Nels Andrews Pigeon and The Crow
Although he was born by the sea, it wasn’t until he moved to the desert that he began writing songs. He sang them alone in a mud and tire house on the sage-brushed mesas of Taos, NM where he spent his 20’s, airing them occasionally around campfires and late night song circles. It wasn’t until he moved to Albuquerque, that he began to play them out, and to collaborate, enlisting the talents of some inventive indie musicians hanging out at the red door, a musician’s clubhouse/ practice space (ex-railroad brothel) on route 66 in downtown Albuquereque, it was there That he began to shape his desert folk rock sound, pairing his literary narratives of curious High Desert outsiders, with the psych-rock palate of eclectro fuzz Banjo/ guitarist Jeffrey Richards (Neutral Milk hotel, Vic Chestnut, Hazeldine,) and rest of his new band The EL Paso eyepatch, and additional help from Brett Sparks (Handsome Family).. and recorded his debut record : “Sunday shoes” in the band’s little adobe studio. The self-released record was a grassroots success, climbing to the top of the Euro-Americana Charts, getting rotation and recording a live session on BBC radio’s Bob Harris (old grey whistle test), who called it “one of the best albums of the year’. The resulting scattered tours of the US, UK and Netherlands earned them the title of “Musical Ambassadors of City of Albuqurque“, in a ceremony at the Albuquerque court house, where they received a key to the city, lapel pins, and 20-30 seconds air time on the Spanish language TV station “Univision”.
The band dissolved, and Nels and his new wife moved back to her native east coast to set up a home in the newly blossoming bohemian enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was here that he crossed paths with Bass virtuoso/ composer Todd Sickafoose (Andrew Bird, Ani Difranco, Anais Mitchell), who offered to produce his Sophomore record “Off track Betting” (Reveal Records UK / Lucky dice NL) Todd brought with him a whole new palatte of musicians from NY’s downtown experimental/ new music scene. Players like Mikael Jorgenson (Wilco), Ben Perowsky (Joan as Police Woman, Lounge Lizards), brought new textures and shapes to Nels’ increasingly impressionistic story songs.
After Touring “Off Track betting” a new addition to his family changed his trajectory, and he stayed home for a bit, soaking up the city and ingesting romantic maritime books (starting with Mellville and spiraling from there), which informed the songs of his third album, “Scrimshaw”.
"These songs were written last year, when I stayed home for a while, splitting my days between working as a chauffeur in Manhattan and watching my infant son grow into a toddler in and around our Brooklyn apartment. At night, while he slept, I culled the fragments of my days, and let them sift and blend with everything blurring past me each day on the street. The city felt so full of movement and ambition at a time in my life which felt decidedly (or at least relatively) not. I tried to boil it all down for this album, these little scrimshawed stories."
Reuniting again with the Mighty Sickafoose , his then touring band of Brandon Seabrook ( Seabrook Power Plant, Mark Ribot, Nels Cline) Jonathan Goldberger (Red Baraat, Jim Black), longtime collaborator Rich Hinman ( KD Lang, St Vincent, Bret Dennen) and new friends Andrew Borger (Tin Hat trio, Tom Waits) , and Nuala Kennedy (Will Olham, Gerry O’Conner), they recorded most of the large ensemble live overlooking the Naval docks at Brooklyn recording. The resulting synergy sheds light on Nels’ more mature writing style, we can also hear the echoes of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and the influence of everything from Mexican Son Jorocho music to Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie in his writing.
Now living in Santa Cruz, California, Nels has been weaving the morning fog, redwoods, and oceanside into his forthcoming record, produced by trad Irish flautist Nuala Kennedy.
His wife’s new job at the University of Santa Cruz granted him access to the vaults of the school’s extensive ecclectic music library, and so began a self guided tour of world music ( and piles of records stacked precariously around the living room), zooming out his perspective beyond the songs he heard growing up to encompass a wider scope of “Folk” music
The content from these new songs changed as well, as the narratives and metaphors relfect his own sense of place in the world:
“In chess theres a point after the gambits, but before the end game, where you asses your victories and losses, “mid game” , everything is less straight forward and strategies unresolved. Real life mid game is equally as vague, a place just past innocence and before wisdom, you know who you are, but maybe not what you want. These are songs about that perspective : an actress mid- career, a husband folding his now worn wedding sheets, a father meditating on their love and selfishness , and the ghosts of former relationships returning to haunt us.”"
“I’ve always used some sort of rhythm to rustle the ideas in my head into their song shape, in the past it would be walking though the city, riding the subway and using the clicks of the concrete , or clacks of the train to set a cadence…. I did a lot of the heavy lifting on this set of songs floating in between waves, paddling a surfboard into the early in the morning honeyed water of sunrise. i think there’s a lot of the californian central coast in these songs “
The bones of this, soon to be released, 4th studio record, were tracked live at indie rock band Lord Huron’s Whispering Pines clubhouse/studio In Los Angeles. Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Iron and Wine, Laura Marling) on upright Bass , Quinn (T Bone Burnett, Jesca hoop) shook Moth cocoons and elephant bells The album was then fleshed out via long distance collaborations with an international set of traditional players, New friends from Santa Cruz like Stelth Ulvang (the lumineers), and old friends from New York. It also features guest appearances by fellow songsmiths Anais Mitchell, AJ Roach, and Anthony Da Costa. Projected release spring 2019.
The new album’s first single “Pigeon & the Crow” is an original supernatural ballad, being released as a paired digital single and printed graphic novella featuring the song’s story as interpreted by illustrator Mike Benzce, Thanks to a grant from the SC arts council, the book/ Digital single will be released in Nov 2018.