Tim Bidwell Interview

One of the phrases we seem to be writing almost as often as “Brighton Music Blog” these days is “produced by Tim Bidwell”. He’s had a great year, working with a lot of our favourite local acts – Jennifer Left, Cate Ferris, House of Hats… We thought it was about time he got a bit more credit, so we popped round for a cuppa a few weeks ago to find out to find out how he got to where he is and the bands that he’s worked with.

Around ten years ago, Tim was half of dance act Hardkandy. They released a few albums to critical acclaim but there was a nagging feeling that some of their fellow Brighton peers – the likes of Will Quantic and Si Bonobo – were getting some of the fame that they deserved. Even when he was making dance music, Tim was into his folk, and in 2006 formed the Folklaw label with Fin Greenall, known to fans of Ninja Tune as Fink, and Elliot Richards. The first album Tim produced for someone else was the The Gin Club by Nikolas Barrell, released by Folklaw in March 2007, and around that time Elliot spotted Kate Walsh playing in a pub in Brighton. The resulting number one album, Tim’s House, ended up being self released rather than coming out on Folklaw but kick started Tim’s career as a producer.

“When I first met Cate Ferris, I was a bit terrified of just how talented she is. With her EP, I produced it, but I didn’t really, it was Cate just playing around in the studio and me giving her the space to play around and just capturing her because she’s so full of energy and musically talented. I’d seen of her is doing stuff with the loop pedal on YouTube, so I got in touch with her and asked if she wanted to talk about working with me.

She’s got an amazing voice and she’s a good songwriter, and she’s doing great things and working with great people. For the EP she wanted to experiment with more different things in the studio and get away from the whole loop pedal thing.

She’s a lot like me, she’s quite a control freak musically. I’m not so much musically, but I am with projects, or giving a sound to something and I like giving a sound and working on the artwork even, for things and stuff like that. I like getting involved, whereas Cate’s a little bit of a genius.

“The Cordelia Gartside EP sounds beautiful. I’m really chuffed with it. Some of the best stuff I’ve done. I got some of the best players I know to play on it. We’ve got John Smith on guitar – he’s one of the best guitarists in the country and he loves Cordelia’s stuff. She’s off to college now, so she’s going to be writing away and hopefully we’ll be doing some more recording at Christmas when she comes back.

I’m really excited about Cordelia, she’s got a lot of potential and she’s a whole package, and she means what she does. She’s not interested in doing pop stuff, she’s really into Bon Iver and Laura Marling and people like that and she wants to be a credible artist. She’s not going to sell her soul to the pop devil, which is really refreshing.

I did the video for Fathoms’s Deep. She was so brave doing the stuff in the water. That STUNK! It was one of those peat lakes, so when she got in it, it just kicked up. I woke up the next morning and I was covered in bites. It was shot near Uckfield, some ancient woodland with a lake in the middle, it was beautiful. We got chavs throwing stones at us while were doing that which was a nightmare, but we got there in the end.

House of Hats are great guys to work with. I’ve just recently finished their EP. which has just been released. That was a real labour of love – that took quite a while. They’re real perfectionists, especially with the vocals. They know what they like as well. I always like someone to take the lead vocal, but they wanted all the vocals at the same level. They all write the material, so it was difficult for me as a producer as well, because sometimes I wanted Al’s vocals to come out more, or Noddy’s vocals, because that’s just my instinct as a producer. That said, Rivers Will Run, the title track of the EP, is very much Al’s track. And Noddy sang on Home is Where the Heart is, and that’s beautiful, so there are a couple of tracks of theirs that have got that prominent vocal.

As well as all of the other production work that Tim’s done this year, his big project has been with Jennifer Left, co-writing and producing her forthcoming album Hushabye. He originally approached her about working on a solo project back in the days when she sung and played bass in Gloria Cycles, and things have finally come to fruition this year.

“Hushabye was all recorded here. I co-wrote it with Jen and a guy called Ewan Wallace. That took over a year to record, just taking our time. It was nice to write again actually. Both of them very talented and it was nice to do that. I’ve been producing for so long you don’t really get to write any more. It was nice to give Jen a sound too. Jen gave us a list of influences and we sort of forged the sound. To be honest the eleven tracks on the album were the first eleven tracks we did. A lot of people you have to write ten tracks to get one good one, but we were just quite pleasantly surprised by how it all came together. Obviously there was a couple of duff ones here and there that we got rid of, but overall we were really chuffed how it all came together. And it was that thing of giving her a sound that was kind of new but then sort of had elements of the Beatles, Django Rheinhardt, swing and jazz elements, but there’s also Grizzly Bear stuff and weird little elements here and there that just make it a little bit different with Jen’s voice. She’s mad as a box of frogs though!

Diggory is released on 5th November, and is backed with a couple of remixes as well as Jennifer’s gorgeous take on New Order’s Temptation:

The launch party is at the Blind Tiger on 8th November, where Jennifer Left is supported by The Maybirds – another band produced by Tim!

Cate Ferris and House of Hats EPs are out now, and Cordelia Gartside’s EP will hopefully be out before the end of the year.