News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by
Arts & Entertainment

'Way to Blue' pays tribute to late musician Nick Drake

Promotional image of musician Nick Drake.
Promotional image of musician Nick Drake.

Listen to story

Download this story 24MB

Musician Nick Drake had a short and tragic career. He made three albums, each sold only a few thousand copies, and in 1974 when he was just 26, he died from an overdose of an antidepressant. However, his music lived on and eventually became quite popular.

In the year 2000, the track, Pink Moon, was featured in a Volkswagen commercial.

Not long after, his final album of the same name made it to Amazon's top five list of best selling albums. 

Record producer Joe Boyd worked with Drake and he recently produced a new tribute album about his friend and colleague called "Way To Blue: The songs of Nick Drake." Musicians like  Robyn Hitchcock, Teddy Thompson, Vashti Bunyan, Danny Thompson, Lisa Hannigan, among others, contribute songs to the record. 

Boyd joins the show from NPR studios in New York. 

Interview Highlights:


On how he didn't want to produce a typical tribute album:
"Tribute albums don't have the best reputation in the music industry, I think there have been a lot of them over the years, and most of them involved artists producing their own tracks and sending them in then somebody assembling them all into an order. They don't really cohere in a way."

On how he wanted to make the Nick Drake tribute different:
"I had this vision a long time ago of doing a record of Nick Drake's songs in which we'd take a studio in the country for a week and we'd get a rhythm section and we'd get all these different singers to come sing harmony on each other's tracks…So it'd have a real continuous feel as a unified projects. Of course logistics made that almost impossible to achieve."

How the project just fell into his lap:
"I got asked to do these concerts in Britain, called Way To Blue, and somehow the concert just worked, everybody loved it and the musicians loves being part of it...I started recording some of the concerts and then I figured, well this sounds pretty good. I mixed it and played it for the singers involved and they all said, great, put it out. So it's kind of coming into it backwards, but we got there in the end."

On how he chose the artists featured on the album:
"I had no desire at any point in this project to have people involved who sounded like Nick. To me, the point of doing a project like this is to bring different voices, different approaches to these songs, because I think Nick's versions are so wonderful that as a vocal approach we wanted to be as different as possible from Nick, because I think it shows the strength of the songs, and just removes it from the idea that we're trying to compare to Nick's own versions."

Oh how Vashti Bunyan's career mirrors Drakes:
"Vashti is the one musician besides Danny Thompson who played bass on the record, that did know Nick. I was working with Vashti in the 60s at the same time I was working with Nick. I introduced them to each other in the hope that they might collaborate and write some songs together, but they're both so painfully shy that when they met not much happened. You could look at the arc of [Vashti's] career has been quite similar because she put out a record which I produced in the 60s that didn't sell, and then after years of pushing that side of her life to one side, remarrying and moving to Edinburgh, eventually the internet, she just Googled her name and discovered that there's this huge network of fans out there and she had this new career."