Amber Waves The home page of Nick Evans & Jeff Horne

 

NICK EVANS

Printed in Maverick magazine, February 2006

Nick Evans, a talented singer-songwriter, superb acoustic guitarist and occasional contributor to this magazine, sadly died just before Christmas at his home in Pembrokeshire, aged just 50. In his youth Nick had been a junior tennis champion, and maintained a keen interest in most sports (including, along with his son Neil, Arsenal FC) throughout his life. But music and his family were his passions; he started playing guitar while still at school in Kent, and was influenced at this time by the folk singer Ralph McTell and his schoolfriend Robert Naylor, a virtuoso guitarist whose untimely death at the age of 21 spurred Nick on to constantly try to improve his own abilities. One other notable influence was Elvis; one of his favourite stories was when on a summer holiday he and his sister Chris narrowly missed meeting The King at Graceland!

His working career took quite a few odd turns: he spent some time in the rag trade selling clothing in the markets around Kent and London; joined P&O, rising to become sales manager for the Canberra cruises; and finally found his vocation as a counsellor specialising in addiction and family problems, which he continued either full- or part-time until shortly before he died. I first met Nick in the early 1980s when he came into our recording studio in Sheerness to record a demo tape, and our paths crossed for several years, notably recording with the folk trio Diggery Venn with Bob Kenward and Tim Sumner. Then around 1990 he joined me in the Americana band Small Town Romance, and from that point our lives became closely linked. When the band broke up we carried on playing and recording together as Backstreet Slide; later we formed Heartland Publishing and published several music-related books including a well-received co-written biography of Guy Clark and autobiographies by Nanci Griffith and Ralph McTell. In his last year Nick was the principal instigator behind the publication of Ralph's book of lyrics, Time's Poems.

Nick had substantial health problems throughout his life--he suffered a heart attack in 1993--and in 2003 he took his family back to his Welsh roots in Pembrokeshire. This had the happy effect of making him feel free to play more in public, and for 18 months or more he took his beloved Tom Mates guitar around the pubs and folk clubs of the county, building up an appreciative following for his music and his songs.

The songs Nick wrote ranged from the wryly humorous (Time Spins Around) to the deadly serious (Natural Disaster), but it was when they told small stories that they stood out as truly special. Songbuilder and Another Space on the Benches, while coming from different times in his life, each spoke a truth about his own experience and connection with others, and the wonderful Children of Freedom, about the war heroine Odette, was taken up by the services charitable organisation SSAFA.

Latterly Nick was involved with other charity projects including the Fishguard concerts and CD for victims of the tsunami, and the University of Surrey concert for the Robert Naylor Memorial Fund.

Messages from musical colleagues Ralph McTell and Kate Campbell were read at Nick's funeral together with moving tributes from his family and friends.

Nick is survived by his wife Sally and his children Neil and Rhia. He is sorely missed by us all.

-Jeff Horne

(An edited version of this piece was printed in the Guardian's Other Lives obituaries column, 16/6/06)


Nick Evans: Musician, singer/songwriter, book publisher

Nick was a fine musician guitar player and singer/songwriter and after a career as a counsellor, worked with Jeff Horne as a publisher for Heartland Publishing. Heartland mainly published books about music and musicians and put out both volumes of my autobiographical accounts of my early years, Angel Laughter and Summer Lightning.

During the course of preparation and editing of these volumes, a friendship developed between Nick and me that was very special. Because Nick had such an intimate knowledge of my music, Nick knew my work from the time he was at school. In fact, he and his friend Rob Naylor managed to get me a gig there in the early seventies when he was about sixteen years old. I was honoured that he included many of my songs in his repertoire. Consequently, there was a great understanding between us from the very beginning. I felt able to ask advice and to discuss many of the more sensitive issues which were unearthed in my investigation into my growing up. I was able to confide in Nick in a way usually reserved for old friends, which is how I came to view our relationship.

Once the books had been published we travelled to bookstores together where Nick had arranged readings to promote Angel Laughter. These trips were very enjoyable for all of us but I doubt if I would have undertaken them without Nick's gentle coaching and coaxing. We even played a couple of concerts together, one in Guildford and the other in Nick's home territory of Fishguard. Part of the success of the evening must have been down to Nick and his constant promotion of my songs on his various gigs in the area!

When I conceived the idea of Time's Poems, it was Nick's enthusiasm that fired up the plan and moved it along. Nick came up with the title just as he did with the biographies, and at every stage of development he was involved. From selection of typeface to the texture of the paper, from index to layout, and in every discussion with Peter Thaine the illustrator to subject matter for the elegant drawings.

Our conversations were on an almost daily basis. I relied upon his professional advice and his sensitivity to the subject matter. Nick went through all the material and dotted the I's and crossed the T's. He double and treble checked the layout of the lyrics. After many proof readings he was still switching apostrophes and commas right up to the production deadline.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the book was delayed at the printing stage and sadly Nick never got to see the finished product. However Nick's wife Sally made sure a copy of the book accompanied him on his final journey. I shall miss Nick for his great attitude, his enthusiasm, his confidentiality, his terrific sense of humour and his courage during the various setbacks with his health, but mostly the way anyone would miss an old and treasured friend. Nick's memorial will be the love and admiration of his fans, friends and family and I am proud to include Time's Poems as part of that.

-Ralph McTell, January 2006


THE SONGS OF NICK EVANS

THE MUSIC OF NICK EVANS & JEFF HORNE

THE HISTORY OF HEARTLAND PUBLISHING