10 Years On - Nigel Place

10 Years On - Nigel Place

As we approach BalconyTVs 10th anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to interview some of the first artists that performed on the show and find out what has happened to them in the time since.

Nigel Place performed on August 16th, 2006. Here is our catchup with him...

Stephen - What, if anything do you remember about the performance?

Nigel - Pauline excitedly exclaiming "Nigel Place in the place to be, that's Balcony TV!!!!!!!!", will always stick in my mind. That was my intro, par for the course with my surname. The performance itself was over in a flash really and took just 2 takes as there was too much traffic noise on the first. But felt like a great moment during a summers day.

Stephen - What was the song about?

Nigel - It's an upbeat pop tune called 'Sad Songs'. As a singer/songwriter I'd be prone to melancholy, both listening to and writing it, and I know I'm not alone there. Also I always recognized the need to try contrast those more down numbers and I just hit on the idea of a pop tune that was about those very ideas. That you can't beat a good old sad song and that if you are down, you're not alone. It celebrates melancholy I guess. It's pop, who doesn't like a good pop tune?

Stephen - How long had you been playing before that point?

Nigel - Probably 20 years from when I first started messing about in bands.

Stephen - What were your ambitions then, compared to what they are now?

Nigel - Right around that time everything was so exciting, I was just going for it. I was in the middle of recording my EP called 'Broadcast to Anyone Who'll Listen' with Len Arran as producer. Len being Skin's writing partner in Skunk Anansie. So I was dead chuffed that someone successful believed in what I was doing. It made me go for it even more. I had also sung the theme tune written by Len to a pilot TV show called 'The Coal Boat Kids' which was written by ex-The Blades drummer Pat Larkin, again all feathers in my cap.

I had also just played the Ruby Sessions, a prestige gig and I shared the bill with someone called Una Healy. She who told me about BalconyTV and to see about doing it and so I did. She went on to become one of The Saturdays. I went on to become...eh....I was just writing song after song and just feeling totally on it, so getting to do this new thing called Balcony TV all just added to the excitement. So in terms of ambitions I was full on trying to progress with music. Emailing anyone with an email address who had anything to do with music and anyone who didn't sometimes.

Now, my ambitions are quite different I guess. I have written and recorded songs over the years and some of the newer unheard stuff is great. It's something deep down you never really give up on.

More immediate ambitions are to get my Esker Celtic U11s soccer team to win their league and cup. We're thru to the quarter finals!

Also I gotta try to get fit again.

Stephen - The internet has completely transformed music in the last 10 years. When we started out, YouTube was just starting and MySpace was the thing. How have you found dealing with the digital revolution?

Nigel - In some ways it's great, you get an idea, you take out your phone, you record, you email it or upload it or whatever. Problem is there's no filter, no quality control, the internet is mostly full of porn I hear but there's equal amounts of brutal music that should never have seen the light of day.

I'm still catching up, and by the time I get there, it'll have moved on. I listen to stuff online but I still like lashing on a CD. A little bit of a luddite I'd say. I like Soundcloud though. It's very simple. You put your songs up and that's it.

Another bad thing about it is, kids have no idea why anyone would buy music, they all listen via phones or iPods, and that sound out of those little speakers drives me demented. I've turned into that parent who says regularly "Turn off that SHITE!", so in some ways some things never change.

Stephen - What do you make of the Irish music scene?

Nigel - It appears to be very active, loads of new acts etc but probably not a very easy place to make a living in. I do think that it could be helped along by some means, legislative or otherwise that ensures more radio play for Irish artists. I know this rears its head every so often but it'd be great to see progress on that and I think you'd have a healthier more successful scene.

At the no money end of the scene there seems to be lots going on, open mics etc. which is important in terms of development but there needs to be something to develop for.

Stephen - If you could give the you of 10 years ago advice, 10 years on, what would it be?

Nigel - Just keep going. I kinda ran out of steam. After the initial excitement and momentum, I felt like I was getting nowhere so after supporting Declan O'Rourke in The Academy and playing Castlepalooza, I just stopped one day which ensured I went nowhere with the music. I put the guitar under the bed and didn't really touch it for 5 years or so. Family life took over and I started getting fit thru running. Great things and nothing I'd change, a wonderful wife, 4 great kids and 4 marathons.

Stephen - What has been the best thing to happen to you in music and life in the last 10 years?

Nigel - I haven't had a glittering career by any means, but getting songs played on national radio is quite good. I played Hard Working Class Heroes, the City Showcase London and I got the chance to take part in the RTE TV show 'The Hit' but really the greatest thing in music for me is having people believe in your art and helping you realize your songs potential. I've already name checked Len Arran but also Dave Murphy gave myself and countless others a stage every week to air our songs and learn some stage craft.

I got to record some songs about 2 years ago with my eldest daughter doing backing vocals, these aren't totally finished yet but the results are great, and it was pretty special to hear them.

Best thing in life in the last 10 years has to be having my 4th child. I can get away with this statement as the other 3 were all born in the previous decade. I don't think you can beat birth for a life event.

Stephen - What is the one song of yours your most proud of that people should check out?

Nigel - There's loads of my songs I'd rate, all of them in fact ;-) but all things considered it has to be 'Sad Songs', it's not my favorite but it's the one that translates best and stands up all on its own. It got me on radio, TV, over to London to play a showcase and I have a brilliant memory of my friends singing it out loud very drunk after the Oktoberfest in Munich. It took years for me to feel at home with this song but I think it's not a bad one to say hey this is Nigel Place, check it out.

Stephen - Who has been your favorite Irish artist of the last 10 years, and your favorite international or mainstream artist?

Nigel - This is very hard but probably Declan O'Rourke or Damo, and mainstream/international again hard to pick one but Ron Sexsmith/Elbow/Jeff Buckley/Cherry Ghost.

Stephen - Final question. What would your words of wisdom be for anyone starting out?

Be as brutal as you like.

Nigel - Just do it! Make mistakes, make noise, make friends, take chances and learn as you go. But when it comes to the music be professional, take it seriously, be on time, be prepared, be rehearsed, be critical of yourself, listen to any doubts you have (if you have them others will), don't let your doubts hold you back just be better so that you don't doubt. Keep it short, No epics unless it is an actual EPIC. Don't be a dick. And oh yeah tune your freaking guitar before you get on stage! Tuning is not an old Chinese song, it's something the audience don't give a flying fuck about unless you're boring the bollix off them with it.

Stephen - Thanks Nigel!


- Stephen O'Regan