Insight Interview: Nick Tearle

Lincolnshire-based oil painter and field recordist Nick Tearle, recently shared their incredible album ‘Annapurna’ with us, an album of beautifully captured sound whilst traveling through the Himalayas.

In this Insight interview, we dive into what inspires Nick to paint the fenlands of Lincolnshire and how travelling 744km across Nepal would lead to a truly inspiring cultural album. 

 

Please tell us about yourself in a few words (who you are, where you’re from, what you do etc.)

I’m Nick Tearle, I’m a painter, music creator and field recordist living and working in Lincolnshire. My work focuses on landscapes, predominantly the fenland landscape. Over the last five years I have successfully created a following for my oil paintings of the fens.

How have you found life as a full-time independent artist?

It feels like it is what I am supposed to be doing in life, working for yourself comes with its own challenges but I think the freedom of time to be creative is worth it absolutely. Supporting yourself financially through an art form is something that a lot of people dream of so I don’t take it for granted.

As an artist, what do you try to express through your art? A particular mood or feeling perhaps?

The landscape has a profound effect on our lives, just being outdoors can greatly improve mood. The fenland landscape is the one that has affected me the most through-out my life and so it became my muse. The grand scale of the huge skies of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, the idyllic waterways and the expanse of the distant horizon all work together to make you feel smaller and humbler – it’s a kind of forced meditation – the landscape literally alters your consciousness. As a painter, I focus on capturing that moment on canvas. As a producer, I use field recording to bring the landscape into my music.

Nick alongside one of his oil paintings

Tell us a little about your paintings? When did you first discover your love for landscape oil painting? 

As a kid I was constantly drawing, as a teen I realised my heroes were artists. I studied fine art, photography, art history and graphics. Oil paint was the paint the masters used it was also the messiest because it takes a long time to dry and this suited me just fine. It wasn’t until I had lived in Asia for four years and worked in marketing that I began to see a way of creating a living from my art.

Who are your major influences?  

As a painter, my most major influence is Edward Hopper, an American painter who’s oil paintings focus on the isolation of the individual in the modern world. I got a book of his paintings during college and it’s still with me now, I remember doing a lengthy presentation on his work to my diploma group and even some inspired works for our end of year show. The way he presented his subjects always spoke to me.

As for music, I’m a huge fan of the classic ambient albums, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Brian Eno, Substrata by Biosphere and 76:14 by Global Communication.

“As we travelled, I made recordings each day with the Zoom H1 recorder. In that environment, there was very little traffic or engine noise so it was easy to capture good recordings with the stereo condenser microphones built in to the device.” – Nick Tearle

The concept behind the ‘Annapurna’ field recording album was a 744Km motorcycle tour from Kathmandu to Muktinath Temple through the Himalayan mountains. How did you prepare and plan for such an epic adventure? 

Yeah new I would make this kind of album out of the recordings so I was constantly listening to my environment during the trip. I have a lot of experience riding motorcycles in Asia. I first learnt to ride in Thailand back in 2012 and I’ve toured parts of Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines on two wheels. Prior to the Nepal tour my partner and I had spent 4 months in Sri Lanka and India also touring by motorcycle. You need a full motorcycle licence in the UK and an International Driving License to ride in Nepal, also a couple of permits to enter the Annapurna National Conservation Area. We also needed clothing suitable for the higher altitudes and waterproofs as we’d be riding through ice cold water, mud and snow. We had maps of the area, emergency contact details and extra phone batteries etc.

The album captures incredible audio recordings of Nick’s journey through the Himalayas

Renting the bike was as simple as turning up at a shop in Kathmandu, checking the bike over with a test ride and negotiating a daily rate. This kind of tour is sold to westerners all the time for thousands of pounds but really its very achievable yourself if you have experience with bikes and traveling. Motorcycling takes that consciousness altering relationship with the landscape to the next level as you are moving through the landscape at one with the road and exposed to the elements.

“Don’t wait for someone else to tell you can do it, or to recognise what you do. If you like what you do creatively, polish it, package it, brand it and present it for sale.”

What equipment was essential for such a journey? Did you come across any boundaries or hurdles whilst capturing audio at such an altitude?

We stayed in small wooden lodges so no special camping equipment was needed just layers of weather proof warm clothes. The motorcycle was a Royal Enfield Classic 350CC and probably not the ideal bike for such an off-road journey, but she got us up there and down in one piece. As we travelled, I made recordings each day with the Zoom H1 recorder. In that environment, there was very little traffic or engine noise so it was easy to capture good recordings with the stereo condenser microphones built in to the device. I had no computer with me so I was unable to properly listen to or edit any recordings during the trip. I relied on good microphone placement and just being in the right place at the right time. With more equipment and time, I could have recorded much more, but what I have is a good representation of our journey and well worth presenting.

 

ZOOM H1 Handheld Recorder

What emotions were you feeling whilst traveling through the towering Himalayan mountains after leaving the flat endless landscape of The Fens? 

The landscape was incredible. The journey took twelve days in total and the road was a mixture of off road mud track, shallow rocky pools and snow covered blind bends. Stopping at Beni, Tatopani, Kalopani, Jomsom and Kagbeni we saw the landscape change from verdant rice paddies, to rocky river valleys, to snow covered mountainsides. It was breath-taking but the road was hard. The ‘road’ is under construction and has been for many years already, progress is slow and with the constantly shifting weather that mountains bring its prone to landslides. Riding that road is not for the faint hearted, we came off the bike a couple of time as it slipped in the mud or hit a submerged rock, but with each village the landscape seemed to transform and this kept us moving forward. Arriving at Muktinath was a magical moment.

Nick with his Royal Enfield Classic 350CC motorbike

Have you worked on any other field recording projects? 

I’m currently working on two more collections of recordings made in Sri Lanka and India. Also, I have an ongoing project which combines field recordings made in the fens with ambient music.

To those looking for a freelance career in the creative space, what advice would you give to them?

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you can do it, or to recognise what you do. If you like what you do creatively, polish it, package it, brand it and present it for sale. With the internet and resources like YouTube its easier than ever to learn the necessary skills to market yourself and find an audience. Once you take yourself and your products seriously others will too.

The album is available now across all major digital streaming services, as well as limited edition CD that features extraordinary photographs of Nick’s journey across the Himalayas. Be sure to follow him on Soundcloud here or visit his website here.