Festivals Nick J.D. Hodgson talks Live at Leeds & the city’s musical evolution

Nick J.D. Hodgson talks Live at Leeds & the city’s musical evolution

The Leeds musician talks through his favourite local venues and just why Leeds is such a special place for music.

It’s no surprise that Leeds has played a huge part in Nick J.D. Hodgson’s own musical upbringing. From the early days of Kaiser Chiefs, through to the recent release of his debut solo album, his hometown has provided a real foundation for his career over the past decade. 

Ahead of his tour next month and his upcoming slot at this year’s Live at Leeds, we spoke to Nick about Leeds itself: his early memories of gigs in the city, some of his favourite venues and just how important the city is for music fans across the country. 

Hey Nick! How’re you doing? What’ve you been up to?
I’m feeling good. I released my solo album in January and did some launch gigs which were really fun. It’s weird ‘cause this time last year I hadn’t even thought about doing an album; now it’s out and I’m getting onstage again, I’ve remembered how much I like walking out there. I’m also preparing for my tour which starts in April in Dublin. I’m also demoing new songs - it sounds busy but I’m pretty relaxed!

You’re going to be playing at Live at Leeds very soon. How’re you looking forward to the festival?
I went last year with my friend Tom who’s now playing guitar with me and he said he’d be playing this festival next year, then his band left him! It’s a brilliant event and the venues ‘cause the whole city is taken over by bands and live music. I’m looking forward to being a part of it and not spectating this year.

What did Leeds as a musical hub offer you when you were growing up? What were some of your formative experiences?
Leeds had loads of venues and it was pretty easy to get a gig if you hustled which we did, especially me and Ricky [Wilson]. We would be in everyone’s faces making sure people had heard of us and gave us good support slots and stuff. 

I would go to at least two gigs a week I reckon. If bands were your life then Leeds was a great place to grow up. There was a really good scene with just the right amount of rivalry.

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“If bands were your life then Leeds was a great place to grow up.”

Nick J.D. Hodgson

What were your favourite venues, bars and record stores back then? How has it been seeing places like the Brudenell grow into really renowned locations for music?
My favourite venue was The Duchess which was a 200 capacity pub in the city centre where Nirvana, Oasis and Radiohead all played. I wasn’t lucky enough to see any of those gigs by the way but I did see [email protected]! It closed down in the late 90s though. After that was Joseph’s Well and The Cockpit, they’ve also closed. 

The Brudenell is awesome, though. The first gig I saw there was the famous Franz Ferdinand one where they played a mini-gig outside ’ so many people couldn’t get in. It’s really good seeing that venue grow because it shows it can be done, its run the right way by Nathan. The music definitely comes first.

Looking at how Leeds has developed and changed over the past decade, what do you think it is that the city possesses to continue its status as an important place for music?
I think it’s just on the touring map for bands and artists. It has always been, I remember Michael Jackson and Madonna at Roundhay Park. With the arrival of the arena there’s been more big gigs than ever before. There’s still some great small venues too. It keeps people coming back.

As an artist that’s played all over the world, what’s it like when you get to return and play back home?
I love it. It’s not as straightforward as playing anywhere else in the world ‘cause you have to make sure all your family and friends are in but it feels good. Especially back in the day when we spent 10 months a year touring, it’s nice to get back.

Nick J.D. Hodgson plays Live at Leeds (5th May) where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information. His new ‘Tomorrow, I Love You’ EP is out now. 

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