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Songwriter Spotlight: Alan Nimmo

Issue #54

Earlier this year, Glasgow rockers King King released their fourth studio album 'Exile & Grace' and with the band primed for a major UK tour in early 2018, frontman and guitarist, Alan Nimmo chats to Gi’s Jonathan Graham, plus breaks down the band's latest album track by track in this issue's Songwriters Spotlight.
Jonathan Graham

'Exile & Grace' is King King’s first album of new material since 2015’s critically acclaimed release 'Reaching For The Light,' which saw the band pick up multiple British Blues Awards including; Best Male Vocal, Best Bass Player, Best Song (Rush Hour), Best Album and Best Songwriter. The fantastic new album, recorded at Superfly Studios and mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder and Therapy?), features the singles "(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’" and "Long Time Running" which have already been significant hits on Planet Rock radio in the UK.

Right now, King King is a band breaking into a swagger, and anyone who has caught the group live in recent years would easily vouch for their ability to conquer just about any crowd.

“We’re not stopping to smell the roses, we want to take this band as far as we can.” Says Alan, "'Exile & Grace' definitely has a rockier feel and sound to it. We are following our influences from the Classic Rock genre, Bad Company, Whitesnake and Thunder. We really set out to challenge ourselves with this album. We’ve stepped up the quality of songwriting and pushed ourselves physically in both performance and delivery!”

Nimmo gives an in-depth track by track behind the writing process of the songs on 'Exile & Grace'

“(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’”

“A lot of the songs that get written for our albums tend to materialise through a fair bit of noodling around whilst sitting in a room chatting or even discussing different matters. It's not always about purposely getting into a studio and dedicating time to writing and creating! “(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’” came about when we recorded the "Reaching for the Light" album. There was a little chord sequence I used just before the start of the first verse of our song "Crazy." It was one of those times after that when there are various things going on at the mixing desk and you find yourself with a few minutes to spare and naturally if there's a guitar in hand you'll start to mess around. So I played around with the similar idea that I used on "Crazy" and changed the timing and just got the foot tapping, and the riff was born!”

Heed The Warning

“Inspiration can come from anywhere. One of the best things about musicians and being a musician is that for the most part, we're kind of like-minded, and when a band is jamming you can't help but want to join in. When we were on tour with John Mayall we would often have time at soundcheck for a little bit of messing around and some of the time John himself would wander on to the stage and sit down at Bob's Hammond and we would jam out some blues. It was amazing to do that with the blues godfather himself! However, it wasn't just John who used to hang out and watch us. Greg Rzab (John's bass player) would sometimes join in, too.  One day I wanted to jam out a little riff I was playing around with so I got started and we were getting a feel for it when Gregg said "hey man, can I join in?" He knew the answer was yes. We started jamming out this riff and that eventually became "Heed the Warning.”

Broken

"Broken" was one of those tunes that evolved from a bunch of basic chords I used to run around on my acoustic guitar at home.  It was fairly simple but I knew there was something in it if I could just find the right formula and direction. We were on tour somewhere in Europe - Germany or Poland... I can't quite remember, but we had a couple of days off and decided to find a rehearsal room and do a bit of jamming to see if any ideas came flowing! So we were running around these chords I had been using for this idea and during a break for a nice cup of tea (the truth, by the way, about the tea) I started playing another little riff type thing and then it was clear that the two pieces could be used together! I think we managed to basically put the whole song together that night after that.”

 

Find Your Way Home

“Some songs don't take much thought or process. Sometimes they just come naturally. Maybe it's just because it's about what you want to say that makes some songs easier that way. I was playing a simple little chord structure one day In the studio and we started jamming it out and the counter melody from the keyboards was working a treat so we started paying attention to this and filtered out a lot of the notes and stuff to make it simple and spacious so that one instrument answered the other. Once we had that sitting nicely we needed a big anthemic chorus which came so naturally that other than working on the stuff that makes it tight we put the whole thing together really quickly. After that, it was easy to sing words to. It’s easy to express an honest story and take the listener on a journey! This was "Find Your Way Home"- one of my favourites on the album!”

Tear It All Up

“I suppose you could say that when it comes to writing lyrics, I'm quite simplistic. I don't try to be too clever or challenge the listener’s intellect. I just write what comes from the heart and sometimes it's about sad times. Sometimes it's about happy times. Sometimes it's about a moment.  When we got to go on tour with one of my all-time favourite bands "Thunder" it was a dream come true for me! If that wasn't enough, they gave us an opportunity of a lifetime to perform at Wembley Arena - another career box ticked. I'd been messing with this little rock riff for a while and was wondering what to write lyrically for this one and was getting a little bit stuck coming up with a theme, so as I've done several times in the past, I turned to my big brother for some help! He came up with the idea of writing about the night we played at Wembley and the feeling we all had as we waited backstage for the lights to go down and be announced. So together we came up with the lyrics for "Tear It All Up" it was one of those songs that I struggled to write anything for until the right theme came along and then it became difficult to stop writing. There are about another 3 verses that didn't get used.”

Betrayed Me

“Occasionally I try to teach myself to play the slide but when I realise that I'm not instantly great at it I get annoyed and I give up for another six months! (I can see my mother and brother both rolling their eyes right now saying, "Typical Alan!”). Anyway this was what I was doing one day when I came up with the riff for the song "Betrayed Me". I would tune the bottom string down to D and just mess around playing some good old blues and I ended with this little pattern that would become the verse sequence... but we needed a big chorus. The chorus you hear on the album was not the original. The one we had was okay, but you know, when there's something niggling at you about a song and part of you wants to ignore it but the other part says, "No, let's address this".  So I decided to scrap the idea and came up with a couple more. This was the one we picked. Hope it was the right choice!”

Long Time Running

“Another one of those so-called "slide learning" days albeit a failure in that sense gave me a silver lining... a riff I was messing with on slide that just sounded terrible was about to be forgotten when I put the slide down and started playing it normally and eventually saw some potential in it. So I persevered with it and put some other chords in and tried to come up with a pattern for it. We on tour in Denmark, and we managed to get the use of one of the venues the day before or the day after - not sure which one and we got to work on this idea. By the end of that little session, we had "Long Time Running". It's one of those drum beats that cries out for old "cow bell", but we resisted thankfully, but, until it had its title it was affectionately known as "Stonsey"

 

Nobody Knows Your Name

“The beauty of music is that there are no rules about how you write and an idea can come from anywhere. I'm a huge fan of the band "Cry Of Love" and we happened to be chatting about them and their first album "Brother" talking about the awesome guitar riffs and vocals on there that have inspired me for years. The first time I saw them was in Glasgow in 1993, and I have been listening to their music ever since. To this day I can’t work out what Audley Freed is doing on that guitar. It's genius! So I wanted to write a similar style tune that was a bit spacious and groovy - kinda like Free's "The Stealer" or "Hand Me Down" or "Cry of Love," so I came up with the riff for "Nobody Knows Your Name”. We put it together in a rehearsal room in Lincoln. I didn't really want to put in a typical middle 8 on this one so we needed a subtle change somewhere that still worked with the chorus melody. Luckily enough, I'm surrounded by great musicians; Bob was playing around with a chord sequence as you do when the kettle is on between songs. What he played just seemed to fit so that just sealed it!”

I Don’t Wanna Lie

“Sometimes we would have discussions about different types of songs to write - things like feel, pattern, tempo or style, just to make sure there is always enough variety in what we do. As a guitarist, I will definitely write a certain way and come at it from a certain angle, so it's good to have another instrumentalist in the group who isn't a guitarist. It makes for a great partnership when ideas come from a place that I wouldn't naturally come from. We'd been discussing the idea of doing a song that had almost a shuffle type groove, but more of a funk percussive feel to it and we were jamming out a beat when Bob started playing an idea he had... it was very Stevie Wonder right away, so we got to work on that one. We didn't want to take it too far out of the rock side of things as the verses were very spacious and groovy and the vocal was the same. We needed a harder big rock chorus so that's what we came up with and it worked out just cool! "I Don't Wanna Lie" was born.”

'Exile & Grace' Track Listing:

(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin

Heed The Warning

Broken

Find Your Way Home

Tear It All Up

Betrayed Me

Long Time Running

Nobody Knows Your Name 

I Don’t Wanna Lie

Catch King King live in support of their new album 'Exile & Grace' during the following dates:

17 Jan 2018     Shepherd’s Bush Empire     London

18 Jan 2018     Town Hall                              Birmingham,         

20 Jan  2018    Forum                                    Bath,                              

26 Jan 2018     Queen’s Hall                          Edinburgh                   

27 Jan  2018    Leadmill                                 Sheffield     

TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE VIA WWW.THEGIGCARTEL.COM  

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