Hodgson, who co-wrote all of the band’s songs during his 15 years as a member, left Kaiser Chiefs in 2012 – claiming that he wanted to spend more time in the studio as a producer and songwriter. In those interim years, he’s worked with the likes of Ratboy, Mark Ronson, Hurts, John Newman and many more.
Now, he’s back as a solo artist – unveiling lead track ‘Suitable’ ahead of his debut album ‘Tell Your Friends’, which is due for release on January 26.
“I wrote the song just on the acoustic guitar,” Hodgson told NME of ‘Suitable’. “I had the melody and the lyrics for the chorus, then I took into my studio where I’ve got a 70’s drum kit, a 70’s bass and 70’s guitars. It’s nice to just be able to let them all breathe and just do their thing. I personify my instruments, and you really feel their life.”
Asked about how representative the song is of the rest of the album, Hodgson replied: “There’s definitely a feel throughout. It’s dreamy. It’s like there’s a filter over everything, do you know what I mean? There’s a kind of Instagram filter of that kind of 70’s glow. It is sepia. But they’re not all the same. I think that’s one of the slowest on the record. So there is definitely some more up-beat things as well.”
Obviously in the Kaisers’ early days, you guys were very vocal about what your ambitions were . How do you feel in terms of ambitions for this record?
Nick: “I think it changes, because it started off with me thinking ‘I’ll do some little songs’. On the Kaiser Chiefs’ records, if I had a song on them it would be a smaller song near the end. There was a song called ‘Boxing Champ’ on the second album. It’s just me and a piano. It’s very delicate. And I just thought ‘OK, I’ll make some little delicate songs and put them out’. Then I kept writing and was like ‘OK, this one’s a bit better actually’. Then I’d get rid of some of the weirder ones, the ones that didn’t really go anywhere and started to replace them with songs I thought were really good actually. So the ambition kept changing. I always knew I didn’t want to sign a record deal. Then Ross from The Cribs texted me saying, ‘do you and your new band want to support us in Leeds at ‘Cribsmas’ in December?’ And I was thinking ‘I haven’t got a band’. But I said yes, and I got a band… So it keeps changing… Basically I would like to see how thorough it goes. I don’t want to just let it out and then no one be bothered about it the next week.”
Do you miss the rush of playing arenas and everything that came with the scale of being in Kaiser Chiefs?
“I don’t know. I’ve had five years off and I absolutely never thought I wanted to step on stage again. I used to say that it was out of my system, I really believed that. I definitely feel like I want to do some stuff now. I feel like I really like the album, and I’ve put so much into it. It was literally all day, every day. It’s like an obsession. I only started it at the end of March this year, and every waking moment was spent thinking about this record and what I’ll do now.”
Is there anything else about your life five years ago with the Kaisers that you miss, or are you purely focussed on now?
“I still see the band, so I don’t really ‘miss’ them. They’re like my best friends. I’ve known at least two of them since I was 11. It was definitely an amazing feeling when you walk in somewhere and you’re the ‘attraction’. Like there will be 2000 people there, and there’s only five that everyone’s come to see. I don’t want to say that I miss it, but I can definitely see me doing something different.”
How was it listening to the last two Kaiser records and the new material having been on the other side of it?
“Well, it’s a very strange feeling. I don’t know, it’s so odd. I can’t listen to it impartially. I can’t really work out my feelings towards it. Some of the songs really strike me. I think ‘Coming Home’ is a really brilliant single and that was like the first thing that came out after I left. Actually Simon sent me that song pretty early on. He sent me quite a lot of stuff… I tell him what I think and everything. I feel like I’m still half a member of the Kaiser Chiefs. So it’s odd to hear. I can’t listen to it like I listen to any other record in the whole world.”
Lyrically, what would you say that ‘Tell Your Friends’ is dealing with?
“Usually I write songs for other people to sing. You don’t even ask ‘would you do this sort of thing?’ So I think you sort of edge away a little bit from what you’re genuinely thinking and feeling. Now it’s time for me now to write for myself – write personal lyrics. I had to delve pretty deep, and be honest. I think if you’re going to make a solo record, if it’s not going to be honest then there’s really no point.”
What do you think people are going to learn about you from the album?
“That’s a really good question because I would hope the people would understand that I’ve got a side to me that’s much more introspective. I think that came across on a lot of Kaiser Chiefs album. Even singles such as ‘Modern Way’. There was that kind of sad but uplifting feeling to it. I think most of these songs are like that. When most people think of what I write, it’s been kind of ‘GET UP, LADS LAD LADS!’ And I don’t really feel like that any more so I just want to explore that. I heard Calvin Harris talking about feel-good music, and I was thinking it’s such a good aim. It’s not easy to do feel-good music right. It’s underrated.”
Are there any moments on the record that share any ground with Kaiser Chiefs?
“No, it’s just pure me. I think a lot of that was cause we were young and we were going on stage and going on tour, you have to grab people by the… you have to grab people’s attention pretty early on or else people will go up to the bar and everything. I just didn’t think that was an element at all. I didn’t imagine that I was going to play anything live, I just wanted to record and make it sound lush and glorious, you know, I didn’t really think about that.”
What can you tell us about your guests and the people you worked with on this record?
“There’s not many actually. I asked Whitey [Kaiser Chiefs guitarist] because I just like his style and I wanted him to come on. I don’t really see him as much as the others because he lives in Leeds. So he came along. In fact I was amazed, cause I said to him on a Tuesday, I texted him ‘do you want to come and play some guitar?’ And he goes ‘yeah, what about Thursday?’ Couldn’t believe it. Anyway he turned up, and he was in my house…”
And you’ve got Rob Harvey from ‘The Music’…
“Yeah, Rob – I just love his voice. There was this one song, and I just thought it needed something a bit more. You’ve got my voice for like 10 songs, and then suddenly you’ve got this extra element, which is an amazing, soulful, high vocal.”
Other than the likes of Ratboy who you’ve worked with, do you listen to much contemporary guitar music?
“Yeah. Well, I always know what’s going on. So I listen to everything, I always have done. Even just to know who they are. I listen to the radio; I listen to Radio One. I listen to Annie Mac. I just love new music. If it’s good I really like it. That could be grime, it could be electric guitars, it could be anything. And anything in between, so it could be Taylor Swift , you know what I mean? But I’ll always know what’s going on. I’m not sure what I love at the moment.”
Earlier this year, Kasabian listed Kaiser Chiefs among the only ‘survivors’ from the wave of UK bands who dominated the guitar indie scene just after the turn of the century. What do you think the secret is to their longevity?
“If you look at all the bands, that’s a pretty decent yield I think – compared to the ’80s. I think it’s just because all these bands have good songs. They’ve all got at least half a dozen good songs that people want to hear. Also people want to go out for nights where they can. A lot of people have grown up, they’ve got kids, they don’t go out and they’re just waiting for Kasabian to come to wherever they live and have an amazing night out. That’s what happens. I think it’s good that it has survived.”
What would your advice be for up and coming guitar bands to sort of get out there?
“Well I think it’s always going to be about having a song. It’s a lot easier to get people to come and see you if you’ve got what they want. If you’ve got a load of stuff that they don’t want, you’re always going to struggle. So Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram… all that is brilliant. But if you’ve got nothing, then you’re not going to work. You just need amazing songs I think.
What have you got planned for your first gig at Cribsmas?
“I’ve got an amazing band, so I’m pretty excited. I haven’t got that many songs, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing songs from the Kaiser Chiefs because it’s not like they’re covers; I was deeply involved. I want to do it. I think the crowd will enjoy it; I will enjoy it I saw Liam Gallagher at Brixton and he comes on and he does ‘Rock N’ Roll Star’, and you’re like ‘well of course, it’s a brilliant song’. It’s not like he’s doing covers, really.
“We actually supported The Cribs at the first Cribsmas in 2005. That week, Franz Ferdinand and Kate Nash supported them them too. It feels good doing that as my first solo gig. I’m very grateful to Ross [Jarman]. He’s ignited a little spark.”
‘Tell Your Friends’ will arrive on January 26 via Prediction Records. Hodgson will support the Cribs at their Cribsmas show at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club on December 18. For tickets and information, visit here.