away songs on a good day let alone when they come as few and far between as these ones did, if it was strong enough to break out through all the layers of shit then I would rather strip it down and try and figure it out all over again than move on. I used those songs as vehicles to explore a lot of stuff musically and they took loads of different forms over the years. Where Im making a lot of music, my work rate right now and the backlog of stuff I have to draw from means that my next project might have to be more curated but that’s definitely not a bad place to be.
What would you like fans to take away from this project?
I want people to take whatever they need from these songs. Im not into this thing of pimping out your trauma and creating some neat narrative arc, if it’s honest and provides necessary context to the song or piece of art that’s cool but I feel like good art should be able to stand alone out of context, your pain doesn’t validate your work, your work is made valid when you channel your pain or whatever into it. What matters in this case is what comes out of the speaker and if people care enough about that in a couple years I might talk more frankly about what this all means to me personally but for now I just hope it helps people get through whatever they’re dealing with.
And finally how will you be closing out the year?
We’re putting together something really cool to coincide with the roll out of my debut EP. It’s not the usual – so cards close to the chest and that but with any luck it’s going to run. Other than that I’m just trying to keep working.
Check out his latest release Boarder Line.