Frank Turner’s drummer who used to be in a school band with Radiohead’s guitarist to play The Bodega
Nigel Powell is also a member of Frank Turner’s Sleeping Souls
by Sue Atkinson
The Sad Song Co. is a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Nigel Powell, who was once in a school band with Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. After chart success and critical acclaim with Unbelievable Truth, he joined Frank Turner's Sleeping Souls and Dive Dive. See him in Nottingham at The Bodega in February on a tour to promote new album, Worth.
Tell us where you're from, where you are now and a bit about the journey in between.
I was born in South London, and moved to Oxford when I was 13. I’m still based there, but my life generally is now on the road with my day job. I fear if I attempted to lay out the journey to that point for you I would take up the rest of your available space.
Who’ll be playing in Nottingham?
When I play live it’s just me on my own, so I’ll be playing some guitar and some piano and singing. I’d love to work with a band but it hasn’t been feasible to this point.
How do you describe your music?
It’s slightly miserable prog-pop. Like Peter Gabriel if he used REM as his band.
When did you know a life in music was for you?
I decided when I was about 14. I feel I was lucky, in that I knew vocationally what to do from a very early age, and I had the stubbornness to pursue it relentlessly.
Nigel Powell of The Sad Song Co
How does the songwriting process work for you?
Once I’m home off tour for a while I will just tinkle away on the piano and come up with things I like. From there I develop it as demos because I love making arrangements that are integral to the song. And then finally I have to write lyrics, which I find hardest so I leave it to last, like a naughty schoolboy.
Were do you get your inspiration from?
Usually sitting with an instrument and improvising until I connect with something emotionally. Then I can pursue it with the other side of my brain to develop it into a complete piece of music.
After playing in Illiterate Hands while at Abingdon School, Jonny Greenwood (left) joined Radiohead
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Recently I’ve been introduced to Soko and Jesca Hoop, both of whom I’m really enjoying. From a little longer ago, Sound And Colour by Alabama Shakes and Goldenboy by Honningbarna are still getting regular spins.
Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
When I’m on tour with Frank Turner the days do become quite regimented, waking up on a bus, load in, soundcheck, gig, load out and go to sleep on a bus. If I didn’t get on with that kind of routine large portions of my life would be miserable, so it’s good that I do.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Rock City, 2016. (Image: Laura Patterson)
How's life on the road?
We’ve actually been off the road with Frank for an unusually long time. At this very moment I'm at Elstree Studios in one of the stages where they shot the original Star Wars, where we’re shooting a video for the first single from Frank’s new album. Looking forward to getting back on the road later this year.
What would you like the audience to take away from your shows?
Music is all about communication for me, so I hope people will come away having felt connected to something at some point during the show.
What can we expect from the gig at the Bodega?
Intimacy and beauty, I hope. Despite the name of the band, I think I’m quite open and approachable, so hopefully you can feel entertained as well.
Tell us something about yourself the audience might be surprised to hear.
Despite the music I create as a solo artist, I love the first Dillinger Escape Plan EP. That might not be a band that people would associate with me much.
Who would you most like to sit down and write a song with?
I’d love to write songs with Andy Yorke and Jason Moulster from Unbelievable Truth again. We had such a strong, almost telepathic, communication that there was a sense of bliss and rightness in that creative situation that I’ve rarely felt.
The Sad Song Co, The Bodega, Pelham Street, Nottingham, February 13 , 7 to 10pm, with George Gadd and Laurie Illingworth, £7.15, alttickets.com.