Nick Drake Producer Joe Boyd on Singer’s Legacy


From Rolling Stone:

Who are the artists for you that carry on Nick’s style and spirit?
I think the best artists are very individual and very particular, and I think that’s one of the problems with Nick’s legacy, if there is a problem. I get sent tapes just by people out there who have a guitar and want to write songs, and they are very touched by Nick Drake and they make a demo tape, and they send it to Nick Drake’s producer and they say, “What do you think of this? I love Nick Drake, can’t you hear it in my music?” And 99 percent of those tapes that I get – or electronic submissions these days – are breathy vocals, Aparicio guitars and form without essence. There’s nothing in there of the wit or the subtlety of Nick, or the sophistication of his music. What drew me to Nick wasn’t the subject matter, but the tremendous originality and freshness of the musical vision. And it’s always been mysterious. You can hear bits of Bert Jansch or Dylan or whatever in Nick’s music, but not very much. And then when I heard his mother [Molly Drake]’s tape I went, “OK, now we’re talking.” You can hear her very distinctive way she wrote on the piano, and you realize all those complicated tunings that Nick did were in order to try and match that vision of harmony that his mother sang throughout the house.

To me, in a way, the interesting comparison – but interestingly enough the very first major artist to ever cover Nick Drake, and because I know her personally she’s told me how much Nick’s music has meant to her and how strong and powerful an influence it was – is Lucinda Williams. And you’d never say she sounds like Nick – she doesn’t at all. But the elegance of her lyrics, and there are some similarities in that she grew up around poetry. Her father was a poet and professor of literature, and Nick had this very classic, English education, where he knew all the Romantic poets and Shakespeare and John Donne, and had all that drilled into him from an early age. And so these two people who had a real breadth of literary influence – it isn’t just simply to say it’s a lyric of moroseness or depression. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is, to me, one of the great masterpieces of modern pop music, and those lyrics are heartbreaking, but they also step back and laugh at themselves as well. They have those two sides, very much the way Nick had.

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