The Heartache covering these tracks live in Leeds

We just finished our first show playing material from the “Covering these tracks” album. This is an exceptional ensemble, “West Yorkshire meets West Coast USA”

This is a different feel and vibe to other ensembles to date and its all acoustic and a 6 piece band. For once I’m only playing on half the set, the rest of the time, I’m up front doing vocals. Its a very different experience, but I’m loving it. Its like finding my own “E Street band” with Harry Orme as MD playing guitar, Dave Bowie on bass, Rich Ferdi on percussion, Towse on vocals and Corwin Zekley on violin.

Its a unique experience fronting a 6 piece band and veryof course the interaction between players is crucial. Towse have played together as a duo for years and Harry, Dave and Rich are an extraordinary trio. I’ve never felt that I’ve been in safer hands and of course Grace Fellows aka Towse is an extraordinary singer with a superb musical instinct. We’ve already working on the follow up to Covering these tracks including Steve Earle’s “Fearless Heart” which we played on the night live. This project continues to be really inspirational and allows me to dig into decades of listening to great tracks. Volume 2 of “Covering these tracks” will include songs by Nick Cave and Fred Eagelsmith among other artists. Harry Orme has become a game changer in this project, a brilliant musician and all round nice guy who is a joy to work with.


Towse aka Grace Fellows and Corwin Zekley are a fantastic dynamic force and before this live event they had played 40 gigs across the USA. I’m constantly amazed by their performances, they are unpredictable, provocative and technically superb. I was delighted to have them support Jon Gomm last year adn look forward to new live shows in 2024. We are on a roll in terms of recording and they never disappoint in their session work. Playing live with them is a wild experience and they sound amazing as part of the full band. I’m sure we will record a lot more tracks together.

Live reaction

The audience reaction to the set was fantastic and I had scores of e-mails and private messages the following day. This is the first time I have ever played material by any artists other than myself and performed only doing vocals. Fronting a band of this quality is quite an experience and its an absolute joy to be play with them both live and recording in the studio. We’ll be doing more shows in 2024 and releasing more material.

The true value of musical support & encouragement by Nick Cody

I first started creating music and playing live in 2015 and I am forever grateful for all those people who have offered support and encouragement. My first ever ukulele tutor Jessica Bowie got me into singing when she came to give me a music lesson and having never done any singing before it was (‘m being polite here) a very new experience. Her encouragement kicked off my musical journey and to my surprise and delight she agreed to be in my first band “The Small Change Diaries” named after Tom Wait’s album ‘Small Change. Next year I am reforming the band to play part of a support slot with Martin Simpson as part of the Music for Head and Heart 4th showcase. How mad is that?

I’d only played two small local support gigs with “The Small Change Diaries” in 2016, when we were invited to play at Lagoa Guitar Festival main stage. We got the invite because I had created a great online presence for the band, which suggested we’d been around for a very long time. This was the first baptism of fire and set the scene for a pretty wild foray into “the music business”

It took me three albums, numerous airplays and some professional artist feedback to finally begin to believe in my own work! I remember playing the first Small Change Diaries album to a famous professional musician and praying he didn’t start shaking his head of say something like “interesting” which of course is a polite non comment. Instead, he gave me some great practical feedback and encouragement. Another massive support was my producer Carl who has been a constant support and key catalyst for musical creation. In 2015 when I was first in the studio all I could do was to focus enough to play in time and get close to being in tune! With each album this got a lot easier and these days I’m pretty relaxed about the whole process and much more ambitious. Self-doubt is a two-edged sword; it can propel you to create better work, but if you don’t keep it in check, it’s easy for it to end up in a downward spiral!

Enter Agi, the vocal gamechanger

I first met Agi almost exactly four years ago and her vocal support and musical encouragement has been invaluable. I decided to get vocal lessons and she looked like a great option. I remember in the early lessons thinking “Fucking hell, this singing requires a lot of paying attention!” For the first two years all I could hear from her in my head was “MORE EXPRESSION!” She was of course 100% on the money and has become a dear friend, a brilliant tutor as well as contributing to over 50 tracks to date. We played live together with “The Caravan of Dreams” and during covid we used lesson time to put down vocals on dozens of tracks. She has a unique skill in creating harmonies and is a genuinely wonderful human being.


Band member support

I parachuted into playing with a number of seasoned musicians in later life and these folks have been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. many have played on my albums, and I am flattered that they would do so. The list includes Laurent Zeller from France who I first met in Lagoa, Michael Ross from Nashville and Towse from California. the latest album “All is fine ’til the world goes pop” brings together many of these great artists and I’m super proud of the result.

Laurent Zeller
Michael Ross

Stay away from the status seekers and those with poor manners

In contrast to all of the above there are of course others who are definitely don’t really embrace the idea of support and enthusiasm unless it’s for their own personal agenda. I remember one artist comment “Never collaborate with anyone unless they are higher up the musical ladder than yourself” Another similar mindset took the time to post a dismissive comment online regarding the new album, calling it ‘a vanity project” I pointed out how disrespectful that was to all those across the globe involved in making this music.

Worse still, the exact same person was more than happy to use a quote I provided for him for his one-man business! The fact that somebody would go out of their way and to take the time to post such stuff really tells me all I need to know about them.

I mentioned that I’d now personally take the time to pass on his comments to all those artists who played on the album, and all these professional artists can decide for themselves what kind of motivation is at play here with such behavior. The first one responded saying ‘This bitter character has way too much time on his hands” Of course, this is just one example…

Fortunately, I have few such folks in my orbit and instead focus on working with those people who can agree to disagree without such immature behavior which makes for very poor business and personal relationships.

Green Eyed Records for “creativity through collaboration”

I set up Green Eyed Records to help support artists and encourage “creativity through collaboration” There’s really no downside for any artist involved but amazingly I still heard on artist superfan comment ‘I don’t think GER is really right for artist X” I was astonished as the exact same artist was endlessly bemoaning his lack of reach to a wider audience and financial status and GER would have manifestly helped address this longstanding problem.

The association was good enough for the likes of world class journalist Sylvie Simmons to be involved as well as hugely successful artists like Jim Glennie, Jon Gomm and Martin Simpson all of whom demonstrate the exact ethos of GER and are happy to help others. In my view that’s one of the reasons why they are so successful and continue to expand their audience. It’s a joy to host both Martin and Jon with musical showcases through GER and Music for The Head and Heart. Both Jon and Chris Catalyst from the Sisters of Mercy were also kind enough to give really well considered testimonials on some of my work.

Martin Simpson

The Small Change Diaries reunited

While working on material for “The Heartache” I listened back to some of the earlier recordings with my very first band “The Small Change Diaries” and thought “It might be fun to reunite the band” After making a few calls, Jessica Bowie, Dave Bowie Jnr and Rich Ferdi will all be joining me this Friday to do our first new rehearsal.

As well as looking at many of the classic SCD tracks from 2015 – 2018, we will also explore some of The Caravan of Dreams material. After all, both Dave and Rich played on nearly all the Caravan album tracks! In the last 18 months I have written and recorded an additional 47 tracks and we’ll also be exploring adding some of these into a new set.

New instrumentation

In the original band I played mostly ukuleles with Jessica Bowie. In SCD Mark 2, I am keen to add more instruments and more sonic variation. In the last three years I’ve had plenty of opportunity to refine my guitar playing skills as well as learning mandolin and mandola. I’m also interested in introducing my Collings tenor sounds terrific. Jessica also plays flute and of course is a superb vocalist.

Other music projects

As well as reuniting “The Small Change Diaries” I’ll continue to run a number of other music projects including “Nick Cody & The Heartache” and a duet project that see’s a new single release before the end of the year. In 2022 there will also be a series of releases from Code E1 which is very different to anything I’ve done before. I’ve also amassed a lot of great musical instruments from across the globe and during covid have had the time to really develop my playing. Three years of weekly singing tuition is also proving to be a game changer!


I’ve always had a love for the first band and it will be fun to return to the earlier material. Of course now I’m far more experienced in terms of playing, recording and music promotion, so its essentially a whole new adventure. Below is one of the highlights of playing with The Small Change Diaries in Lagoa. At that point I’d only every played four live gigs in total before playing a major guitar festival overseas.

First rehearsal for The Heartache

After 18 months of covid restrictions, yesterday was our first live rehearsal as a trio. We are currently working up a set for October 2nd which will be our first live outing for the all electric ensemble. This is very different from playing the previous acoustic sets. One main difference is playing through the new Supro amps and using the Moses hardtail strat. The Comet has a 10 inch speaker, so it responds very differently to other amps I have used to date. By using the superb dude pedal its great to have such a simple set up, one guitar, one pedal and one amp! This is a far cry from previous days where I may I may have played up to five different instruments in one set!

The Moses Stratocaster has a Warmoth body and a graphite neck, which is pretty rare these days. I first came across graphite necks with Parker guitars and have always found them superb in terms of playability. The two single coil, one Tom Holmes humbucker configuration allows for a great range of tones that are perfect for the Heartache roots electric sound.

We’ll be rehearsing every two weeks up until October and deciding what best to include in the set. The challenge is that during covid I have written such a huge amount of material that I have to relearn many of the songs. This is a very different sound, and of course the debut single “Can’t Stop” is released June 4th.

The value of different musical perspectives and different artist input

This has been a busy week with a number of musical rehearsals and it reminded me of the value of working with different musicians and the value of really looking at songs from a number of perspectives. Often I can have an idea about how a song should unfold and a member of one of the bands will throw in something that I have never previously considered. I have always had a policy of welcoming such discussion and trying out new arrangements as this is often how material develops and reaches some higher ground. Instead of having just one brain working on what is at hand it brings a wealth of new thinking and inspiration to the table.

Today a new song came to light, literally 3o minutes before the start of a rehearsal. I have the tune down from playing the Gregor Gutarelle and put together two verses really quickly. When the band turned up we tried out what I have and in an hour we already have the makings of a really excellent track that will be a great fit for the album. The start of the track which will be the violin and bowed double bass is nothing I would have considered and it sounds terrific. This is a great example of collective exploration in the best possible way.

On one of the other Caravan of Dreams tracks Phil Doleman suggested a banjo part. I thought “How on earth is that gonna work?” until he played it in the studio and it was really quite brilliant. I would never have suggested it in a million years, but he was hearing something that I had not thought of. I continue to be greatly inspired by working with so many superb musicians who challenge my own thinking and in my view the end results are all the better for such interactions.

A short polite rant on audience etiquette…

I have been going to musical performances for 45 years and remain amazed at the differences in audiences. Perhaps I am in a minority, but when I go to a musical performance, I am there to hear the music and watch the artists. 

For me the best audiences are those who come to pay attention to the performers with respectful attention to their craft. More than ever I carefully choose who I go to see and avoid some venues where I know its probably not going to be a great experience for me. These days I prefer smaller venues like The Vanguard in New York which has a 125 capacity. True jazz fans know that if you get to The Vanguard for 7 pm, with the doors opening at 7.30 pm you are guaranteed being in the first two rows in the venue. There is a strict policy of no phones or recording during the set. This makes for a terrific music experience that is respectful of the performers. Its no surprise that The Vanguard has hosted the best jazz musicians for decades. This etiquette is unusual and if I had my way (which I admit I won’t) I’d extend this way of working to all live creative performances.

In stark contrast to such small gigs there are arena experiences. Of course many major artists will view these as better commercial opportunities, BUT often the audience experience is horrendous. Many attendees seen incapable of sitting still for a 90 min gig without either texting, talking and/or endlessly going to the bar. God only knows whey they buy what are often expensive tickets. The sound is also often not great as its a bit like being in an aircraft hanger with aircraft hanger acoustics. Equally bad are open air concerts where sound can also be an issue. I tend to avoid these as its in my view not the best listening experience. That said I did see The Rolling Stones play Manchester arena and they were terrific, but of course the lads have had a few decades to perfect their craft.

With some niche music genres (like the ukulele world), many attending are not that interested in watching and listening to seasoned performers, they just want to strum with friends! I get the enjoyment of social meet ups but remain totally mystified as to why anyone would pay for a festival weekend ticket plus accommodation and then avoid seeing professional performers. I’m even more mystified as these sets are often very brief so its not even a big time commitment, but that’s a personal view. One of the reason why you probably won’t see my band play any more uke festivals is that the focus is not really on the music, so its not to my personal taste. Yes a “Chas and Dave” style sing along may be great for many folks, but for me personally its like the eighth level of hell!

 In “How Music Works” David Byrne talks about different acoustic spaces for different types of music and this book is an essential read for any creative artist. I fully admit that I’m in a minority in terms of personal musical taste and have a definite preference for hearing original music. The audience is of  course an essential part of the whole musical experience.  I have learned that you never quite know what to expect. My band The Small Change Diaries recently played a gig where I introduced on of our tracks “Adam Blames Eve” as “a song of biblical proportions” and three elderly attendees ran for the door! Whats clear t me is that as a performer its best to adopt “an Ernest Shackelton approach” who famously commented

“By endurance, we conquer”

Its a privilege to play music to any audience and I am mindful that playing only original music is not a safe bet as it challenges audience expectations. That said personally I love this aspect of musical exploration and wouldn’t have it any other way 


Busking in 1977 – Nick Cody

My first experience of playing live to an audience was busking in Guildford underpass in 1977. Those days I played acoustic guitar and on average would earn around three quid an hour which was a pretty good rate back then. An album (this was way before CDs appeared) would be around two pounds forty pence, and I was delighted to fund my first copy of John Martyn’s Solid Air from this work.

Most of the songs I played solo or with my girlfriend at the time were CSNY or Neil Young tracks. I was back then and decades on remain a great fan of these artists. Dylan was also in one of his golden periods and Blood on the Tracks was back then and to this day remains my favorite album. I was just seventeen at the time and playing was pretty basic but extremely enthusiastic. I had an old Kay acoustic that really wasn’t that great and yearned for a Yamaha, but couldn’t afford one. A year earlier I had seen Neil Young play his Zuma set at Hammersmith Odeon in London two nights in a row. He did an acoustic set initially and then an electric set which included Hurricane which wasn’t then released until years later on American Stars and Bars.

This was a fun time and in my view a golden age for singer songwriters. Its funny looking back at this period and how many decades later I have returned to acoustic music with great joy. Its also interesting for me that most of the music I love most was created 1971 – 1975 and when travelling in Europe, USA and Asia most of my listening is from that period.

Playing live in Japan – Nick Cody

I just got back from playing with Brian Cullen and guests in Nagoya Japan. This was a wonderful evening in a small bar Country Joes which was like a small part of Americana in the middle of Japan. It was fascinating to play some of my songs for the first time arranged for mandolin and guitar as a duo. It was also great to sit in with many other great artists. There’s a wonderful “Anything can happen” vibe to the proceedings and I loved it. I’m hoping to do something similar in Austin Texas this Sept. Its a real joy to be playing original music in Japan and showing how the mighty ukulele can be used to create a wide range of music.

The artist search for the appreciative ukulele audience?

“We human beings are tuned such that we crave great melody and great lyrics. And if somebody writes a great song, it’s timeless that we as humans are going to feel something for that and there’s going to be a real appreciation.”

Art Garfunkel

I was talking recently to a fellow musician about the challenge of finding appreciative audiences, especially for artists who play ukulele in live sets. Note here I’m say “appreciative audience” and by that I mean one that is primarily there to listen to the music.

When I first started exploring the ukulele, I was taken aback by two comments independently made by people who were very familiar with this musical niche.

The first commented

“Remember Nick, these folks mostly want to play, not to listen”

The second said

“Twenty minutes is the maximum period of attention you’ll get from the audience”

As a longstanding lover of music, this struck me as highly unusual, but recent years have confirmed that both observations were spot on.

Rather play than listen? (both are fine of course)

“Intimacy comes from being yourself on the stage and making the audience feel, without trying, that you’re sittin’ down there with ’em, playing, and that can happen in a big hall, if you have a good audience that want to listen.”

Doc Watson

I have noticed that online there are often comments made about people preferring to strum at “festivals” in small groups rather than see the headline acts. Some of these acts may have travelled a great distance, so this personally surprises me. Don’t get me wrong, I think people can decide for themselves whatever suits, but it does mean that “the listening audience” is probably far smaller than many might imagine in what is already a niche musical field. In terms of 20 min sets, I fully appreciate that this strategy allows the audience to have a taster of a wide range of acts, so there is some logic to that way of working. However as a performer its a very short period and even an additional ten minutes allows for a lot more musical variation.

I was also surprised that at some events a set may be just half this time and I have even heard performers travel hundreds of miles playing such slots for free. Hats off for the enthusiasm, but it does again highlight a theme. I also know of a number of really superb ukulele artists who regularly comment on how hard it is to get live work.  All this makes me wonder how big the listening audience might be for this niche. 

“There is of course significant playing enthusiasm with ukulele clubs appearing all over and of course many events even allocate a substantial part of the time of the event to people playing, as opposed to  listening to artists. This can of course create a dilemma for event promoters in attracting paying customers and of course the changing trends in ukulele festivals are well documented in recent years.  Of course, it’s useful to consider both these dynamics. A lot of ukulele meet ups can be primarily social events and there’s is a definite place for that.  Teaching schools often put on end of year concerts where players can perform to friends and family who would mostly constitute what I would term “an appreciative audience” I help out providing PA assistance for such events and when done well these can be great fun.

The wider picture?

ukulele magazineI set up The Original Ukulele Songs platform to give original songwriters a collective voice online. Its been a fair investment in time and money as the site receives substantial traffic and now there are 81 individual artist pages. In talking to many artists, I am discovering that with a few exceptions many find it tough to find appreciative listening audiences. Those who have managed this have from what I see done so by writing really good original material or reinterpreting older material in new ways as well as doing regular tours.  

Victoria Vox and Biscuithead Biscuitbadgers and others have in my view managed to reach wider audiences and built up diverse audiences. Andy Eastwood is also a great example of a hardworking multi-talented musician who seems to endlessly be touring and is a true artist. I recently blogged about these artists, but the responses on social media focused on almost everything but the quality of entertainment I was writing about! This entertainment factor is essential in connecting with a greater listening audience.  

The OUS platform is an initiative that gives voice to all artists who are looking to connect with a wider public and I’m happy to fund this as I think it’s important that such artists are able to be heard. As I predicted 18 months ago this platform has polarized some opinion and I have had (I’m being polite here) all manner of responses about what folks believe “I should do” and how “lots of people think x“. Personally, my view is that d debate is an essential part of the creative process and if the ukulele is to reach a wider audience such debate is essential. I have the greatest respect for all artists who are seeking to entertain audiences in creative ways and who stick to their guns in terms of the music they create. I may not always like their music of course but in my view congruency is a key part of building a body of work. 

Final Thoughts

The ukulele is in my view a terrific instrument for writing and performing. Despite my enthusiasm for the instrument I would never class myself as “a ukulele artist” but rather a musician that plays many instruments including the uke. Many of the most appreciative the listening audiences with my own band to date have been at Arts and Guitar Festivals where there is generally an appreciation of music on a wider scale. Two of the most well-known ukulele based artists The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and Jake Shimabukuro, have attracted wider audiences mostly though smart arrangements and playing well known material.

These folks provide superb entertainment and many of my friends who have no interest in the uke, have and will continue to see these artists when they come to town. I’m happy to be part of an appreciative paying audience with usch artists and as well as being entertained, I have learned huge amounts from such individuals. My view is that despite the enthusiasm online the actual listening/appreciative audience for ukulele based music is smaller than many might imagine. My hope is that this will expand and in my view the best way to do this is to show how the instrument can create a wide range of truly diverse and original music that bucks the stereotypical idea many have about the instrument.

Nick Cody

Nick Cody Live in Japan July 22nd

Next month I am delighted to be playing in Japan. This is a country I truly love, with great people, great music and terrific instruments.

This will be ny 16th trip there and I never get tired of visiting. I’ll be with my good friend Brian Cullen playing 

Country Joe’s 2 Chome-8-9 Shinsakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi, Japan 460-0007 on July 22nd at 8pm.

This is a small club, so we advise getting there early. We promise a great provocative evening of great acoustic music and original songs. This will be the first OUS outing in Japan and my plan is to have many more in this wonderful country


There’s a FB event page here –

This will be an opportunity to play some classic Small Change Diaries tracks as well as some material off the 2018 solo release for the first time.

Brian is a terrific artist in his own right and plays a variety of instruments including mandolin, guitar and ukulele, He writes terrific songs that stick in your head. We have jammed together during my Japanese trips but this will be the first time we have played an actual gig.

I’ll be travelling light with a Rob Collings purple heart tenor and any other instruments I pick up on route! Its going to be a great night out and I welcome all Japanese friends and fellow musicians to come and join us!