Live4ever Interview: The Music’s Adam Nutter

Photo of Adam Nutter live with The Music at Temple Newsam, Leeds (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Adam Nutter live with The Music at Temple Newsam, Leeds (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Adam Nutter tells us how the dark days of the pandemic brought an unexpected musical renaissance.

To a dedicated fanbase The Music are An Important Band.

At a time when the New Rock Revival were consuming most of the musical oxygen on both sides of the Atlantic, four lads from Leeds were, in simplistic terms, producing high-octane rock music and sprinkling it with flecks of dance for a unique sound, at various points compared to the Stone Roses, The Verve and Led Zeppelin.

Their tale is a familiar one: four friends who took on the world before being chewed up and spat out by a ruthless music industry.

They supported U2, Oasis and Coldplay in a journey that also included three fine indie-rock albums, with the first having instantly iconic cover artwork.

Last year the band played two reunion shows, the second of which (at Temple Newsam Park in their hometown) saw them perform to their largest-ever crowd.

A heart-warming story for the band and their fans, but it came at a cost. While the rest of the band continued with their lives, the Music’s dissolution hit guitarist and co-songwriter Adam Nutter hard as he turned his back on the industry and went off the radar for a decade.

Now, thanks to the power of the internet and Tim Burgess’ Twitter Listening Parties, Nutter is back on track with a solo album, Badlands On Fire, due for release this Friday.

“The record is a result of things that happened from the Listening Party onwards,” the guitarist explains in an exclusive Live4ever interview.  “It’s like being able to breathe again, being shut away and coming back into a brighter world.”

Nutter spent most of his time between 2011 (The Music’s farewell gigs) and 2020 learning a new trade as a gardener, turning his back on music completely.

Yet, as he explains, Badlands On Fire is about acknowledging the past and moving forward, albeit giving the darkness one final look: “The album title is about finding a way out of place and, before leaving, spitefully pouring petrol everywhere and setting it on fire. Turning around to watch it burn as if to say ‘never again’.”

The title may be vengeful, but the music is not. Although entirely instrumental the record oozes catharsis. Like a butterfly shedding its cocoon, Nutter conveys his emotions expertly across its eight tracks.

“There’s one overriding concept which goes through the whole record,” he says. “It all feels very related, like walking down a path.”

The track listing is the exact order in which the tracks were written and recorded. Each track carries a slightly different emotional texture. There’s quite a lot of anger in it as well. It’s such a cathartic record for me: putting demons to rest.

Indeed, the overriding feel of the album is one of palpable joy. “That’s principally what the whole record is about and what I’m trying to express,” he confirms. “I don’t even think it matters that there’s no vocals, it’s about the whole feeling and vibe of joy and celebration.”

Having seen the mechanics of the music industry first-hand, today Nutter is the epitome of a DIY artist and one of a growing number of artists who are using the Patron funding model to communicate directly with their fanbase.

As well as running his own podcast (Music & More) and regular livestreams in which he showcases his creative process, the Yorkshireman has used the donations firstly to buy equipment for the reunion shows, then latterly to fund this whole album project:

“The beauty of my Patron system is that’s where the direct support comes from and it’s what gives me the ability to do things like this.”

“It’s very much an artistically driven project. Collaborating with (producer) James Chapman was a joy, he’s Mercury-nominated and a fantastic artist. He’s an absolute sonic wizard, but that came because of me sending a tweet saying: ‘I want to make an instrumental, cinematic, ambient epic record. Does anyone want to collaborate?’.”

“Because everything with The Music had happened so organically I mistakenly thought that someone would have to come to me for me to get involved. But my manager said, ‘If you create something you believe in, then do it’.”

Although the temptation to use some of his contacts within the music industry was obvious, instead Nutter collaborated with designer Ross McCully (and his wife Nicola) to create the project from scratch.

With each song having its own unique accompanying image, there are prints of the artwork available to purchase as well as a deluxe book in which McCully and Nutter delve into the process of creating the music and the artwork, alongside various vinyl editions.

Nutter views Badlands On Fire as a collaborative effort despite his name being above the title. “I’ve always suffered with imposter syndrome and so has Ross, so we’ve had to support each other,” he explains.

“I’ve been involved in the release of quite a lot of records but never as hands-on as this. The live album (Temple Newsam) was driven by me and Ross so that was good experience. It’s like an art project and I’m massively proud of that, letting emotions do the talking. It’s the sort of record you can put headphones on and lose yourself in.”

“I’m very proud of it as a piece of work, and I love how different it is. The more I saw people enjoying me noodling on guitar, the more I thought there was scope to make something interesting.”

Having spent so long outside of the music industry to return with an instrumental record is a bold move to say the least.

Yet Nutter is adamant that as an artistic statement it was vital: “Even going back to The Music all of us had the idea of trying to put artistic goals above commercial ones.”

I’m not stupid, I know it’s not going to compete in the same way we did as a band, but that wasn’t the point. If you just make music to sell records…that’s always been something I’ve pushed back against. There’s always been people who wear leather jackets and say, ‘I want to be in band,’ rather than having a creative feeling.

“Our first EP as The Music was You Might As Well Try To Fuck Me. That’s a perfect example of something not getting radio play! But we didn’t care. If things happen naturally, we never stood in the way of that. It’s for everyone else after the fact to deal with that!”

Having entered the industry at two different junctures Nutter seems to prefer this new method which, although much more time-consuming, offers much more control to the artists, and similarly he holds little truck with streaming services:

“We might eventually get it on the streaming platforms, but the trouble with that is that it’s a self-funded project and the problem with streaming for people like me is that you get nothing from doing it.”

‘I don’t know anything about Spotify – I don’t have any subscriptions – but I know that it in no way renumerates artists in my position.”

“I’m funding it all myself, but in my mind this project is about a physical release. It will be available digitally eventually, but we are trying our best to stay in the physical realm, at least for the early stages of the album’s release. That’s why we’ve worked really hard on the artwork and the packaging. There’s been a lot of time and effort gone into that.”

Adam Nutter’s zest and enthusiasm for this project are overwhelming apparent, as anyone who has ever listened to his podcast can testify.

It’s even more remarkable given his previous experience as a functioning band, when the model for entering the industry was completely different to today.

Although clearly still painful, he is refreshingly honest when explaining what happened with The Music, one of the most mysterious groups of the 21st century.

“The band got difficult in the end for all four of us. Our first record and the tour surrounding that was absolutely amazing, the best times of my life.”

“As is always the case with these things, the launch of the band and the excitement was amazing and then it turns into something else when you get to the second album and you’ve got to follow up something that was so successful. We did the whole thing of focusing on America.”

“The age-old thing of trying to ‘break’ America…is a long, hard slog. We dedicated a lot of time to trying to do that. I think Rob also started to experience problems with his voice around the second album, in terms of how he used it on the first album and being able to push through that with youthful endurance. I think things started to take a toll mentally on all of us at that point.”

“You get your entire youth to write your first album then a couple of months to write the second. We pulled it off as Welcome To The North is a brilliant album, but it maybe took us away from our focus which was making music.”

“I think we were all suffering with personal/mental issues at that point, but I think anyone in our position in our age group would have fallen victim to the same things. Mental health problems in the music industry are rife because it’s such an unconventional way of living. It was a difficult process but in no way was it detrimental to the record. The effects of everything else were starting to get to us then.”

“It was difficult,” Nutter continues, “because we had such an upwards trajectory on that first record and then the market started to shrink for the second record as it was at the same time as streaming coming in.”

“That sort of shit killed the music industry, that’s the reason there isn’t the pool of resources to nurture bands. That’s why the whole industry has shrunk.”

“We had to cancel shows as Rob had issues with his voice. It just became difficult for him and then writing the third album became really difficult because we had to look at different ways of trying to do that. Which we did, and again we got a great record out of it but that was tinged with its own nightmarish circumstances.”

Although time has been something of a healer for Nutter, he possesses a refreshing frankness on the machinations of the music industry and the effects it can have on the artists’ well-being:

It’s difficult because optimism can screw you! No matter how many times things don’t meet your expectations, there’s always that childlike innocence of, ‘it’ll work this time’. Then it was a case of touring the album and being in smaller venues, but not selling them out. That’s difficult to take and then, because the first single didn’t do too well, the record company said, ‘we’re not going to finish this campaign, there’s no point’. You take knock after knock and eventually you end up taking too many. We’d spent so long in each other’s pockets as well and it got to a point where things were coming to a natural end.

And with that the dream was over, although Nutter did make some half-hearted attempts to keep recording music to no avail, eventually opting for a different life entirely:

“The thing that was my identity got taken away, and it all became very hard. I was trying to write music to get a record deal I suppose and I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. My entire personality shifted overnight and I became quite cold and hard.”

“I went into myself and didn’t do anything for a long time, but then a lad I know asked me to help him with gardening. I was teaching him some stuff so I felt I had some worth and gave me some identity back.”

“That was really healing for me as I was trying my best to forget about The Music – which took a long time and I never really did – but I got myself into a position where I felt I had a semblance of a normal life, although it was tinged for seven years.”

“Then lockdown happened and everyone was terrified at the beginning. Out of the blue one day a WhatsApp group appeared on my phone.”

“You have to bear in mind that I hadn’t spoken to any of the lads for ten years apart from the odd message about administrative stuff. It was called The Music Boys.”

“It was Tim, The Music’s manager, saying there was an idea about potentially doing a gig and Tim Burgess wanted to do a Listening Party for the first album. It was a double-whammy and it was too much for me to process. It brought lots of emotions to the fore.”

“Rob got in touch with me and wanted to have a conversation about everything that had happened. There was a lot for us to work through. We had a brilliant conversation and it put lots of stuff to bed in my mind and gave me closure.”

“It was like this door burst open in my head and all these memories I’d tried to shut out came out, and I loved it. There was this massive flow of positivity.”

“Then the Listening Party was announced and that solidified things. I wasn’t on social media anyway, I was very firmly against that, which is ironic now considering how I make use of it!”

“The fans were doing what I was doing, reliving memories. There’s all these people that share the same love that I do, so I started doing YouTube videos and started answering questions properly.”

“The reaction to that was nothing short of amazing. I got a lot of cathartic joy out of making the videos and living through those memories.”

“That was the start of the joy that’s manifested itself on Badlands On Fire. Me and Rob rebuilt our friendship, and a lot of me going round there to see him, taking my guitar, was just seeing how things would go.”

“The videos we took (posted on Instagram) were to show Rob that he could do it, and he really helped me through that process too because we were both scared. I can’t speak for Phil and Stu as I know they were apprehensive too, but I was going to make it my business to make the gig happen.”

Although delayed by a year due to the pandemic, in early summer 2022 The Music took to the stage for the first time in over a decade, firstly at the Barrowlands in Glasgow then Temple Newsam, where it all started.

For anyone who was there the two shows were unforgettable, not least of all for Nutter himself: “The (Leeds) gig was brilliant.”

I’d spent so long waking up down and then to be able to step back into those shoes and go on a stage again…I can’t even put into words how special those gigs were. It was spine-tingling and still difficult to talk about now. It was just pure celebration. We never did a gig that big when we were current, and the Barrowlands is the best venue in the world. Life-affirming moments. We had friends reconnecting who hadn’t spoken for years to see the band.

Although no plans have been made, there is now the option of further shows in the future, even if nothing is definite. But even the possibility of such an event, however unlikely, offers a glimpse of hope that was previously impossible for the guitarist, who remains rightly proud of what he and his friends achieved:

“It’s still in me and it always will be. I don’t expect anyone to want to do a massive tour, but I’d love the odd one-off special event. I can’t thank everyone enough for the support we got on those days and the support I’m getting now through Patron.”

To see Adam Nutter’s story come full circle, back from the wilderness with a wonderful solo album ready to go, is heart-rendering stuff and by far the best thing to come out of the pandemic.

As the man himself says: “It’s all pinch-yourself stuff.”

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