‘I comforted Ed Sheeran after he played to an empty room!’ Nadine Shah chats live gigs and debut album

By Dan Windham

On the back of her incredible debut album Love Your Dum and Mad, Nadine Shah took time out from her busy schedule to sit down and chat to MM about her musical inspirations, working alongside Ben Hillier and comforting Ed Sheeran.

Already on the periphery of musical stardom with her two EPs, Aching Bones and Dreary Town, Love Your Dum and Mad has left critics and fans alike under no illusion that Shah is a musical force to be reckoned with.

All corners of the music world heaped unrelenting praise and accolade on Shah’s beautifully chilling reverbs and fascinatingly dark and distressed lyrical mastery.

However the singer’s arrival at this emotionally chequered sound is the result of a musical expedition as she recalls her transition from jazz, to gospel, to being a songwriter in her own right.

Growing up in Whitfield under the culturally-diverse guidance of a Pakistani father and a Norwegian mother, Nadine’s powerhouse singing voice and ingenious was constrained by imitating the words of other great vocalists.

“Before I started making my own music three or four years ago, I had been singing for a long time as a jazz soloist but I found it really frustrating singing other people’s songs,” Nadine explained.

“I always loved singing songs that I could belt out, songs from Whitney Houston and Eva Cassidy were personal favourites.

“After that I sang gospel songs, which was very closely related to jazz, but when I was 15 I was introduced to Nina Simone’s work and my style changed again.”

After initially showcasing her abilities as a lyricist to a friend, Shah’s musical career blossomed and began attracting the interest of noted producers, including Ben Hillier (Horrors & Blur).

After lending his expertise to Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins and U2, Ben was eager to utilise his knowledge and skills to accompany Shah’s hauntingly-beautiful voice that makes the album so unique.

Shah continued: “I met Ben as soon as I started out in the industry and, truthfully, he was always top of the list of people I wanted to work with.

“I always find it funny turning up to play gigs and working alongside some of the sound guys. Sometimes they can be a bit rude to the support acts but, as soon as they realise Ben’s involved, it’s a different story all together and their attitude changes,” Shah joked.

After its unveiling on July 22, Love Your Dum and Mad received critical acclaim with enamoured reviewers complimenting her heartbreakingly-dark lyrics of lust, loss and vengeance on all 11 tracks.

While Nadine accredits many of the wonderfully worked sounds to Ben’s intellect, she protects her own lyrics like a doting mother over her young, taking inspiration from her own traumatic past.

“A lot of the album is about my friend Matthew who tragically committed suicide. The whole album has an underlying message about him and the social stigma of suicide even though it’s light-hearted on the surface,” Nadine described.

“In fact, the cover art for the album is a painting that Matthew did. It’s better than having a massive picture of my face plastered on the front of it.”

Tickets for Nadine’s upcoming UK tour, starting on September 24 are, unsurprisingly, being instantaneously snapped up by her growing admirers.

Despite her unfounded concerns about the encompassing scale of the tour, Nadine is particularly excited about bringing her superb sound up North, playing at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester on October 10.

“I’ve never played the Soup Kitchen before but I have performed in Manchester and they’ve all been brilliantly-weird gigs.

“My first gig here was unbelievable! I’d actually brought my parents along to see me and the room was ridiculously packed, people were even sitting in the doorway.

“The surprising thing was it was dead for Ed Sheeran!” Nadine laughed.

“After his set, I put my arm around his shoulder and jokingly told him he was going to be a huge star one day. It looks like my prophecy came true,” Shah added.

Shah’s latest new single Runaway is due out on September 16.

With the album cut boasting more of Nadine’s commanding vocals complimenting ominously threatening rhythms, critics and fans are sure to be left cooing once again.

Despite retaining an air of modesty amidst the rave reviews, the album’s triumph has given the singer a new-found confidence in her capabilities as a songwriter and musician.

Nadine confessed: “I’ve become a lot more confident in my lyrical abilities due to the success and the feedback from the album.

“It’s why I don’t really like playing dreary town any more, it’s the first song I ever wrote and, now I’m a bit older, I’m not completely happy with the lyrics.

“I always cringe when I’m performing it and I feel like I have to explain myself to anybody listening.

Runaway is my favourite song on the album to play live, the vocals are nice and loud and there are some great moments for rocking out.

“It’s always the last song of the set as well so sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through the set just so I can get to play it,” Nadine laughed.

For all her acclaim and plaudits Shah is adamant she’s not one to rest on her laurels as she confirmed that she and Ben were already working on demos for a new album.

Nadine confirmed: “The character of the album won’t change, none of the best artists play into the whole ‘this is my disco album’, and so neither will I.

“It’s more of the same but the technical side will be a bit different, more complex and a better standard of lyrics, but I’m still inspired by morbidity.”

Picture courtesy of Derek Williams via Flickr, with thanks

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