He self published fiction, he self published poetry and now he’s self published music. Nathan Parker tells Blackpool Social Club how and why he made his debut EP.
I’ve always loved music. Since I can remember, the air waves around me have been filled with different genres – always something for any mood and any weather. From my early childhood and Northern Soul bellowing through the house from it’s epicentre in the kitchen. To picking up an obsession with indie music, inspired by my older siblings, with the Stone Roses, Cast, James and the Charlatans forming my earliest grasp on a CD or cassette.
Teenage angst was often exorcised listening to Eminem, Tupac or Ja Rule. I discovered house music of all kinds as I ventured into the world of nightclubs and realised just how mind-blowing electronic music could be.
Sneaking into pubs and watching live Blackpool bands in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, such as the Mutha Funkas, Helicopter and Whitegate Drive, meant that I quickly became hooked on live music too. I’d comfortably describe myself as a huge music fan.
I could never play an instrument though.
I was a frustrated musician, with no toy to play with. Until I realised that my instrument was my pen. My words. My lyrics.
I discovered poetry during lockdown. My only prior engagement with poetry in its truest form had been in school and that wasn’t exactly an experience to remember. Although, granted, poetry didn’t quite fall out of the sky. Having recently written two young adult fiction novels, I was much more aware of my literary capabilities and that poetry could potentially be an outlet for me to express myself. And what an outlet it turned out to be.
My poetry has been described as being quite lyrical and I guess that’s the way I would naturally lean as somebody who had spent any minute I could with headphones on, the radio playing or, in more recent years, DJ Alexa. Once I developed my craft and ventured into the world of live spoken word across the north – meeting likeminded creatives who, like me, were carrying around the demon known as imposter syndrome – it was only a matter of time before I was lured towards a music project.
There were some incredible music acts that had set the mould by creating music using spoken word – just look at the Streets, Sleaford Mods and, more recently, my great poetry pal, Antony Szmierek, who is absolutely blowing up BBC Radio 6 at the moment. I’d self-published fiction and I’d self-published poetry. Now I wanted a taste of self-publishing music too.
I’d toyed with the idea for a while, spoken to a few friends, even had some people mix up songs using my poetry, such as local DJ, Lee Walls, who blended one of my voice notes into a house track and the result popped. I’d also featured on two songs from Blackpool indie rockers, Alright – one quite substantial collaboration in Rat Race (Parker Rework), the other a subtle and beautiful dedication to the late father of lead singer Joe Darnell in Life of Nelly.
It was doable, it was accessible, I just needed to take the plunge.
One of my greatest influencers with regards to music, was my older brother, Solly. Unfortunately, Solly passed away unexpectedly in March this year. My words dried up and I couldn’t create anything for weeks. I found out he was a fan of my poetry from his former boss, who informed me he’d play my poems at work when it was quiet. I didn’t know this and I couldn’t help but feel a combination of pride and devastation.
One morning, I woke up and it was almost like a switch had been flicked. I sent a message to Joe Platt, local musician, producer and lead guitarist for Alright. I asked him if he’d consider working on a project with me. I didn’t even know what I wanted the sound to be yet, I just didn’t want to waste any more time. In a heartbeat Joe responded with infectious positivity, with his infamous cool and calm vibe.
The process began with Joe sending over some tracks he’d worked on over recent years but hadn’t done anything with. He also assured me that if there weren’t any I liked, he’d create some fresh ones, removing the pressure to pick something there and then immediately. In fact, I liked three songs, out of the eight he sent. Not wanting to seem overly keen or rash, I sat on them for a few days and listened some more – I kept coming back to the same three tunes. I had one poem already written, Brilliant Mess, so I tested out how it sounded and I thought it had potential.
Joe invited me to his home-based studio to have a bit of a jam with these songs, so I made sure I wrote another track – Valley of Self-Doubt– prior to going, just in case, before skipping along to the unknown.
Three and a half hours later we had created three songs. They were raw, they were unfinished, but they were there.
It was a fascinating afternoon where I learned an incredible amount about music and myself. I remember Joe saying: “Do you just want to jump on the mic and see what happens?” Ten minutes later, the verses for Brilliant Mess were recorded. It was mind-blowing to me that we were doing what we were doing.
In the midst of our creative streak, I sent a message to local singer Daisy Atkinson, and basically pleaded with her to feature on one of the songs as a chorus but, thankfully, she didn’t need much persuading. We played around with the tracks, adding in some new sounds, working on different transitions and generally just having fun with it.
Three and a half hours later we had created three songs. They were raw, they were unfinished, but they were there – the embryo of an EP had started to breathe life.
With a bit of back and forth tweaking things (that’s a slight understatement, given that I actually completely rewrote the verses to Something and rerecorded), and getting Daisy’s vocals and melodies recorded, we managed to get the finished tracks locked in for mixing and mastering, which Joe breezed through with apparent ease (whilst I nodded along).
As a complete novice, Joe taught me how to use Ditto (a self-publishing and distribution platform for independent musicians), how to set myself up with Spotify and such – just generally talking me through some of the basics that I was previously unfamiliar with and therefore a little overwhelmed by (I’m often not the most tech-savvy!).
We agreed a release date and uploaded the EP ready for to be unleashed. Once Ditto had approved the tracks regarding sound quality and such, we were ready to rock ‘n’ roll, so to speak.
The experience that tied it all together for me, was heading out one sunny evening down to Blackpool promenade with Daisy and Joe, to meet up with Blackpool photography legend, Claire Griffiths. We called it our little collaboration adventure and had a great time reflecting on the process and on how bloody brilliant the creative scene is in Blackpool, whilst Claire remained trigger happy on the camera. The outcome was beautiful, and we now have a collection of photos to celebrate that moment and to be able to cast our minds back on for years to come. Whether that be as a satisfied old man who once said – fuck it, I’m going for it. Or as an artist selling out arenas looking back at my first step into music (of course I’m kidding and it’s most likely to be the former, but its nice to dream, right?).
The response to the EP going live on streaming platforms has been absolutely lovely. With Blackpool folk being Blackpool folk and stepping out to support one of our own, friends from the poetry scene messaging and sharing, and new people who have found my page after seeing it shared elsewhere. Whilst I’m nowhere near the flippant comparisons to a ‘Blackpool Mike Skinner’, I’m certainly buzzing with the music we have created and I want to thank Joe and Daisy for all of their help, talent and expertise in making it happen.
The Boy Inside the Man is a homage to the thoughts and feelings which spin around my mind daily, with some leading me straight back to feeling like I did as a young kid. The Boy Inside the Man is a celebration of the spoken word with hip-hop, jazz and alternative influences. The Boy Inside the Man is my first step into music, satisfying the passion and intrigue of my younger self.
The Boy Inside the Man is the one project I wish my brother could have seen, as I know he would be so proud of me.
Thank you for all the support, Blackpool.
Big love, Nathan x
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