Nick Hemming: 'What you put in is what you get out, and that definitely extends your life as an artist'
- Brian Donaldson
- 11 October 2018
Leisure Society leader talks songwriting, personal traumas and future plans
While jazz musicians, comedians and wine seem to get better with age, there's a theory that songwriting is a game that can only be played at the highest level for a finite period. Nick Hemming, the leader of indie-folksters The Leisure Society certainly subscribes to that notion. 'It's something I've worried about ever since I started writing songs,' he notes. 'On Alone Aboard the Ark there's a song called "Another Sunday Psalm" which is about that very thing of waiting for this divine inspiration to come and hit you which I think is a dangerous thing to do; if you're sitting around waiting for it then it's probably not going to come. There are periods when I don't write for ages and I think "will I ever write another song?", but luckily it does come back. It's good to keep yourself grounded and keep listening to other people's music and read lots: what you put in is what you get out, and that definitely extends your life as an artist.'
While the creative egg-timer slowly does its thing, Hemming and his band are set for a comeback with an imminent album and some gigs across the UK featuring songs both old and new. They'll be appearing in Paisley at The Spree (Fri 12–Sat 20 Oct), a music festival which also hosts the likes of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert, Gang of Four, and The Orb. The new Leisure Society numbers will be on their first CD since 2015's The Fine Art of Hanging On, with the gap explained by a few personal traumas which have affected Hemming, including the death of a friend, a relationship break-up and being homeless for eight months.
Hemming has a method of dealing with the hardships that life can throw at a person. 'I definitely write more when I'm melancholy. When I'm content and happy in life I haven't got much that I want to get out in lyrics, and it's very rare that I'll write a happy song. I write happy melodies a lot but usually the lyrics come out of a sad place.'
When Hemming does find himself at a low ebb, he can consider the starry names who have sung his songwriting praises. Guy Garvey, Brian Eno and Ray Davies are among his supporters while the judges for the Ivor Novello Award have looked kindly upon his work with two songs ('The Last of the Melting Snow' and 'Save it for Someone Who Cares') nominated for the prize.
'When I was a boy I was really into The Kinks, so sitting in Ray Davies' studio with him singing next to me was quite a surreal experience,' recalls Hemming. 'With Brian Eno, that was totally unexpected because you associate him with experimental music; so to be approached by him was incredible and he was a lovely guy as well. That kind of thing gives you heart and tells you that you're doing something right.'
Leisure Society / Duke Special, Spiegeltent, Paisley, Wed 17 Oct, 7.30pm. Tickets available now.