The intriguing story of a first-time British teenager singer, a famous American indie-psychedelic band and a song by an Australian alt-goth icon.
Nell & The Flaming Lips shared a video for 'Red Right Hand' from their Nick Cave cover album 'Where the Viaduct Looms'. The album comprises nine cover versions of songs by Nick Cave featuring vocals by 14-year-old Nell Smith, and instrumentation and production by The Flaming Lips.
The intriguing joint story began when Nell Smith, originally from Leeds (UK), moved to Canada and met, with her family, in 2018 with Wayne Coyne at age 12 during The Flaming Lips show at the Sled Island Festival in Calgary. Nell had attended several Lips shows and was a constant presence at the front of the stage, dressed in a parrot costume and screaming out the band's songs. Coyne soon began to notice the kid in the parrot suit and sang a David Bowie’s cover directly to her at the show in Calgary, with Nell singing every word back.
A musical bond was formed with Coyne keeping in touch with Nell and her father, Jude, while she learned to play guitar. Their creative relationship began to blossom when she began writing her own songs.
When a planned trip to record with the band in Oklahoma had to be canceled due to covid, Coyne suggested that Nell recorded some Nick Cave songs and e-mail them to Oklahoma to be supported by the band. Coyne chose Nick Cave because Nell didn't know him and wouldn't have preconceived notions about how to sing the songs.
When asked about the experience, Nell comments: “I still can't believe it. It was a really steep learning curve, but Wayne was so encouraging when I was struggling with some of the songs that I continued. I hadn't heard of Nick Cave, but Wayne suggested that we should start with an album of cover versions of him and then start recording some of my own songs later. It was cool to hear and learn about Nick Cave and pick the songs we wanted to record.”
In a nice addition to the story, the great man himself gave the collaboration his stamp of approval. Alerted about the cover by a fan, Nick Cave took the version to his website, The Red Hand Files, to write: “This version of 'Girl in Amber' is just adorable. I was going to say that Nell Smith inhabits music, but that's wrong; she vacates the song in a way I could never do. I always found it difficult to step away from that particular song and sing it with the necessary removal; I was just so confused by the words I think. Nell shows a remarkable understanding of music, a sense of detachment that is beautiful and eerie. I just love it. I'm a fan."
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