Working at a grassroots level means a lot to me and always has

By Maria Winter

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Nestled within the vibrant musical landscape of Newcastle, singer-songwriter Nick Gladdish emerges as a beacon of melodic storytelling and heartfelt lyricism. With a fresh single on the brink of release, his impending full studio album launch in Spring 2024 promises an immersive journey through his sonic universe. Hailing from a city renowned for its cultural dynamism, Gladdish is poised to captivate audiences with his distinctive blend of introspective songcraft, offering a glimpse into the soulful depth that defines his artistry. I was lucky enough to glimpse his unique musical thought processes, from songwriting techniques to live performance tips.

What is the message behind ‘Sinking Ship’, and what do you hope audiences will take from it?  

“It’s a song that had been lying around in demo form for a few years, but I always felt it was a contender to record in its acoustic form. I tried it out at a few jam nights, and it was received well by audiences, so in August this year, the band and I recorded a definitive version for our new album ‘Tea & Sympathy’ – out next year.”

“Originally, it was a song about my job as an SEN tutor and the redundancies we faced at the time. I rewrote the lyrics in recent years to coincide with the horrors and trials we all faced during COVID-19. It’s also a nod to the key workers and NHS staff out there, who were (are) giving it their all to help others through such a horrible time. I lost a lot of very close family during the pandemic, as did many of us. It’s honest, and I hope that audiences connect with its sentiment and message. They can tell when you’re not being sincere in a song – but this one comes from a very raw place.

The music in this single strikes a unique balance of rock and pop. Has the North East music scene influenced this blend in your work in any way?

“I’ve been in the North East for a good twenty years now, and I think any city or town and its people greatly influence the music. There’s a big rock scene up here, which has impacted me quite a bit, but I don’t like to stay in one place musically. It also tends to be people and immediate situations around me that truly influence my songwriting. The song definitely sits in the rock and pop genre, but it goes to a few unexpected places musically: a little progressive at times, particularly on the falsetto parts. I like to do unexpected things in my songs. Our guitarist, Tim Higgins, encouraged the back end of the song. He wanted to create a big musical Tsunami effect with wailing feedback and noise. He also describes the outro as the ‘band’s collective breakdown into madness’ – I think that’s brilliant.”  

As a Newcastle-based artist, how do you feel your roots in this vibrant music scene have shaped the sound and themes of your upcoming album?

“Being around many different musicians and bands at different music nights or showcase gigs over the years has massively impacted my writing. Sound-wise, this album comes from a more direct pop-rock guitar-led direction with a sprinkle of folk and blues. Thematically, I’d say that five of the songs loosely comment on our government, how state media can sometimes control how we think and feel, and how we (the underdogs), are constantly trying to fight back for our worth, to be counted and noticed. I also want listeners to make their own mind up when listening to the song(s). It’s about how they make others feel.”  

You’re also involved with many aspects of the local music scene, such as helping to host various open mic nights. What about these nights fuels your passion for creating original music?

“It’s become a habit, I think! I’m addicted to them, and I love the variety. The people I meet on these nights fuel my passion and drive for creating new music. Working at a grassroots level means a lot to me and always has. These nights are wide-ranging stylistically and in terms of level/ability – people who are starting out to seasoned pros. It’s jammin’ with other excellent songwriters and musicians as to how new bands are formed, and I love trying new songs out. It keeps me grounded and on my toes. They can only be a positive thing for any musician.”  

The lyrics in ‘Sinking Ship’ are very inspiring. Do you think that lyrics are your main focus when songwriting?

“My creative journey tends to start when I’m alone, by the sea, and my head is clear to think. I’m one of those songwriters who writes lyrics first, blocks of text, rhymes, a narrative on the situation… whether it’s personal or about something or someone else. I wear my heart on my sleeve with most of what I write. I never force the melody or hook – it’s an exploratory process with the instruments and something eventually marries up with the lyrics. Songs that come quickly tend to be the keepers. If you overdo it, you’ve lost. If a song sounds good, and you’re moved by what you’re creating when it’s stripped back, then I tend to run with it, record the song.”

You’re set to do some live shows to showcase the new album across the North East and beyond in 2024. How do audiences’ responses and energy affect your live performances?

“Audience response is a big deal. How people react to the songs is a great indicator of what is working well live or what to drop from the set. It’s about what I like to call ‘the curve’ – playing with the dynamics of a set is key. I mean, we’re not the liveliest of acts… but I do like an audience who sit and listen, soak up the songs, and connect. Every gig is different, character building! If the band are enjoying themselves, then I believe the audience will pick up on that.”

Your backing band has created some special musical moments in this single and the rest of your music. Do you have any memorable moments from the collaborative creation of ‘Sinking Ship’ or the upcoming album that are particularly special to you?

“I think this very song ‘Sinking Ship’ is a band favourite. We’ve put this song out as it’s a bit of a departure from what we did previously. They’re a fantastic set of musicians and writers in their own right. When we get into a rehearsal space, the band creates magical moments every time. I have songs, but these guys elevate the process and arrangements of the songs every time. They are very considered players who listen and do what’s best for the track. I’m just lucky they agreed to make a follow-up album!”

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