Claire Nicolson is one of the most exciting singer/songwriters around in British music. She has self-released 2 albums to date and has sung backing vocals, played guitar and keyboards on a plethora of songs for many well-known artists.
She worked as a full-time session musician and toured the world twice but the allure of writing and recording her own songs eventually gave way and she sold her own house to raise the funds to record and release her first album called “Common Star“. Since then she’s been self-releasing her own music.
Claire is set to release a new single called “Bones” on 28th September, and then to continue releasing songs, with remixes and videos every 2 months.
The list of those who have called upon her services reads like a checklist of respected names – Jools Holland, Alabama 3, The Waterboys, Sam Brown, Dodgy, Melanie C, Kula Shaker, Mike Oldfield and Martina Topley Bird…..
As a solo artist, she has supported Ed Harcourt, Alabama 3, Roy Ayers, Martina Topley-Bird , Howard Marks, Lemon Jelly and more, so it is hardly surprising that having cut her teeth at such a high level and having patiently gigged, built a formidable following, whilst developing her own gritty, soulful brand of organic music, she has been able to turn out such an impressive emotionally powerful and engaging third album.
The full story….
Claire is a classically trained musician who learned violin and piano from 5yrs old and won a place at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied for two years. However, the sound of electric guitar resonated through her soul from the festival style parties her brothers had in the backfield on the self-sufficient farm where they were raised as children. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Janis Joplin, Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix left an indelible mark on her rock and roll soul.
By the age of 15, she had left home and was gigging and writing with bands across various different pubs in the Oxfordshire countryside where her Father, The Rev Paul Nicolson, had moved Claire and the family when she was 12. Claire is number four of five children, with three older brothers and one younger sister, as well as two stepbrothers.
“I was a real tomboy when I was a kid and adored trying to keep up with my big brothers with all their shenanigans. I used to sneak out of my bedroom window to join them having small festival style parties with their friends in the field behind the house. This is probably where I got my absolute LOVE of going to and playing festivals while the music they played filtered through into my psyche”
Before embarking on her music career Claire’s other passion, farming came to the fore and at the age of 18, she went to Berkshire Agricultural College where she gained a National Certificate in Agriculture. She went on to become a shepherdess on a farm in Oxfordshire for 6 years but all the while music was calling her back. Finally, she took the plunge to go all out for music and moved directly into the heart of Ladbroke Grove in West London. Here she took whatever work in pubs and clubs working behind the bar she could get until she managed to get a booking agent and got the call to audition for Mike Oldfield.
During her time in Oxfordshire, she went to sing at a charity gig her Dad, Reverend Paul Nicolson, had set up in High Wycombe. Her Father was always managing to get many of the local celebrities to play or help in some way for different charitable causes and this time, British soul siren, Sam Brown and her brother Pete Brown stepped up.
Claire and her brother Tom Nicolson had formed a band called “Hectors House” and also played at the same fund raiser.
Little did she know at the time that this lucky meeting was the start of Claire’s session career.
After the gig, Sam invited her up to Scotland to stay at her recording studio/house in the hills of Perthshire.
Realising Claire’s talent, Sam asked her to join her band. Claire played guitar/Hammond organ/Juno and did backing vocals and toured extensively with Sam and the band including a tour of Russia.
After a couple of years, Claire left Sam’s band but Sam still called upon her services many times for backing vocals both live and in the recording studio.
“Hectors House” Claire and her brother Tom’s band, did a recording session at Island Records’ Fallout Shelter with brother Hugo Nicolson (Producer / Engineer – Primal Scream) which got them some interest from the music business. It was during this session where she met Donald Ross Skinner (Guitar/Bass/Writing – Julian Cope/Salad).
Donald and Claire have never stopped writing together since.
Claire got the call for the audition for Mike Oldfield out of the blue and after a couple of callbacks, she got the gig to play electric guitar and keyboards. Following a European tour with Mike, including the huge millennium concert at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, she was then snapped up by former Spice Girl Melanie C to play the guitar and sing backing vocals on 2 world tours that lasted two and a half years. Further tours playing with and supporting other well known live acts, saw her appear on Top of the Pops, Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, TFI Friday, Blue Peter and countless festivals (Glastonbury, V Festival, Electric Picnic, Bestival, Camp Bestival, Beautiful Days, Shambala) and venues around the world until her love of writing and recording her own songs took hold and she decided to spend some time following her heart and her true vocation as an artist in her own right.
With a list of completed self-penned songs, she got back in touch with Donald Ross Skinner, and his brother Gavin Skinner (Drums) The three set about writing and recording “Common Star”, Claire’s debut album.
For her second album called Release, Claire enlisted some top writers, producers, engineers and mixers including Leo Abrahams (Production/keys/guitars/writing – Brian Eno, Regina Spector, Paul Simon), Tom Kills (Producer/mixer) Yoad Nevo (KT Tunstall, Air, Goldfrapp) and musicians, Fergus Gerrand (drums/percussion – William Orbit, Madonna, Sting), Donald Ross Skinner (Bass/Guitar/Keys/Writing – Julian Cope/Salad), Christine Lockhart (BV’s) and Dirty Pretty Strings (ELO/ Kasabian, Muse, Paloma Faith)
The long-awaited new single, Bones, is coming on October 8th. The band are the people who have stuck with her throughout the years, Claire, Donald and Fergus. The sound is immense and the voice is gritty, from the heart and truly original. Be ready.