11 Jan 2010

Reasons to be cheerful in 2010 pt 1: Nina Nastasia

Click on the player and you will hear Nina Nastasia's new single 'You Can Take Your Time'.

I first met Nina Nastasia in 2006. She was over from New York playing some shows in London supporting her then new album On Leaving - her first for Fat Cat Records.

John Peel was a massive Nina fan and champion, she played no less than 6 sessions for his Radio 1 show and became firm friends with the broadcaster and his wife Sheila in the years before his untimely death in 2004.

My friend Louise Kattenhorn was John's producer at the Beeb and so had also become good friends with Nina. That's how I met Nina and her partner (and musical organiser) and Rasputin-look-a-like Kennan Gudjonsson.  

Nina played one of my earliest sessions for The Other Woman, I was still nervous and finding my feet as an interviewer (yup, still am) so when Nina explicitly said she didn't like being asked the question, 'So... how do you write your music?' - creasing my brow into a 'thoughtful and insightful' expression I went right ahead and asked just that. 

It's a lazy question and I am amazed she didn't freak out and yell, 'I just told you that's a ridiculous question and I hate being asked it you total numpty!'. She answered patiently and quietly about how she doesn't really think too much about it, the songs just come. Luckily, I've seen Nina and Kennan over the years since for Vietnamese food in Dalston and to hang out at Lou's place and she hasn't written me off, to my surprise and utter relief.

Nina is the artist's artist. Ask any respectable singer songwriter about her and they will tell you that without doubt the New York-based musician is one of the greatest songwriters of a generation. 

Nina should be one of the most talked about and over-played artists, however I am still appalled at the amount of people who have never heard of her. She attracts some fanatical fans alright, who'll follow her around Europe to every tiny gig in every tiny bar talking to her intensely after each one - but when will she be in London selling out the Shepherd's Bush Empire, or headlining the Park Stage at Glastonbury...? 

Pixies/Nirvana producer and general big-man-on-campus Steve Albini has produced the major chunk of Nina's output and has raved about her in interviews. So why hasn't the mainstream music press bitten? Even the good people at Volvo saw the light, using the whimsical 'Our Day Trip' in one of their ads. 

Nina's last album You Follow Me was recorded with Dirty Three drummer (and regular Nina band member) Jim White and was a staple on The Other Woman's playlists in 2007.

I can't wait for her imminent return in 2010 with a new album on Fat Cat Records.