Payin' Dues: Jeb Loy Nichols

Recorded during the sessions for Jeb Loy Nichols’ 10th album, Ya Smell Me is a six-tracker produced by Andrew Hale in Hale’s London-based Owl Space studio. It features the famed Muscle Shoals, Alabama songwriter and musician Spooner Oldham and was, says Nichols, “a very enjoyable experience to record.”

What’s the idea behind Ya Smell Me?

I’ve been recording new tracks for a couple of years and a 10-inch mini-album seemed a good way of getting a few tunes into the world to see what people thought.

The great Spooner Oldham guests on it.

I’ve known Spooner for nearly 20 years. I’ve done gigs with him and been in the studio with him. He’s the most laid back, gentle guy, but totally engaged in whatever music he’s playing. For this record, we sent the tracks over to Muscle Shoals and he played on them there. When he sent them back, he said, “You guys are doing now what we were doing back in the day.’”

You masterminded the ace Country Got Soul compilations.

It’s the music I’ve loved since I was a kid, that mix of country/soul/funk. I grew up listening to Muscle Shoals and Memphis and Nashville grooves, so 30 years later, I played some of my favourite tracks to Ross Allen who was working at Island. He fell in love with the music as well and we decided to put together a compilation. It was just me trawling through my records.

You then put together the Country Soul Revue with Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, Tony Joe White et al.

It was a strange, fantastic experience hanging out with all those guys, David Hood, Clayton Ivey, George Soulé and Larry Jon Wilson, the whole crew. The main thing I learned was how to keep it simple, to just get in and lay it down, don’t get too fancy and don’t overthink it.

You lived with Ari Up of The Slits, producer Adrian Sherwood and Neneh Cherry in a squat in London in 1981.

I knew Neneh in New York. I knew her father Don [Cherry, jazz trumpeter] and her mother Moki, great people. Then, when I came to London to visit Neneh, she was living in a squat with Adrian and Ari. I’d never met Adrian. He completely changed my life. He’s still my biggest musical influence along with Larry Jon Wilson. I loved being with Adrian and hanging out with Prince Far I, Prince Hammer, that whole London post-punk scene. It was a time when everything was mixed up and anything went.

Ya Smell Me is out now via City Country.