When you see him walking in East Oxford with his dog Norman, green wellies, relaxed, smiling, probably daydreaming –you may not believe it, but he is the star of many Oxfordian children and their parents. “As I lie here in my bed, I should be sleeping bit instead…” is one of our favourites at home, closely followed by “Let’s take a walk…” and we love singing them in the kitchen at the top of our voice whilst trying to prepare diner.
- If you don’t know Nick yet, I would really recommend that you join one of his sessions which are all over Oxford and beyond. His music captivates the whole family!
- If you know Nick already, I am sure that you will be delighted to discover a little more who this is behind trendy glasses and the guitar. Enjoy this little chat we had around tea and sparkling water.
Nick, let us make a time travel and take us with you back to your childhood: singer, book, toy – what were your number ones?
Mhhhh (he smiles and looks like when he’s singing with the children) give me some seconds to remember. My very, very first musician was… Mary Hopkins, a folk singer – she is stuck in my mind I think because Mum and Dad had an autograph from her, she sang the famous “Those were the days” Knowing that will reveal my age… (he grins).
My favourite toy, this is easy, going back to the late 60s, it’s a little figure, an astronaut called Billy Blastoff.
And then, a book read by my parents… let me think, not to confuse with the books I have read to my children… Ah yes, my favourite book was Harry the dirty dog (Gene Zion)!
When did you discover the guitar?
I was about 13! We did the recorder at school and my sister was learning the guitar from a little old lady in our village. I just couldn’t figure out, how that could possibly work when you have 8 notes but only 6 strings… I was baffled and wanted to work it out. I took some lessons with the little old lady and later started in a band, when I was about 14. Later on, I was 15 or so, we played on Saturday evenings at “The Oranges and Lemons” which was a very famous Punk Rock pub at that time (today “The Angel and Greyhound”).
As a child did you know that you will become a singer?
I guess that I was sure to do something creative, because that’s what my parents used to do. I think you often follow your parents’ footsteps. And to be in an artistic family helps when you have projects like that – you find it easier to believe in yourself.And I wanted to be successful and that’s what we had been for ten years with the band Candyskins. But then it all fell apart and all those dreams were shattered. It was painful…
It was very tricky to know what to do. So I worked in a restaurant to earn some money, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I had 3 children, a mortgage and a dog!
How did you find the way to become a children and family-singer?
I couldn’t work for long in a restaurant. Two friends of mine invited me to sing at their nursery -the Oxford Montessori School where I still visit today. I sang for the children and something went click: I was performing! I could play the guitar, again which I had missed a lot and at the same time I could write songs for children and families. And ever since there has not been one single day when I haven’t enjoyed what I’m doing. And to be honest, I feel sometimes a bit guilty that I can do the job I love.
On each of your three CD’s there is a Monkey, it’s a bit of a “Nick Cope” label, why?
I was thinking of some art work for my first CD cover, because I didn’t want to have my face on it! So I was drawing children which developed to a face and then to the monkey. I quite like this little chap who is easy to draw again and to have him in different versions for the different CDs. It’s an ongoing project, but I want to one day create an activity book with some pictures, stories, music…
But one of my recent projects is the recording of my new CD, which will be out for Christmas!
At the beginning I asked you about your childhood, now as a grown up… what are you doing when you are not singing or playing the guitar?
(Quick as a shot) Skateboarding! Yes I know this is not the best thing to do, but I’m addicted. I’m nearly 50 and I love it, it’s probably the midlife crisis!
Another activity is walking with my dog Norman and being with my kids –two of them are adolescents, so it’s less physical but more mental (he laughs).
What are you dreaming of in your life?
I feel very lucky to do what I like. To be honest, I wish I had started younger so that my children could have come along with me to all the festivals…
The same for skateboarding, I wish I were a really good skateboarder and indestructible!
If you could, with which artist would you like to sing one of your songs?
Oh, with Vashti Bunyan, she has such a lovely voice. Singing with her would be really cool!
To come to an end, which is as much an opening to more meetings with Nick, tell us more about your next big “rendez-vous”?
First of all, there is the Wood Festival (15-17 of May, Braziers Park, Ipsden Oxfordshire, OX10 6AN UK.) which is absolutely fantastic and a great place to be with children. The atmosphere is lovely and safe for the kids, they can toddle around, there are lots of families who take care and the older children can go off on their own. And the music there is really good! It’s a very special festival to me, because it’s one of the first festivals I did. I will sing Saturday morning in the children’s tent (see picture) and on Sunday on the main stage which, is outside in front of a little hill were you can sit down. See you there!
And you will definitely see me this Summer at the Big Brill Camp (7 June), the Camp Bestival in Dorset (2+3 August), the Truck Festival (18-19 July), the Half Way to 75 Festival (Isis Farmhouse, close to Iffley Village, 26 July) and the Edinburgh Bookfestival (August)…
To know more, keep in touch, listen to his music… : http://www.nickcope.co.uk/
Thanks to Nick Cope for the great pictures!