Seasonal Greetings to all and everyone,
I’ve been home now for two weeks and have had time to unpack my luggage, wash some clothes, pay some bills, answer a backlog of e-mails, and generally catch up on myself a bit. Since yesterday we went out and bought a Christmas tree, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back on my busiest year for ages and say thank you to a few people.
As usual, my live appearances have been mostly in Germany, but I had lovely shows at home in the UK, in Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania and in the USA. My visit there in April started on the east coast in Baltimore and ended up in Memphis, via Chicago and Nashville. Dan Penn, who produced my last studio album Deep Rain, offered to record with me again, so I have that to look forward to in 2014. I don’t write as prolifically as I used to, but I do have about a dozen new songs, some of which I’ve been playing live and some of which are still under wraps.
I had an interesting problem when I realised that every CD I’d ever made (and there are twenty one titles at the last count) was sold out! On one hand it’s nice not to have a garage full of unwanted product, but having something to sell at shows has become a vital part of touring these days. Blue Rose Records supremo Edgar Heckmann stepped into the breach and agreed to release a retrospective compilation box set.
During the summer I had fun choosing favourite moments from my first seven CDs, unearthing some unreleased titles and demos for a ‘Rarities’ CD, finding photos from the archives and writing a short piece to accompany every song. Together with graphic designer Juergen Peschel I compiled a 40-page booklet and was delighted with the resulting package when Life And Soul came out in September. You can find it on the Blue Rose website (www.bluerose-records.de).
I’ve been playing as often as possible with my guitarist friend Uli Kringler and we’ve both been enjoying our â€˜back to the 30s’ concept, with just one microphone onstage, no cables and no monitors. It is an unusual and sometimes challenging set-up for the sound engineers we work with, but I think it gives the shows a magical intimacy and a special intensity. Uli is an incredibly versatile and flexible musician and is endlessly patient of my improvisational tendencies. In September we played two concerts back to back without repeating a single song!
This time last year I was on a strictly secret mission in Dreamland studios in Woodstock, producing and playing on a solo recording with my German friend Wolfgang Niedecken. The project gave me the chance to work once again with my dear friend Steuart Smith, who took time out from his ‘day job’ as guitarist with the Eagles to be with us. Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, who served five years on the road with Bob Dylan, was another key player and the studio team was completed by New York bassist Zev Katz. I last played with all three of them back in the mid-90s. The legendary John Sebastian was also in town and graced us with a cameo appearance on a Dylan cover. It was a personal highlight for me to be playing a harmonica ‘duet’ with the man who first inspired me to pick up the instrument when he led the Lovin Spoonful.
Nine months later in September, the album Zosamme Alt came out through Universal to great reviews and went straight into the German charts at Number 4. I was part of the fine live band that supported the release with a series of TV appearances and live radio concerts and next year Wolfgang will feature the new acoustic arrangements when he tours with an ‘unplugged’ version of his band. I really appreciated Wolfgang’s trust and confidence in me and my ideas and Iâ€™m really proud of the album we made together. I feel it presents him as a singer in quite a different light and I’m delighted it is doing well.
I’m still receiving e-mails from all over the world from grateful Nicky Hopkins fans who have come across my biography of the great man. Iâ€™m considering one or two new book projects for the near future, but meanwhile ‘And On Piano -Nicky Hopkins’is still available in your friendly neighbourhood Amazon store (!).
It’s been great to be so busy in 2013 and I feel I’ve earned some ‘down time’ with the family over the holiday season. I turn sixty next year and there are already lots of shows in the calendar and hopefully some surprises too ‘just how I like it!
Best wishes for a peaceful and Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone,