You may not know his name off the top of your head, but Nick JD Hodgson has likely been soundtracking your nights out for the past 15 years. The drummer, backing vocalist and songwriter for Kaiser Chiefs, Nick’s penned all the songs you’ve inevitably screamed into your mate’s face at an indie night.
Leaving the band in December 2012, he went on to writing for loads of your other faves too. “The first thing I ever did when I left the band was go on a writing camp,” he tells me over a pint. “I’d never been on a writing camp before, but my publisher said that I should go on this because it’s a pretty big deal, this particular one in this castle in France. And it was great! I learned a lot about the world of writing and co-writing, learning to write pop songs.”
This resulted in Nick working with artists from The Vamps to Dua Lipa to Mark Ronson. “It was a reaction I think,” he explains of his leap into the pop world. “I do one thing, and then I try and do the opposite, like Olly Murs and stuff. And then gradually I got fed up with it and I just wanted to do my own music…”
Dropping his fantastic debut solo album Tell Your Friends today – coincidentally the title is exactly what you should do – the record is a glimpse into the interior of Nick’s mind, and with said pub trip we found out all you need to know about the seasoned songwriter’s latest adventure.
So what was the catalyst for you releasing your own music?
I’ve got a flat in Leeds and I had a cold, and I was feeling miserable. I was waiting for an email about a song I’d written, which I thought was brilliant, and clearly nobody else did. I was waiting for that email and then I thought, when I was a kid, when I was 18, I didn’t used to wait for emails, I just did my own thing. And then I started playing this song on the guitar, and that was the moment. I have this thing where I can just switch from one to the other. This is what I did with Kaiser Chiefs. Same with songwriting. It’s more to do with simplicity and making your life as simple as possible, I couldn’t have two things going on parallel, at the same time, it wouldn’t make me happy.
Well, Tell Your Friends is great. What was the inspiration behind it?
I think it’s all quite personal. One thing we never did with the Kaiser Chiefs was something romantic. I think “Ruby” is possibly the closest to romance, but it’s still not romance. Anyway, me and my wife have been together for 16 years, married since 2013 and I have written two songs about her and that’s not enough! Because someone else was always singing them so I was like why would I write a song about my wife that Ricky’s going to sing? Like “You Can Have It All” was half about my girlfriend, half about his!
You also play a lot of the instruments yourself. What’s behind that?
For the first time in my life, I wanted to do something where I didn’t have to ask anyone else’s opinion and that felt really good, because it was a long time coming. I’ve been in bands since I was 11, so even then you’re like “what do you think of this?”
“Me and my wife have been together for 16 years, married since 2013 and I have written two songs about her and that’s not enough!”
Do you not now have those conversations with yourself in the mirror?
I think what it is is, even when you play someone you really like, you get a good feeling inside of you. That’s why it’s annoying when you ask somebody else, when you’ve got this really good feeling inside of you, you just think even the bassline or something is good. Then you ask somebody else you’re working with, and they go “nah”, and you go “that doesn’t sound right… surely you love it, like me?” So, anyway who knows! I think there’s definitely benefits of working with those people because you get one idea, and then it expands to hopefully a better idea. But I just thought for once in my life, I’m gonna do it all myself.
Is there a particular song that you’re really looking forward to people finally hearing?
The one that came out on Thursday actually, called “Don’t Forget To Go To Sleep” I think is my current favourite. I’m looking forward to people hearing that. But there’s quite a few, I like them all. I’m not sure about what people are gonna say. I need to expand the pool of people to see if anyone else likes it…
Just put a poll out on Twitter like “hey guys, what d’you think?”
“Is this shit?” [laughs] The thing is, when I was writing it and singing it and doing the recording, I just thought I felt brilliant, I feel great, and you cant deny when it feels good.
As this is like an introduction to having a solo album, is there something you want people to take away from it when they hear it?
Yeah I want them to go “Wow, he really is as good as he thinks he is.” [laughs]