Guitarist Nigel Price, one of the most pro-active and creative musicians it is our pleasure to know … unsurprisingly… has used the time during lockdown when he couldn’t tour to expand his online activity. He has mainly been using Patreon. He talks here about developing the activity, about a new album, and about maybe getting back to touring. Interview on email by Sebastian. And he shares some of the advice of varying quality that he has received along the way, notably:
- “Your first 50 films will suck”
- “Set sail first. Fix the boat on the journey.”
- “Don’t bother. This thing will be over in six weeks.”
LondonJazz News: Your online offering is mainly about tuition, right?
Nigel Price: Tuition is only one of the things on offer but yes, it has been the biggest focus. Of course, it became apparent pretty soon after lockdown began that the online teaching market was to become utterly saturated but I think we all have something different to offer in our own unique ways. I’m not teaching endless scales and modes etc. You can find that stuff anywhere on the internet for free. My lessons are more about converting that stuff into actual music.
I’ve also spent a lot of time producing ‘duo overdub’ videos which I have found a good way of filling the void left by the lack of live work. Really putting your all in into making a stand-alone ‘piece’ made in single takes is more pressure than you might think and definitely keeps your game up.
A lot of jazz musicians have turned to the Patreon thing over lockdown and it’s worth having a nose to see if one of your favourite players is offering this kind of service. There’s a lot to learn from them.
Trumpeter Freddie Gavita for instance has a great site and of course guitarists Martin Taylor and Giorgio Serci too.
LJN: And there is other stuff too.. CDs for example??
NP: There is still a market for CDs but most of musicians’ sales are made out on the gigs so we’ve taken a real hit. Myself, Craig Milverton and Sandy Suchodolski released our second album ‘Nostalgia’ last year (REVIEWED HERE ) and the response was really good which was heartwarming but you ain’t ever going to be able to pay the rent by selling jazz CDs alone!
LJN: How have students found out about you?
NP: I have quite a large involvement with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I like to have a laugh on social media and I think I’d have lost my mind without all the contact with my friends and people that I regularly interact with there. Perhaps I’m a bit of a slave to it all but in this year of isolation it’s been a welcome lifeline.
I use the same platforms for letting people know about what I’m offering so I try not to bang on about it too much just in case it annoys anybody. I am comfortable with my online presence though and I would like to think that the way I interact with others is (hopefully) pretty welcoming and disarming. In that way I think it’s easier to attract prospective students. Or maybe not. Who knows?
LJN: Does being on Patreon help this?
NP: Patreon don’t really help with visibility and you’re very much on your own when it comes to advertising your wares. It’s essentially just a space that hosts your business. It has been good though and it was an easy way to start out in the world of online tuition but I’d rather arrange my content in a more unique way so ultimately I think I’ll end up moving operations to my own website in time. That way I get to avoid the commission too so I can pass on the savings to my customers. Do I call them customers? That seems a bit impersonal…
LJN: And your guitar maker Fibonacci has helped too?
NP: Graham Esson at Fibonacci guitars is a great guy. He’s really helpful and encouraging. When I’m trying to push something online he’s invariably the first to share, repost and help kick the can down the road.
Of course, it makes a lot of sense too. The better his artists are doing the more his guitars end up in the limelight and therefore the more they enter the public consciousness. They are amazing guitars and he deserves every success. LINK
LJN: What students are you aiming at…would you take on a complete beginner?
NP: I don’t teach beginners. There are hundreds and thousands of other teachers who have that covered.
I’ll be honest – pre Covid, I only used to teach people who dared to ask me three times. That way I know they want what I have to offer, not just generic lessons. As I said – you can find those kind of lessons anywhere, but if a prospective student wants to pick up advice and tips from an experienced old road dog who’s toured the UK countless times, improvises from the heart, has a couple of awards in the trophy cabinet and plays stuff that is well and truly road tested then, well, I guess that’s kind of my USP. I’m not all that old actually, although I am in the next group in line for a vaccine…
LJN: Has the activity / revenue grown steadily or have there been sudden jumps?
NP: I think you get out what you put in.
When we managed to do some touring (unbelievably) in the winter of 2020 I was forced to neglect Patreon a bit and the numbers dropped off but when I returned I had fresh gig footage and a renewed vigour so I’ve been steadily nurturing it back to full health!
LJN: Are there things you know now about being online that you wished you’d known earlier ? Or other things you’ve learned?
NP: I wish I’d spoken to a videographer a lot earlier in the process so I could have started with things looking a bit more ‘pro’. I heard a quote other day – “Your first 50 films will suck”. That’s hard to argue with.
I’ve made about 80 films in total now and I reckon I’m pretty good at getting the best out of my modest set up.
I tell you what though, although I plan to remake the first 10 lessons to up the audio/visual quality there is something I really, really like about them. I look pretty exhausted on the first few videos and it makes me realise the toll that over 300 gigs a year takes on your body. There then follows a journey in which the films not only get better but I think I slowly begin to look healthier as my body repairs through actually getting enough sleep for the first time in decades, along with a bit more exercise. If watched in chronological order you can see my hair and beard slowly growing too…
LJN: I’m sure people give you LOADS of advice – what was the best?
NP: The best? I’m paraphrasing but it was something like “Set sail first. Fix the boat on the journey.”
If you try to wait until you’re 100% happy with every single thing it’ll never happen. I’m ten months in now and I’m still fixing the boat but it’s floating!
LJN: And the worst?
NP: “Don’t bother. This thing will be over in six weeks.”
LJN: You will want to get back touring… won’t you?
NP: We had 46 tour dates cancelled last year.
Now there’s a ‘road map’ and a plan to open in June it’s time to see who’s up for reinstating some dates and getting our beloved jazz scene back on its feet. I have a horrible feeling there will be some venues that will have gone for ever but we have to do everything we can to keep things going. I kind of feel that, as jazz musicians, we have a responsibility to keep the touring routes open for future generations by putting ourselves forward for it. It’s exhausting but it’s real. We’d all like to be more successful online but I don’t think there’s any substitute for putting in the miles and actually interacting with real human beings in their home towns.
Nobody in the future will be able to say that we weren’t proactive in nourishing and championing the live scene. That means a lot to me.
LJN: And you have an album coming out too?
NP: We managed to get into the Fish Factory in Willesden last September and record the next album – ‘Wes Reimagined’ which is due for release on Ubuntu on 4 June.
I’m not really into the idea of ‘tribute bands’ as to me it seems pointless to simply try to reproduce something that’s gone before. I had a lot of time to think whilst walking the dog on Epsom Common for some 800 miles over that first lockdown and I kept coming back to the idea of playing Wes’s compositions in various different styles. People know me as a Wes enthusiast and I’m not ashamed of that. I could never be a copyist and I don’t even play with my thumb (!) but
I just felt like it was a project that would work for me, the band, the audience and promoters.
I picked my favourite Wes tunes and thought long and hard about how each one could be adapted to suit a different feel.
There’s not enough space here to really go into too much detail but for example ‘Jingles’ became a samba, ‘Twisted Blues’ a boogaloo and ‘Cariba!’ A shuffling funk groove in the style of the JB’s ‘Doin’ it to death’ crossed with the Jimi Hendrix track ‘Rainy day, dream away’!
It’s a very honest album in the sense that I have chosen to embrace my early funk and soul influences. I’ve also made sure that simplicity and good feels take preference over complexity. I feel relaxed about not having to prove anything this time around. That’s actually not as easy as it sounds as it’s often the case that a musician wants to showcase everything in their bag in the best possible light on a release. I’m happy enough with the way I played though and these days I’ve learned to just accept that it would have been different on a different day. Not necessarily better. Just different.
LJN: Who is with you on the album?
NP: I’ve got the regular trio – the incredible Ross Stanley on Hammond Organ and whizz kid Joel Barford on the drums. We’re joined by my regular sidekick Vasilis Xenopoulous on tenor saxophone who ran his own ‘Wes band’ when he was studying at Berklee. We’ve also got Tony Kofi on alto saxophone for three tracks. Tony and I kept bumping into each other at festivals etc and always had a right old laugh.
We finally played together on a gig with Jo Harrop and it immediately became clear that we had loads in common stylistically, not only because Tony is a massive Cannonball Adderley fan. It was of course Cannonball who ‘discovered’ Wes so this felt like the perfect connection at the perfect time and I couldn’t be happier with his amazing contribution.
We also have the legendary Snowboy on percussion. I met him when I was with JTQ and we stayed in touch. He knows all there is to know about percussion and I was thrilled when he agreed to play on the record.
I wanted to acknowledge the later part of Wes’s career and although it could be considered a real extravagance, I asked the great arranger and trombonist Callum Au to write string quartet arrangements for three of the tunes. These were expertly played by the Phonograph Effect strings comprised of leader Kay Stephen on first violin, Anna Brigham on second violin, Elitsa Bogdanova on viola and Chris Terepin on cello.
I was totally knocked out by both the incredible writing and the sublime playing. It was an amazing and really quite moving experience. The record has most definitely been elevated to another level as a result.
It was counter-intuitive to spend so much money on an album when there’s not much of it around but, well, I figured that there wouldn’t be many larger productions being released in 2021 (for obvious reasons) and took out a Sunak ‘bounce back loan’ to make it happen. This could either prove to be genius or the the most stupid thing I’ve ever done…