Huw Costin’s new album, Something/Nothing, has – according to the Nottingham singer-songwriter – been two decades in the making. It is the sort of record that transparently shows you how important it is to its creator and how close to the bone and simultaneously close to the heart its songs are.
Something/Nothing is a natural follow-up to Costin’s debut, Regrets, where sad romanticism and introspection meet immaculate musical composition. In places, you can hear Costin’s sonic homage to some of his musical loves such as Roy Harper, Brian Eno and Joni Mitchell and if you liked John Grant’s recent tour de force, Pale Green Ghosts, you’ll find that this album sits comfortably alongside it as a peer.
Costin plays two shows in London this month in support of his new release and we took this opportunity to corner him for a quick Londonist Q&A.
Hello Huw and congratulations on Something/Nothing. How long did it take you to write and record it? Thanks. It took about 20 years to make — on and off. I made a few other records over the years too.
What was your starting point for it?
It evolved from all the songs that didn’t quite fit anywhere else with the bands I wrote for, or that I didn’t fully understand at their genesis. The songs are both considered and emotional and took a while to gestate. A lot went on during the recording — families, jobs, illness — so sometimes there were long periods where the people who I love to work with couldn’t be around.
How, to you, does the new record differ from its predecessor, Regrets?
Regrets was a blast of emotion. I was very hurt. It was written in a short time — sometimes in a hurry — which left it a little rough around the edges. This record covers a longer period. There is more wonder at the world in this album — more places and people. It was a joy to explore other sounds and work with friends on this one. It’s more experimental.
There’s an eye-catching starkness to the imagery of the album cover. What is the idea behind it?
To leave a mystery in the air, a suggestion that something had just happened or was about to. The stillness between something happening and not happening — the unthinking part of life — it fascinates me. The life that happens while you’re waiting for something else.
What inspired the lyrics for the opening track, Doomed?
An acceptance that ideal love is a fallacy, everyone is broken, full of contradiction.
Do you have a favourite lyric on the album?
“I used to be trampled but now I’m a trampler” could sum up the album.
Which of the songs on Something/Nothing sounds the most like its initial demo recording?
Both Butterfly Girls and Move To The City are still as they were written.
You’re accompanying the release of the album with a handful of live shows. Is playing live something which you enjoy?
Yes, I love playing out. When it’s right, it’s like flying. Total excitement. Total peace. Of course, when it’s bad I just want to hide.
Is there likely to be a wider-scale tour later on in the year?
I hope so! I just need some invites…
You’ve previously worked with Brian Eno and Mark Lanegan. Do you have any future collaborations with other contemporaries planned?
I’m producing a track for my friend Emma Thorpe (The Listeners) and have a slow burning project on the go with BJ Smith. Ben Hoo and I have spent some time in the studio together and I’ve been talking ideas with Shrinkwrap, who did a stunning remix of Disconnected.
Something/Nothing is released on Monday 10 June on SpecialSoundUnit. Hugh Costin plays The Islington on Tuesday (11 June) and tickets are available HERE. Costin also plays the Forest Gap Hotel on Friday, 21st June.