Set #14: Nigel Newton

All creative environments naturally shift as time presses forward. The process of music is very much alive, resulting in new sounds, new forms, and new conceptions of arrangements and progressions. When one door closes, another one opens – leaving room for an unlimited expanse of new potentiality. The advent of jazz is a prime example. The possibilities are endless, and the polyrhythmic syncopation and improvisation on the basic foundation leaves room for the ultimate variety of expression. “I like the unpredictable nature of jazz and jazz-influenced music,” Nigel notes, “[there are] these things about music that I’ve always liked… these dark moments and moments of musical ambiguity where you didn’t know where it was going to go, and I like being taken on an adventure when I’m listening to music.“ This influence is clearly evident in Nigel’s music especially in songs like “Other People” where the song begins with this light toggling of the keys and unfolds into a funky, space-like atmosphere. Expanding and contracting in a way that invokes a breathing sensation as I listen. Though Nigel’s principle instrument is the vibraphone, he is also fluent on keys and the marimba allowing him to incorporate a wide variety of textures into his music. After attending school in Boston at the Berklee College of Music, Nigel moved to Dallas where he met Bri Sargent and began a creative partnership with her which eventually evolved into the Skinny Cooks.

Sharing a similar taste and interest in soul, funk, and jazz music Nigel and Bri began playing and writing songs together. Nigel describes their cohesive and collaborative songwriting process, “sometimes she’ll have a chorus and I’ll come up with a bunch of verses… sometimes it’s line by line, where she has a line and I have a line, then we go back to a different line and try something else. It’s really different every time for every song. We like to write.” This organic approach to writing has proven incredibly successful when looking at the large body of songs the two have amassed together. “Songwriting isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. There are some things that can be refined and ideas and methods you can use to come up with new songs because sometimes the inspiration doesn’t happen and you’re stuck on a line.” Nigel also describes the variety of literary influences that have shaped his writing, notably David Foster Wallace’s approach of focusing on the non-mundane parts of the mundane. Though Skinny Cooks is Nigel’s primary project, he also plays with a number of other groups around town from the Venetian Sailors, to Magga Orchestra, as well as Thaddeus Ford and Parker Twomey. The list was even longer, but over the last year Nigel explains that he reached a point where he felt it was time to cut back and focus on his own music. “I kind of quit those other bands this year so that I could have more time to do my stuff because if I’m going to overwork it might as well be for my own music.”

- Brittany Griffiths