Nic Evennett – A Song to a Siren
Welcome to the new chapter of Indieterria, where we profile artists on the unsigned/independent circuit that bring something new to the audiences. We want to introduce you to incredible artist, poet, photographer and composer based in Kent – Nic Evennett.
Nic not only records and mixes her own compositions, staying true to DIY ethics of the genre. She also built quite an impressive profile as a studio based artist. She is not touring, not playing the popularity games on social media. And yet appears on national radio and enjoys a wide network of collaborators. She is passionate and driven. Talking to her was a privilege. Please read on.
You have the most unconventional biography we have ever seen. It reads: “I bash the piano and stuff”. We were expecting few home-made demos but found a whole catalogue of songs, an established artist who have been on national radio and comparisons to Kate Bush. Not exactly just piano bashing! Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria?
Nic Evennett: Well, firstly, thank you so much for interviewing me! I’m all flustery and excited! It’s a real honour, and it’s my very first proper interview.
I remember Tom Robinson saying something about the “I bash the piano and stuff”, commenting that is was self-deprecating, and I think self-deprecation sums me up quite well! Your question is one that always makes me (pauses) clam up, somewhat. I find talking about me incredibly hard. I doubt that’s uncommon. It’s much easier for me to just quote what somebody else has said about me. But I’ll have a go here: I am Nic, a singer-songwriter from Kent, United Kingdom. I’ve been bashing the piano since I was 7, studied music for a while, had a long break, and then really only turned to song-writing about five years ago, or so. I also love photography, being out in nature, listening to Buddhist talks, meditations, and eating cake, in no particular order. There. I did it. (laughs)
Your song “Outside” debuted in January 2017 on BBC Introducing Kent to very favourable reviews. Listeners described it as “outstanding” and “mesmerising”, while BBC staff was also visibly impressed. Not a bad start of the year. Did you expect such reactions?
Nic Evennett: No, not at all, and certainly not for that particular song. It was a lovely surprise, and I am so grateful to Abbie McCarthy at BBC Introducing Kent for including me in that show. It’s funny. Many of my songs are kind of dredged up from some depths – something that needs exploration, then gets twisted and turned into music and poetry, trying to find some resolution, and then splattered out into song. And I come out the other side thinking, whooof, I needed to get that stuff out of my head. “Outside” didn’t work that way, which is very rare for me. I just liked the riff! And I think it was the riff that got me a foot in the door. I think my music generally tends to be more meandering, more spacious, and that doesn’t always lend itself well to radio play. But this one is a bit livelier. And yet, I reckon it’s probably in my own bottom three! Funny how it works.
“Outside” also found itself on the rotation at the Channel Radio and Strange Fruit Radio. Your next offering – “Hurry” – went even further and was voted “Song of the Week” at the Strange Fruit at the recommendations from listeners. We know it was a digital release but we will still call it a beautifully crafted ballad. Any inspiration behind that song?
Nic Evennett: “Hurry” is much, much more from the heart. Like all my songs, well, bar “Outside”, they really are little windows into my heart and mind. And as somebody who loves words, loves playing with and manipulating language, and somebody who in many ways is quite private, my lyrics tend to be deliberately ambiguous. I suppose it’s a little safety net for me in some ways – only those who truly, truly listen can see through the windows. But also I love the idea that the songs can be whatever you want them to be about. Once they are out in the world, I really don’t see them as my songs any more. They just float about for people to borrow and use and sink into when they need to. So some people have questioned the lyrics to “Hurry” – mainly asking what in the world does it all mean. Which is a good question that I’m not sure I have the answer to! I think it’s about somebody reaching a point where they want somebody else to intervene; take away bad memories, tough stories. “Hurry” has a funny time signature too, which is meant to depict waves rolling in and out. The sea features quite a lot in my songs. Or rather, nature does. Sea, rivers, the moon, the seasons, the sky, trees. I can’t think of a song that doesn’t mention nature, actually.
You have been featured several times on national radio BBC 6 Music (singles “Somehow” and “Where We Are The Forest”) and by Tom Robinson himself. Now this is not just mere luck. It is quite hard to get through all the vetting for the “MixTape Show”. You did it more than once.
Nic Evennett: I think that Tom is just blimming lovely and kind! In fact, that was a lovely surprise too because neither “Somehow” nor “Where We Are The Forest” got short-listed! It was picked by a few people, but not enough, and I felt thoroughly deflated. But I think Tom ultimately decides what he wants to broadcast and added me both times, which was so lovely of him. It’s people like him that truly help the likes of me. I think there are two strong divisions in music – those who will push hard at the self-publicity bit and have a lot of confidence in what they do, and then folk like me, where none of that comes naturally or comfortably at all. I worry that the folk in the latter never get heard, never get found. There is a difference between being confident and wanting to be heard. An artistic voice can be so, so important for people who lack confidence, self-esteem, or who just struggle generally. So having a platform where you can submit songs and they are judged in their own right, without the need for self-promotion or long-winded bios, is essential. And wonderful. The Fresh Net team do a superb job. Love ’em.
You have about sixteen songs on your Bandcamp and Soundcloud profiles and they are produced and recorded to highest quality. Moreover, we see that certain songs are mixed by other artists. Are they really home recordings or have you invested in professional studio?
Nic Evennett: Well, that made me beam! Know why? Mixing is the bane of my life! I never feel I get it right. Or I think I have got it right, and find it’s completely wrong. My ‘studio’ is the spare bedroom and I share it with drying laundry, stuff that should be in other rooms that I haven’t got round to putting away, and the dog. In most recordings you can hear the birds in the tree outside. Most songs have had a few dozen takes after bikes decide to whiz up and down the road, or somebody has slammed a front door, or somebody has yelled at somebody else, and then there is much quiet swearing from me and we go again. I tell myself that there is something…lovely and organic in home recordings, which in truth I think there is, but that only seems to apply to everybody else but me. I really love listening to songs with other sounds going on in the background. I love listening to songs where the mix isn’t perfect and there is a rawness to it. But if a bird has tweeted out of place, or I have made a vocal tick somewhere, I am very hard on myself about it all. So to hear that is wonderful. I shall try not to give myself such a hard time from now on.
Besides your solo compositions, you are involved many collaborations, two main projects being Return To Mountain (with Steve Gleason) and Silent Reasons (with Frank Cable). Would you like to tell us more about them?
Nic Evennett: Ah, I love working with Steve and Frank. I suppose they are two I work more regularly with and I feel a deep musical connection with. They are both gorgeous souls all round, and that is important to me. I have done work with quite a few folk, though. Robert Pabst, from Cinematic Dance Music, is a genius and did a super Bond-style remix of my song “Hold On”. We have done other projects together that I have loved working on. And I also work with a chap called UNJAY, who is big on his Future Bass – a genre so far from what I do and yet I find so interesting to do the vocals for. Not to mention other fabulous musicians I have been honoured to work with. I am very lucky to have these folk encouraging me and inspiring me.
Your back catalogue is available on US based streaming platform Pandora. The service describes you to their subscribers as “delicate mystery, warm and lustrous, yet fragile and crystalline – a bewitching blend of Kate Bush and Linda Perhacs, surrounded by dolorous, reverb-drenched piano and woven into broken-hearted balladry”. This is the very first time we have seen an indie artist being compared to Kate Bush and we have to wholeheartedly agree. Are you able to tell us how well are you received on Pandora?
Nic Evennett: Being compared to Kate Bush is just crazy, isn’t it? I can’t get my head around that one. Kate is in a league of one. She truly is an astounding musician, poet, artist, woman. So my name in the same sentence as hers makes me feel both thrilled and baffled. And maybe even a bit scared. And Andee Conners from Pandora, was the very first person to write a review on me and for that I love him to bits. What an amazing first review. It’s something I read when I am feeling anxious about my music…so I read it a lot. I’m so grateful to Andee for that. As for how I am received, I have no idea! We can’t get Pandora in the UK and nor can I access any listening figures or anything. Actually, I quite like it that way. It is a little mystery. I have no idea when or if my music is being played.
It is quite hard to describe your music. There are piano based ballads, but also loops, possible samples, elements that remind us of trip -hop. If you were to give yourself a label, what genre would you subscribe to?
Nic Evennett: It is hard, isn’t it?! I never know where to stick myself, category-wise. Something might jump out at you as trip-hop in style, and then a choir will burst into life (well, just me really, layered up a hundred times) and throw you off the scent. It throws me too! The term ‘alternative’ gets used a lot by folk who have no real home and who travel between genres, so I tend to opt for that one. ‘Odd’ is another one. Or ‘a bit mixed up’. Any of those could apply to me (laughs).
Recently you spoke about limitations imposed on artists due to health reasons. You said: “Folk with chronic conditions need to be heard in more ways than one. I often feel sidelined for not being able to give a gig list or tour dates. I can’t be alone.” We would like you to elaborate a bit more on the topic, because we think there are still many people in the music industry who do not know how to handle artists with chronic conditions or disabilities.
Nic Evennett: This is a BIG one for me. Personally I have two main conditions that sort of take over my world quite a lot. One is PMDD, which is a devastating condition that few have heard about. Basically, think PMS multiplied infinitely! The second is Fibromyalgia. And other than that, bipolar and other mental health stuff. What a combo! All ‘invisible’ conditions, so like many out there, you’d never know it if you met me. But these things, and mental illnesses like depression or anxiety are so isolating for many. You may not feel able to leave the house, you may not be even able to get out of bed. So musically, just standing up and recording is an issue for me. My voice is temperamental and reflects how bad things are. Gigging and touring is certainly out the window. I have no doubt I am one of a vast amount of people who love making music, love singing, love playing but hate performing! I am not a performer. And I think in this day and age we shouldn’t need to be. I think it can silence people with, say, mental health illnesses who think that in order to be successful they must be a certain way. They must be the ‘whole package’. Well, personally, this package is dented! It’s rattling around with smashed pieces inside and the paper is all torn! But I still want a voice. I still want to share my songs. I still want to connect to people through music. And I really want others to feel the same, because it just so happens that some of the most beautiful, most moving, truest music I have heard has come from people who struggle in this way; people who have hardly any followers on Soundcloud, say, or few listens. How they use their experiences to create is astounding. We need so, so much more of that out in the world.
The last question is traditionally reserved for future plans. What can we expect from Nic Evennett in the coming months?
Nic Evennett: Ooo, like any question about the future, I say ‘who knows?’! I have some plans of eventually getting a little EP together, but money is tight, obviously, so I need to find ways of doing this on a budget. Certainly more songs, and I’ve thrown my music into various competitions out there. I would LOVE to have a song used in TV or film. I think music and drama can be such a magical partnership, so I am trying to find ways of doing that at the moment. If anybody out there knows how, please come chat to me! But I am very much a ‘in the moment’ person, so I just live hour by hour, day by day. That way magical things can happen that you just weren’t expecting!
Nic Evennett can be found online at:
Return to Mountain ( collaboration with Steve Gleason)
Soundclick: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=540680 (Steve`s page)
Silent Reasons (collaboration with Frank Cable)
We would like to thank Tom Robinson of 6 Music for introducing us to Nic`s music. And big kudos to Nic who was patient with us for publishing this interview. We are hoping to make quite a few updates to this interview in the coming months.
Until the next time.
*** Update 01/02/2018***
We are following up our awesome (and highly popular!) interview with Nic! After we wrapped the talk, we still had some questions. We wanted to know what the artists will release this year. And boy, we were lucky. After a bit of nagging, Nic revealed that her new digital single will be called “Ribbons” and you can listen to it online!
Nic Evennett: There are two versions of this track – this one includes the birds outside Nic’s house.
During our post interview exchange, we also learned that Nic is an advocate for mental health and well-being. In September 2016, she released an experimental EP “Three” from which half of proceeds go to charity Mind. The EP includes seven compositions, all recoded during the same week. It was basically a challenge: one song a day while stepping outside comfort zone and using instruments and arrangements that Nic not used before.
Nic Evennett: The EP is free to download on Bandcamp, though people can give money if they like and 50% goes to the charity Mind. Might be worth a mention. In fact all my music is free to download, in truth, but we won’t mention that! (giggle)
You can access the EP from the link below:
Nic you are the very definition of awesomeness and a proper legend!
*** Update 03/02/2018***
We knew there was something in the air, when we followed up our interview with Nic. She mentioned EPs and singles. We should have seen it coming really! The hard life of a music writer – you try to nail everything, have the artist in a box, fully explained and leaving no mystery uncovered. And then this happens – a brand new EP! Dropped in the middle of the night! Ah!
Artists are such incredible beings – they constantly reinvent themselves, they are masters of creativity and no matter how hard you try to figure them out, they are two steps ahead of you. And we love them for it, to be honest. They keep us on our toes.
We can picture Nic Evennett smiling like mythical Sphinx when she dropped her new EP – “Bone and Thirst” at 4:00 am yesterday.
But we will admit -we are very lucky. We got our interview just at the right time. We won`t complain.
So what can you expect from “Bone and Thirst”? Three songs: the title track, lead single “Ribbon” and a brand new composition – “Jagged Boy”, incredible poetic lyrics and two digital photographs. Nice package.
“Bone and Thirst” is the most experimental of the tree tracks – it blend trip hop and electronica with mesmerizing vocals, it is full of loops, samples and strange noises in the background that create quite a dark and nervous atmosphere. Nic is shining in this track, her voice just flows and overwhelms you. This composition reminds us a bit of Sarah McLachlan or Paula Cole – it is very cinematic, neurotic and mysterious.
On the other hand – “Ribbon” is completely opposite. Nic sings nearly a-cappella accompanied just by a piano and chirping birds. You read it right. There are birds singing in the background though out the track and this is used like accompanying instrument to the piano. What a strangely beautiful duet! Vocals are stripped but in the lead, providing a focal point of the composition. We`d think “Bone and Thirst” would make the lead single, with all the production that went into the track, but choosing “Ribbon” Nic Evennett proved to be very brave, experimental and adventurous artist.
“Jagged Boy” continues with the acoustic feeling. But there is something gospel about it. It feels almost religious, like it was recorded in a cathedral instead of a studio. Nic`s voice is at times multiplied, creating a choir effect. The lyrics is unsettling and mysterious, a lamentation even. If this song won’t give you goose-bumps, please consult a GP. You may be deaf. In both ears.
The EP can be bought from Nic’s Bandcamp page and half of the proceeds will go to Mind charity.
You know what to do, dear readers. Go and get yourself a copy of the EP.
Also, thank you Tom Robinson for your feedback. We are blushing. It is a great honour as we consider ourselves fans of your music and we have always held your lyrics and writings in high esteem. Much power to you too Sir!