GuilFest 2011 - Lineup

Claire Nicolson

Fast emerging as one of the brightest and most individual stars in the arena of British music, Claire Nicolson is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter kicking off her solo career after basking in successful collaborations with many an established act.

Classically trained Claire's musical style includes hints of acoustic pop, rock, country, folk and indie, whille her sets vary from solo acoustic performances, a stripped back three piece with loop machine and percussion, to fronting a full on seven piece band unofficially dubbed The Paramedics due to their penchant for playing in green ambulance outfits. 

This Norwich based artist is catching the attention of journalists, radio jocks and fellow musicians. Radio 1 presenter Rob Da Bank dubbed her single ‘You & I‘: “possibly the greatest record in the world right now” - picking up plays on BBC Radio1, 2 and 6. The Fly suggests her androgynous glamour reflects flattering comparisons with Bowie, her musical style is described by Ed Harcourt as “Dusty Springfield weaned on acid folk rock."

Growing up in Kimpton, Hertfordshire, as one of five, she describes her childhood as ‘sheer heaven‘. “My three older brothers would have these parties in a field,” she remembers, “they were like mini-festivals', where she picked up her earliest influences from: "Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, ELO, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, Sly & The Family Stone, Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Small Faces". 

Claire studied violin and piano at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, before realising the other students 'were far too straight', dropping out and moving into a squat with her boyfriend, who taught her to play guitar. Before long she was touring the festival circuit, hanging out with bikers, punks and hippies and immersing herself in counter cultural delights. This itinerant life led to Claire sinking deeper and deeper into a world of weed, rock music and rootlessness and on the brink of losing herself she was "saved" by Sam Brown, and whisked off on a tour of Russia. She began lending her skills to a succession of live performances and recordings with Jools Holland, Tom JonesMike Oldfield, The Waterboys, Embrace, Kula Shaker and many others, most recently playing guitar on Tricky/Massive Attack singer Martina Toply Bird’s new album ‘Some Place Simple’.

Championing the DIY scene and determined to make an impression, Claire sold her house to start her own label and record the forthcoming album '52 Card Pick Up'. Touring the nation from St Ives in Cornwall to Glasgow and all points in between, she's been guesting at key London nights like 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins’ 'Wagon', 93 Feet East, Bedford Corn Exchange and Mark Beaumont's, 'Geek Out' and graced festivals from Guilfest, Secret Garden and Bestival to Electric Picnic and Standon Calling. She’s also embarked on two ‘Sing For Your Supper'  tours, the first across Ireland and the second through the west and south of England, offering pubs a tune or two in exchange for a hot meal.  Making a lot of friends along the way, Claire also attracted a steady stream of interviews from local and national press and radio.

She records with a crew of musicians she has met along the way. Julian Cope’s right had man Donald Ross Skinner pitched in to produce ’Toothpaste & Whisky’, the debut single and album ‘52 Card Pick-up’, her brother Hugo Nicolson, famed for his production work on Primal Scream‘s ‘Screamadelica’, collaborated with her on the recent single ‘You & I’.  She also wrote and co-produced more of the album with Leo Abrahams, another all rounder who's worked with top names such as Brian Eno and Paolo Nutini.   

Claire's supporters include Alabama 3 - Nick Reynolds added some dynamic harmonica to ’Toothpaste & Whisky’ and singer Larry Love has teamed up to record a cover version of the evergreen Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood classic ‘Summer Wine’.  Recently the Alabamas invited Claire to play their Outlaw Sessions night at Brixton’s Jamm, and teamed up with her on stage at her Xmas Loveshack party, as well as asking her along to support on selected dates on their Spring 2011 UK tour.

Although she’s not averse to sticking a cover version into her set - Hot Chip, Johnny Cash, Madonna, Joplin and Happy Mondays/John Kongas have all had the Nicolson treatment recently - it’s her own songs from the album that have gained the most plaudits. The album‘s boisterous title track became a live favourite as soon as she introduced it at her 93 Feet East show last Autumn, as have the more reflective ‘Quiet Company’, the melancholy-tinged ‘Summer Kiss’ and feisty ’Lord of the Flies’, written after she was randomly attacked by two girls in an East London kebab shop.

Mainly recorded at the analogue Ranscombe Studios in Rochester, Kent, the songs on ‘52 Card Pick Up’ are all based on “little stories, little things that have happened to me.” Although her approach may seem tongue in cheek and playful, she says, the sentiments are always sincere. “I just write from the heart."

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