7 March 2017


Photography by Eleonora C. Collini

Nadine Khouri is a British-Lebanese singer-songwriter currently based in London, whose meditative, cinematographic dream-pop has been described as a “music born of perennial outsider-status.” 

Her 2010’s Song to the City EP and her ethereal, yet moody vocals caught the attention of producer John Parish who invited her to guest on a song for his Screenplay LP, and subsequently to record her forthcoming debut LP with him in his hometown of Bristol.

Featuring guest contributions from Parish himself, Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley and violinist Emma Smith (James Yorkston, Hot Chip), The Salted Air, is a beautiful, poetic collection of dreamy, folky songs reminiscent of early Mazzy Star as well as Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone.

I caught up with her in North East London, where she currently lives, and we discussed the album making, working with Parish and her biggest influences. 

When did you start working on The Salted Air?
I had a couple of songs (“The Salted Air” & “You Got A Fire”) kicking around for a while. As for the rest, I wrote a lot of songs 2 or so years ago and a few made it onto the album. There was a gap between the time the record was completed and released.

How did you and John Parish meet? 
I first met John after a show he played with his band at the Water Rats in London several years ago.

How would you define his producing style? 
Well , I couldn’t generalise for every record, but for ours, John worked as “live” as possible. He was interested in capturing something authentic, rather than anything“perfect” or over-edited. He did leave us room to do our thing and brought an incredible sound to the table. 

So, did your record everything live? 
Yes, for the most part. Most of the vocal takes you hear are guide tracks or sung live with the instruments (piano, harmonium, ukulele, guitar, etc.)

Did you write all the instruments and then put your band together or was it a collective effort? 
I wrote demos with ideas on midi originally and brought them to the band. Ruban Byrne (electric guitar, BVs) and J Allen (keys, BVs) were more familiar with the material as we had tried to record the older songs before. For the band itself, we had rehearsals about 2-3 weeks before going into the studio. Emma Smith wrote string arrangements after hearing the demos. But yes, everyone bought something special that’s unique to their own sound and musical sensibilities. 

How did all those collaborations come about? 
Mostly they were friends, or friends of friends, I had known for some time. When the opportunity came to make the album with John (Parish), I got in touch and he suggested Jean-Marc Butty for drums, and another colleague recommended Huw Bennett for double-bass.

The record is mainly around the themes of loss and transformation. Could you call it a concept album? 
I wouldn’t say so, at least not deliberately; but it was written at a time when I had to start over.

Both your artwork and videos have a defined aesthetic. How important are the visual aspects in your music? 
I love being able to express something visually as well as musically. It can be difficult getting the right conditions sometimes, but I think it’s worthwhile and exciting to express what you want through a different medium.

You are originally from Lebanon. What impact do you think that had on your music? 
I think it had an effect on some of the imagery, the memories that I’m preoccupied with, but mostly in my subconscious mind.

The album was released on your own label One Flash Records. Are you considering releasing other artists’ music in the future or the label was mainly founded to only put out your own records?
Yes, initially the label was conceived as a platform for my own releases. It’s A LOT of work to keep it going, but who knows!

Name your three biggest music influences. 
Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Lhasa de Sela.

What have you been reading? 
Today, Carol Ann Duffy The World’s Wife

If you could have a super power, what would it be? 
Absolute fearlessness.

“The Salted Air” is out now on One Flash Records

Nadine Khouri is playing at St Pancras Old Church, London on the 31st March

Originally published on The 405
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