We love this girl. Nikki Rous has been playing at Farmer Phil’s Festival almost as long as Farmer Phil’s been driving his tractor. Her distinctive voice and fresh approach to songwriting has been charming crowds across the Midlands for years and we’re so happy to have her back in Ratlinghope this weekend. Here’s what happened when we stopped by for a cup of tea and a natter…
FPF: You’re something of a mainstay at Farmer Phil’s Festival aren’t you? How many years is this now, and what keeps you coming back to play for us?
NR: I believe that this is the 9th year that I have had the pleasure of performing at Farmer Phil’s Fest. I feel very lucky to have been asked to come back each year. It seems that the festival has now become a “home from home” for me and my Son. I have made many friends over the years at Farmer Phil’s and the festival’s audiences have always been very welcoming and supportive of my music.
FPF: Clearly a great many of the regular visitors to Near Gatten Farm will be familiar with your music, but for those who don’t, how would you describe your sound?
NR: This is a question that I always find hard to answer. I feel that my voice and style is constantly evolving. I still play many of my old original songs at gigs but they have grown into themselves and always seem a work in progress. My voice has been likened to a few different singers across the board such as Joan Biaz, Joni Mitchell, Skin (Skunk anansie) and Alanis Morissette.
The music that I personally connect to spans across different genres and eras and I think that this is reflected in my music. I absorbed music as a child and it has been a big part of my life ever since. My interest in music grew as a teenager as I sat in my room listening through the wall to my brother listening to his classic rock collection. At the age of 16 I was playing on the music scene in Tamworth where I grew up. I would spend my spare time hanging out with older musicians and enjoying the musical record collection journey they would take me on. This is when I first discovered Artists such as Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Nothing quite beats that feeling when you discover new music that really “gets ya”.
FPF: Your YouTube channel showcases both original and cover material in equal measure – are you planning to debut any new material with us this year?
NR: I have reworked some old original songs which is always fun to do but also I intend to pop some covers in there too. I really love taking a cover song and changing the vibe and feel of it. Sometimes when you strip down a song to the core, just melody and chords, you find that the most cheesiest pop song you have heard is actually the saddest or perhaps even the most cynical song deep down. I find it’s really interesting to see how songs can migrate across genres. I also love seeing people’s faces when the penny drops that I am singing a Brittney Spears or an Eminem song.
FPF: One of our favourites of yours is your haunting cover of Damien Rice’s ‘Cannonball’. Is it fair to say he’s a big influence on you creatively? Who else inspires you?
NR: I do love that album. I remember when “O” first came out I was playing it on loop. It had such an emotive feel to it and Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan’s vocals really touch a part of you. You felt the emotion and vulnerability in every song. A while after I fell in love with that album I watched a film called “Once” The film is mainly made up of songs written and performed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. The albums both share that raw, acoustic emotion and if you haven’t yet seen the film, check it out.
I have to say that I don’t really listen to that much current mainsream music but the artists that appeal to me are more folky/acoustic now a days. I am currently listening to artists such as Ben Howard, Lucy Rose, Beck, Fink and Radiohead.
FPF: We know you’ve been partial to the odd collaboration over the years – so if you could collaborate with anyone else on this year’s bill at Farmer Phil’s Festival, who would it be and why?
NR: I so love to collaborate. It really is a magical feeling when you gel with someone else and the music you’re playing comes almost like a living organism. It’s fun when a song that I have written years ago is perhaps feeling a little dusty but when played with someone else, it becomes all new, shiny and exciting to play again.
I am actually performing alongside another guitarist this year at Farmer Phil’s Festival. It will be our debut performance and I am really looking forward to sharing the experience with another musician. Chris really has a way of cradling my music and lifting it up to a new level. His playing adds new depths and he really feels my intended emotions behind the songs. It does get quite lonely gigging four times a week all on my own so it is very exciting having some musical company. I’m really looking forward to the new found energy my songs have now and hope that people connect to them too. I really do love the connection that is formed with festival audiences… it is unlike any other gig.
FPF: Your performances are as enchanting in a field full of revelers as they are in an intimate venue – which do you prefer, and what is it about you as an artist that makes you as unmissable in either setting?
NR: Another tricky question. Every gig is unique. One night i can be performing in a small pub with a grown men mosh pit in front of me jumping up and down then the next I may be playing a quite theater gig with an attentive audience clapping politely. I like each and every situation. Sometimes it is great to rock out and other times I love to get my folk on. Festivals are a different thing entirely. I love festivals, not only for the amazing festival goers you meet and the welcoming audiences but because I get to go to the festival like everyone else. There’s nothing better than laying in a field, drinking cider with friends, discovering new music and soaking in the festival atmosphere.
FPF: You’re constantly gigging aren’t you? What’s next for you after Farmer Phil’s Festival?
NR: Yes, I gig three or four times a week at the moment. I feel very blessed to be able to do something I love so much as a living. My plans for the rest of the year are to be recording a new album. I have never really put the energy into creating an album that I am happy with. I tend to use live acoustic tracks on my albums and all my energies have been directed at performing live. I am really looking forward to getting other musicians in the studio and reworking some songs and perhaps incorporating some of the non acoustic genres that I am currently listening to. I am really feeling Portishead/Massive attack at the moment so who knows what the recording will sound like. I am also planning a tour for next summer. I am hoping to spend the entire summer playing and touring round festivals in a van. What a hard life eh? I am very lucky.
FPF: Finally, in a lot of your promo shots you’re rocking some pretty choice headgear, and we read somewhere that you once supported Jamiroquai – you must’ve been tempted to swipe one of Jay Kay’s hats when his back was turned?
NR: I had the pleasure of opening for Jay Kay at the Arena Forum in Birmingham. I had the task of warming up the audience as they came in. It was the first large gig that I took my son to. He loved every second and his moves were almost as impressive as Jay Kay’s. Unfortunately, I did not get close enough to pinch one of his hats – I think security may have spotted that I had my eye on them!
You can catch Nikki Rous on the Russshuntel Stage at 18:00 on Friday 12 August. Here’s her cover of Kodaline’s ‘All I Want’…