Drawing from a rich tapestry of Celtic folk, world music and blistering jazz, Corrie Dick’s debut album, Impossible Things, weaves these ingredients together to create a nuanced, engaging sound world which exudes warmth.
I spoke to Corrie before his gig at the Lescar last month.
What sort of musical background do you come from?
My dad teaches piano and both he and my mum are big music enthusiasts anyway, so I was always exposed to great rock and roll, groovy music, classical music, so there’s always been stuff around. There’s a piano in my house, so I’d always go and try and noodle little tunes. That’s why I’ve probably been composing longer than playing drums. I played trumpet before that as well. So when it came to drums, I already had a lot of necessary stuff in place, like reading and just a sense of what it feels like to play in an ensemble.
Do you think having that experience separate from the drums influenced the way you play?
Oh yeah, definitely. Having practiced a lot of trumpet, my ears were kind of tuned in to melody and harmonies, so it’s helpful. If I get lost in a tune, I can just listen to the bass or to what the piano’s doing. That’s very useful… Not that I would get lost in my own music, because I know it pretty well by now [laughs].
Listening to Impossible Things, what really stood out for me was the warmth and space and the moments of reckless intensity. Was there a particular inspiration which you had behind this?
It’s the range of emotions that we as human beings experience, I guess. I love when there is space in the music and it’s kind of egoless. Everyone in the band plays without ego, you know. They’re just absolutely serving the song and giving it space to breathe.
But in terms of inspiration for it, I’m really drawn to minimalism and I think that can be really tense, so naturally I feel that wants a release, and so it explodes. I think Arvo Pärt does that really well, the Estonian dude. And Bjork as well, and Ahmad Jamal and Brian Blade. All these people I think have that reverence for space and the song. Or even if it’s not a song in the case of Arvo Pärt, there’s a reverence for that kind of patience. His thing is coming from a sacred kind of place, but they also have a willingness to have a bit of reckless abandon about it.
How do you compose your songs? What sort of process do you have?
Well, I tend not to force it. Do you know [Taoist concept] ‘wu wei’? I guess my favourite English translation would be ‘without forcing’. So I sit at the piano most days and just have a little noodle, maybe play an old song or try to play by ear a song or whatever I’m listening to at the moment. Sometimes it leads to a tune and sometimes it comes out all in one. That’s really satisfying. Like the last tune on the album, ‘Don’t Cry’ – the verse for that just came out all in one. But some took a bit more craft. I guess it really just depends on what I am working on at the time.
‘Anamarrakech’, track four on the album, is kind of based on Moroccan music, but actually I was just listening to this Reinier Baas album and I thought the drum groove on this one tune was really cool, so I started practicing drum grooves like that. I went and sat at a piano and the core of that tune just sort of happened then and there. But then it was coffee-fuelled all-nighters that made me finish that tune and then others just kind of happened.
It’s a marrying of inspiration and then craft. With craft, I think I can learn a lot from [trumpeter] Laura Jurd. Her craft is incredible and she’s also inspired, but you know there’s a lot of technique that goes into her composing that doesn’t necessarily go into mine. I’m mainly ‘C’est la vie’ – whatever will be…
Are your compositions influenced by the people you’re writing for?
Yeah, more and more. These days I’m playing a lot more with guitarist Rob Luft, so I’ve got his sounds in my head, and that comes out and it’s influenced by what I hear, be that music I’m checking out or the people I play with.
What’s it like touring all over the country and beyond, taking your music to all the different jazz clubs?
Really satisfying. That’s kind of the whole point, I think – to share with people in the moment, try and show them what you’re trying to say. For me, it’s the best thing about my job. It’s playing to people maybe with a different background to yourself, and then anything you can give them. Hopefully they go away feeling something. I don’t necessarily care what – upset, or hopefully some deep joy. That’s what I’m hoping for with people, but it can move people in other ways [laughs]… And that’s healthy.
Do you find the songs change when you play them live?
Yeah absolutely, because I’m writing a lot of space for that. I’ve not written this is the piano part… I mean I have in some places, but most of the time when I’m writing a tune out I put most of the information on the page, and before I give it to people I’ll try and strip back anything that I think isn’t the whole point of this tune. So I’ll take that off the page and leave some space for interpretation. Why would I, the drummer, write the piano part when I’ve got two amazing pianists in the band? I’m the same with every other part, to be honest.
What other projects are you involved with currently?
I’m very excited and honoured to be a part of Jasper Høiby’s new band. He’s got a new project, Fellow Creatures, which is a bit of a childhood dream come true for me. Rob Luft, the guitarist, he’s been signed to Edition Records and is going to put out his new album, which is very exciting indeed, as he’s a bit of a superstar in training. And then Little Lions, this collaborative trio with Matt Robinson on piano and Joe Webb on organ.
That’s kind of what my album is an expansion of. I wanted my album to feel as light and spacious as it feels in that trio and a lot of wonderful miscellaneous things, but those are the groups that are moving and shaking the most.
Will there be a follow-up album to Impossible Things? Are you thinking of doing your own band leader album?
I’ve got a whole load of new music that I’m going to take on tour and if that goes well and the feeling’s right I think so, but I don’t want to force anything, because I’m so proud of this first album. But yeah, if it feels right you’ve got to share that shit.