What's a Scrimshaw ?
The art of carving or incising intricate designs on whalebone or whale ivory.
"In the 1800s, whaling voyages would last three years or longer; several weeks, sometimes months, could pass between whale sightings, This gave the whalers a great deal more free time than the other sailors of the day. Manuscripts were penned, and finely crafted stories were told in thin line on bone. I imagine it was the romantics, who, if forced to sea, would take to whaling, finding somewhere to occasionally oust their courage between long bouts of contemplation, and rum. They probably also liked the rum."
~ Nels Andrews, 2012
Hi. I'm Nels Andrews. Scrimshaw is also the name of my third studio record.
I've taken some time off since my last record (Off Track Betting, 2008) to stay home with my (then) newborn son. I worked hard writing songs at night while he slept. During those few years, I felt a sort of kinship with the whalers of the late 1800's. I also became obsessed with cetaceans, actually, casually starting at the Natural History museum, moving on to Moby Dick, then captains’ memoirs from the era, and finally actual whale watching trips (not to mention a bedside maritime dictionary). To me, Scrimshaw was a craft of the off hours.
This is my second collaboration with the amazing producer Todd Sickafoose (Anais Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Tiny Resistors). Once again, Todd brought his rich musical palate to the project and we tracked the basics live, a handful of us playing in the same room, overlooking the naval yards at Brooklyn Recording.
Here's our crew (the good pics are by Adam Levy; not so good, me):
Andrew Borger Drums, Percussion (Tom Waits, Chuck Prophet, Tin Hat Trio)
Savanna Jo Lack Violin
Nuala Kennedy vocals, Flute (Will Oldam, Gerry O Conner, Kris Drever)
Aj Roach Vocals
Raina Rose Vocals
Anthony Da Costa Vocals
John Elliot Vocals
Ian Thomas Parks Vocals
I've made it this far on my own.....
As artists, we push ourselves to evolve. Lyrically and thematically, I think this is my most realized work to date - I’m really proud of this album. I'd love to share it with the world, but I could use your help.
I scratched and saved up enough time and money and credit cards to get into the studio and get these songs onto tape and disc. It’s also gotten overseas, where the amazing folks at Lucky Dice in the Netherlands, and G promo PR in the UK, took the record to press with amazing results. Now I’m here on my own in the US, and hope you will help me to spread the word.
Scrimshaw was officially "released" in the UK and Holland this past spring. I brought my band over for a dutch tour in May.
We (myself, the band, and Scrimshaw) were warmly welcomed. Here are the very fast quotes from the video:
"Strikingly intimate album that combines deft storytelling with a warmth of tone and gentleness of pace..awash with layers, metaphors and echoes woven into subtle, contemplative contemporary song. Like finding a seashell at the back of a dusty cupboard, putting it to your ear and hearing the ocean". - Folk Radio UK
(4/5 stars) - The London Telegraph, UK
"A true wellspring of 21st century music." album of the week - Iain Anderson, BBC Scotland
"Literate, melancholic songs of life passing" (4/5 stars) - The Irish Times, UK
“The rhythm of the ocean... and light and shade dynamics reminiscent of Astral Weeks. As great singers do, Andrews has the gift of making the ‘La-La-La’ coda sound as profound as ancient philosophy” (4/5 stars) - Rock’n Reel Magazine, UK
“A wonderfull and delicate work of art”(4/5 stars) - Maverick Magazine UK
(4/5 stars) - Volkskrant, NL
(4/5 stars)- OOR, NL
"With Scrimshaw, Nels Andrews delivers another masterpiece" - Heaven Pop Magazine, NL
There is a US release date planned for this coming November and I'm asking for your help to ensure that it gets out to the world. While the album is complete, the first run of CDs has almost sold out already (good news!), and I'll be needing to make more of them (need more $$ news). But that's only a small part of what I need to do here. There aren't too many record labels anymore, the 'machine' that used to propel music into the ether…well, now it is a cloud.
The Music Industry Today + Independent Artist = Kickstarter
Maybe you've heard some of Scrimshaw on Spotify - I'm glad you're listening! Sadly, they pay me 0.00592529 cents per play. In my case, 6764 Spotify Streams= $34.48
While it was also great to find out Scrimshaw has been downloaded thousands of times…. it was from a website that torrent it for free. Bittersweet news, that.
It's a tough business to balance, making the music and getting it out to the world, with enough money leftover to get to your town to play a show, AND to make more CDs, AND to do the right type of promotion and advertising that will get to the people in other towns, where I hope to go play a show...
That would be where you could help. Just pre-ordering Scrimshaw now, before the release, could give me enough leeway to introduce this album to the US properly. With so few record labels around, and so many of us "indie" that means we are doing it ALL ourselves, in our homes and in coffeeshops and in vans on the side of the road.
We are our own record label.
Where will the money go? A Recap.
Here is what a record label used to do:
- record the songs in a decent studio
- hire talented musicians to play on the album
- master the album
- hire an artist to make the art for the album
- find a factory that makes records and make thousands of them
- have somewhere to keep boxes of records, and someone to ship them out
- hire someone to do radio promotion
- hire someone to do print advertising
- spread the word online
- hire someone to create and maintain a website
- hire someone to market the album
- hire someone to book the tours
- pay for gas money to get to the gigs
You get the idea. This is all my job now. I've got a bunch of it done, but I need some help to really get it across our big country.
I leaked out copies to a bunch of my peers, people whose work I really respect, this is what they've said:
"The scrimshaw songs are so carefully made, like the stuff of the title itself, fine etchings on bone. Nels is a master carver, an artist patient and obsessed enough to turn a whale of an idea into something delicate and beautiful from
any angle.” -Anais Mitchell
"Scrimshaw" is a book of poetry on tape, sung by the author over a lush orchestral folk soundscape. Each song contains several lyrics that float above the surface and convince the listener that Nels Andrews may well be one of America's finest writers. In a just world, it will move several yoonz."
"There's those albums you grow to love over time, and then there's those albums which, you're so in smitten with everything that artist has ever done, that you're completely in love with their newest work almost from pure anticipation. And then there's those albums, like Nels Andrews' Scrimshaw, that exceed even those lofty anticipations and expectations. He has such an effortless singing voice, and a timeless writing voice. These tunes are all deep with symbolism, and vivid with imagery. And they sit together elegantly as a single unit. It's a truly beautiful album."
"The songs on Scrimshaw are fantastically warm, fantastically poetic and fantastically moving. From start to finish, Nels takes us to another world. It's like being part of a storybook. Beautiful and pure. It's magic." -Carrie Elkin
'When Nels Andrews tells a story, he sings it with the wisdom of a sea captain and the exuberance of a deck hand. When he's through, you inevitably wish you could hear it all over again. Lucky for us, he's made an album called Scrimshaw, and we have devices for playing recorded music'. -Robbie Hecht
"Once this record went in the cd player, it did not come out for literally months. We dove into the world of Scrimshaw and swum around in the dark lush tones and haunting poetry. This is a true poet's masterpiece. Every word is a jewel, placed purposefully with skilled hands. A flowery way of saying that Nels Andrews' Scrimshaw is undoubtedly one of my favorite records of the last ten years." -Raina Rose
There aren't record labels like there used to be, but there is a generous spirit. I like the "pay what you will" approach, and this is part of that. Pay what you can, there are lots of packages to choose from. Again, just by pre-ordering Scrimshaw here, you are cutting out about 3 middlemen.
We can even think that it's not what you think these 9 songs are worth, but also the value of artists who are trying to figure out how to live in a culture that expects things for free (INSERT NPR TOTEBAG JOKE HERE). This is a way to show that we value art and creating and music (OR HERE. Cue Ira Glass/Terry Gross. Sigh.).
A long time ago there were patrons and benefactors who believed the world needed artists. I do too.
- (30 days)