Stevie Nimmo, winner of the 2016 Blues Awards Album of the Year with Sky Won’t Fall, has man flu. Yet despite this, the Glaswegian is every bit as upbeat and amiable as ever. Fresh from playing at Bospop in Holland, along with the likes of Black Star Riders, Beth Hart and The Pretenders, Stevie may sound a little more gravelly than usual but there’s no getting away from the fact he’s bang on form.
“I feel a lot better than I did, thanks, but it seems to be taking forever to get rid of,” he said, the Scottish burr coming across a little more pronounced than usual. “I had to get on with the gig on Saturday because when you’re doing this you really can’t phone in sick unless it’s something really serious. It was a great gig though. The place is just massive – 20,000 odd seats – but we were on early, opening the festival, and we played in front of around a thousand or two thousand so it looked pretty empty.”
“Otherwise though it was excellent. The event is an absolute cracker and Black Star Riders were just amazing. Anastasia was there too and The Pretenders and Madness. There was something for everybody, really eclectic, and I got to catch up with some old friends which is always nice.”
Although sympathising with Stevie’s current lurgy may sound trivial, there is a serious element to the line of questioning given his history with far more serious ailments. Following a diagnosis of cancer in the thyroid in 2009 – which lies uncomfortably close to the voice box, it should be pointed out – subsequent surgery resulted in the loss of his voice for over 2 months.
Thankfully he is now fighting fit and cancer free. “I’m fine, touch wood, and if you’re going to get it then it’s best to get one like I did which is pretty easily treated. I had a five year clearance check which ends next year so I’ll have to go back then, but apart from that I can’t complain. All things considered I was pretty lucky.”
As talent demands, Stevie’s diary is looking pretty full. In the past twelve months he has played far and wide, including an extensive tour with Robin Trower. As great as the main event of the evening was, the vibe around the gigs seemed to be of regret that the elder Nimmo brother wasn’t given a longer set than his standard thirty minute support slot.
“I heard that and, although it is really good to hear on the one hand, I was kind of uncomfortable with it because it was happening from day one of the tour. We were just the support act and our job was to warm people up in time for Robin to come and completely blow audiences away, which is what he did.”
“The whole tour was a great experience and I’d watch Robin every night, trying to learn new things from him. I’d do my show, try selling some merchandise afterwards then, out of complete respect for him, I’d close everything down the moment he came on stage. To be the age that he is and to still be giving it what he gives it night after night is something to be truly admired and to take on board.”
On Saturday July 15, Stevie is taking part in the Warrington Summertime Festival at Parr Hall. Also on the bill are Xander & The Peace Pirates, Bad Touch and Joanne Shaw Taylor: a quadruple whammy for all lovers of solid blues-rock.
“I’m really looking forward to that, I have to admit. Bad Touch I’ve heard and really like but we’ve never met so that’ll be good. Joanne I’ve known for a very long time so I’m looking forward to catching up with her again and Xander & The Peace Pirates were in Holland over the weekend. They’re really good live and a nice bunch of fellas as well.”
You would think playing in such august company would add pressure and perhaps fire up some extra edge. Not so apparently, well not from Stevie Nimmo’s point of view anyway.
“I was discussing this with Alan (Stevie’s brother and lead singer / guitarist of King King) the other day. He’s always looking for support bands and there are a lot of headliners who genuinely want a mediocre support band because it makes the main band look better. I can honestly say, though, that neither myself nor Alan have ever been like that. Not as The Nimmo Brothers Band, not as The Stevie Nimmo Trio or as King King.”
“As a punter, I want to know that I’m getting good quality music throughout so, for me, the better the other bands on the bill are, the better the whole night is. There’s absolutely no competition as far as I’m concerned and if the other bands are fantastic, great. All I can do is what I do and give it my best shot every time I’m on stage. Having these guys on before or after me won’t affect my performance whatsoever, but judging by their quality it should be an absolutely tremendous night.”
Born and raised in Glasgow, there was always music around as the Nimmo brothers grew up. Influences were varied, but always guitar based. “You asking who inspired me most is a good question today of all days because, at Bospop, I met probably my original guitar hero: Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy. He was one of the first guys I ever listened to that made me think: ‘Oh man, I want to do what you do for the rest of my life.’ Watching Live & Dangerous on video was hugely influential on me. From that came Free and Bad Company, which then led to the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Freddie King, which led to me going on and developing my own playing style.”
“It was surreal in a lot of ways, meeting Scott. He actually came up to me to start chatting and I was all star struck! One of the first things he said, though, was that I must’ve listened to Gary Moore a lot. It was interesting that he’d picked that influence up and I admitted that I had, but only after listening to him first.”
“There was also a moment which was right out of Spinal Tap. I was watching him on stage from the side, and he was just doing a guitar switch before closing his set with Whisky in the Jar when he nodded over at me as if to say: ‘Come on then, you play it!’I thought: ‘Man, you have no idea and if you keep asking me, I’ll be on that stage in about five seconds flat!’ It didn’t happen this time, but maybe one day.”
Stevie’s next appearance on stage will be in Edinburgh on July 29th before revisiting The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival in Mold on August 6th. A rapidly expanding event, this year sees Jo Harman headlining the same day as Stevie is performing, as is Connie Lush.
“We played the very first festival they had there and it was one of those situations where we couldn’t really take it all in because we had to fly off straight after. We’d asked to go on as early as we could because we were flying to Croatia, I think it was, from Standstead.”
“What I do remember about it though was how nice it all was and that the people in the audience were all really chilled out. The organisers were great too, I remember. It was a lovely, warm sunny day too which always helps. This time it’ll be different and I’m looking forward to being able to soak up the atmosphere a bit more.”
“Again, I’ll be able to catch up with some old friends in Connie Lush and her husband, Terry, who I have known for a very, very long time and whose work is phenomenal. I’m a huge fan of Jo’s too. I actually tried to get her to do some vocals on Sky Won’t Fall but we just couldn’t time it, so maybe next time. I know she divides opinion in the blues genre, but in my opinion she is a fantastic singer who makes some great tunes and who always has a great band backing her. What more can you ask for?”
So speaking of next time, how’s the new album coming along? “We have a very, very strong pencil in for October to go into the studio because it is probably the most logical time for everybody. I like to do an album really quickly. I also like to be physically ready so it’s usually in the middle of a tour or just after a tour. Once it’s all done and ready, we’ll be looking at a spring 2018 release, around February or March I should think.”
Sky Won’t Fall, for those who haven’t heard it, is a quite sensational album and rightly received accolades across the blues world. “I was delighted with the way it was received, but again I didn’t really feel under any pressure. I was pretty much in the mindset of write it, put it out and if people like it, fantastic, and if they don’t then that’s alright as well. At the end of the day, it was an album that said this is me and this is where I’m at right now. I’m really not one for forcing something upon someone.”
Ah you see. It really is simple. Just write it, record it and put it out there … right?
“Well if you ask Alan he’ll say that I find it easy to write songs; that I can write them about whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s not quite that simple. I have to turn my mind to it and have to be in the right frame of mind. I suppose I’m quite lucky in that, when I can do that, I manage to churn them out when I need to. The problem is that if I have too long, then I won’t finish stuff. I really do need a deadline. Once I have that, I can turn songs around quite quickly. If it doesn’t get done, start to finish, very, very quickly, though, it probably isn’t good enough in the first place and will get binned.”
While talking recording, it’d be pretty remiss not to ask about the prospects of Stevie and Alan reuniting in the studio as The Nimmo Brothers Band. “Album wise, to be honest, I don’t think so although we never say never. We’ve certainly no plans for that. We remain adamant though that we will tour together again; even if it’s just one tour, just to go out and play some tunes.”
“When it happens we might record it and produce a live DVD, which we’ve never done as The Nimmo Brothers. It’d be a nice way to mark another period. As with most things it’s finding the time. King King have an album out this year and will be touring it for eighteen months. I’m recording this year and releasing an album in spring, so I’ll be touring that another eighteen months. It will happen though – and rest assured, when we decided to do it everybody will know – but we won’t just do a few dates here and there. If we’re going to do it, we want to do it right.”
The Stevie Nimmo Trio will be at The Summertime Festival, Parr Hall Warrington on Saturday July 15. For Tickets and Information: http://www.pyramidparrhall.com/whats-on/event/summertime-festival-joanne-shaw-taylor
Stevie and his band will also be on the Clem Curtis Stage at The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival on Sunday August 6th. For Information and Tickets: http://www.nwbluesandsoul.co.uk