Nev Cottee’s transportive new album, River’s Edge, is the perfect balm for anyone feeling ensnared by modern life. Evoking serene settings and bygone eras with its whimsical tales and homely arrangements, it arrives at the perfect time: just over a month away from his River’s Edge launch show at Band on the Wall, giving us ample time to soak up its sounds and commit its lyrics to memory. The record sees Cottee working with guitarist Nick McCabe of The Verve for the first time, but otherwise sees him recording with some of his most trusted peers, such as pedal steel virtuoso Chris Hillman and producer Mason Neely. Ahead of the launch show, Nev graciously answered our questions about how the record was made, the tunes he was listening to as it was taking shape and the concept that has developed around it. Check it out now on Bandcamp.
Your new record River’s Edge is another beautifully written and produced work. Where did you record it, and were there any firsts for you during the recording process; any new ideas, instrumentation or techniques that you hadn’t tried on record before?
Nev Cottee: ‘Cheers. Yeah I’m fairly happy with it. I’m getting there. I’m never fully satisfied, which I think is a good thing. I recorded it in Mallorca, Cheetham Hill and Cardiff. Good to mix things up a bit. The first on this one was the speed at which we worked. A lot quicker than my previous albums. I was prepared to go with takes that weren’t perfect. Again a good thing I think. We also used some really cheap nasty mics which I like doing now and again. Ones from Poundland.’
Do you recall what you were listening to as you wrote and recorded the River’s Edge material? Anything that impacted upon how you worked for this album?
NC: ‘I became obsessed with Neil Young. I was always a fan, but I had a kind of revelation where his songs spoke to me even more than before. On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night and Comes A Time are amazing records made by a songwriter on the top of his game. I love that man. Also Tom Waits’ Bawlers album. A man out there on his own – and that gives me inspiration.’
The idea of the river’s edge being this serene, natural place for life to unfold is a really appealing one. What drew you to that concept? Does that idyllic setting feel quite distant to you, given how we tend to live our lives at present?
NC: ‘The concept usually comes after. It gradually reveals itself. I just started out writing a few simple songs. Nothing as grandiose as the last record. Looking back I can see how playing my guitar and writing songs in the outdoors influenced the lyrics and the overall feel. Any chance I get I hit the outdoors with my guitar. It does feel remote actually. I think we all need to step back from our phones and start doing nothing again. Easier said than done. I’m giving it a go.’
What did you think about Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue?
NC: ‘I’m a Dylan nut. And a Scorcese nut (me and my mate constantly discuss his films – I’m a Casino man). So yeah, I loved the film. The performances are amazing. I think the version of Hurricane and Joni Mitchell teaching Dylan and McGuinn Coyote are stunning moments… I also like the guy playing the pissed off film director.’
Your voice is especially captivating in the low register. Did you ever have any reservations or uncertainty about singing and writing melodies in the low register, or has it always felt natural and comfortable?
NC: ‘I used to sing way too high for years. Then a mate of mine got hold of me and schooled me in where I ought to be. That was the first album Stations and I’ve never looked back. It’s easy because it’s just me talking…’
What’s the most interesting place that music has taken you to in recent years?
NC: ‘The gigs we did in Paris and Mallorca last year were special. I’ve lived in Mallorca on and off for the past 10 years so to play in a historical theatre in the old town was a real high. The most interesting place though is just being there with the guitar when a new song comes.’