GWENT has inspired the arts in many ways, and Grant Nicholas, the lead singer of rock band Feeder, says that some of the area's best known places are included in the lyrics of his songs.
The South Wales Argus is the official media partner of Feeder’s The Homecoming show which will take place at Chepstow Racecourse on Bank Holiday Friday, August 25.
We were granted an exclusive one-to-one interview with the Feeder frontman, who was ever so slightly bleary eyed after a late night recording session in his recording studio, which is situated in the bottom of his garden.
Despite only having two hours sleep he was delighted to be at Chepstow Racecourse to enjoy a day of racing.
The Chepstow-bred singer, as he looked out over the racecourse to the trees on the horizon, said: “We used to go to an old mansion that used to be deserted, to play when we were kids. I’m having little flashbacks of my childhood.”
The Homecoming show celebrates the 21st anniversary of the band’s first album. In that time they have amassed five million record sales.
“We are celebrating 21 years, although the band has been going longer than that,” Mr Nicholas said, “As Feeder it has been 21 years. The Chepstow idea has been floating around for quite a few years, but I didn’t feel it was the right time. Then the anniversary came up and I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate.”
“It’s where I started off,” he added. “It’s where I found music through my friends and through my brother. It’s where I started playing in little bands at school and I thought it’s nice to come home and do it. It just feels like a good time.
“I have to admit I am feeling a little bit of pressure to put on a good show, but I always get nervous before performing. I think if you sing there is always a little bit of that, but that’s a good thing because if the nerves stop you are sort of going through the motions too much. I want each show to be different and exciting.”
Phil Bell, managing director of Chepstow Racecourse, said he is a Feeder fan and that he didn’t realise that Mr Nicholas grew up in the area.
He said: “I was looking to book them for an event at the racecourse without realising that Chepstow was Grant’s hometown. The Homecoming idea soon followed our early conversations with the band.
“We are hugely excited and proud to be involved with the band and the media partners we have lined up for the event.”
The local element was a huge attraction for Mr Nicholas and some fans were disappointed that they didn’t perform in Wales on their recent tour. But now details of the Chepstow show have been revealed, much to fans' delight.
“I was born in Newport and I grew up just outside Chepstow,” he said, “it’s nice that I’m a local lad who did all right for himself and that I’m still doing it after 20 something years, "I used to spend a lot of time near the racecourse, my grandparents’ house is five minutes from here so I used to play round here with my friends and we used to look out to the races, so it’s quite surreal.
“I followed my dream and hopefully that’s a good example to people. It doesn’t always work out, but often it does when you believe in that.
"I think the music business in some ways is harder now, but in some ways it’s easier. Now you can be noticed and still be based in a small town. When I started off you had to be in London.”
The question has to be asked if Mr Nicholas could ever see himself back in Gwent. “I do love this area,” he replied, “but at the moment London suits me better still.
"I would love to have a house and come down and spend weekends, but I can stay with my parents and that kind of fills that gap. If they weren’t here I would miss coming down.
“Growing up here definitely inspired my music. I always write about escape and small town life, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing - I have a lot of friends who have been here all their lives and are very happy - but for me I felt I needed to broaden my horizons and I’m pleased I did.
“I have mentioned Chepstow in my songs, not the word, but especially on my solo record there is a song called Hope that is all about flashbacks of growing up here and I mention hints of Chepstow Castle and walking over the Wye bridge.
"It just comes at certain times and you don’t know when something is going into a song.”
So what can fans expect from the night?
“I haven’t really thought about what we’ll play,” he says with a smile. “What I want to do is make it as fun for the audience as possible and we want to enjoy it and really rock out.”
Tickets for The Homecoming will go on sale on Monday, May 8, from Feeder’s webstore at feederweb.com and will be on sale from Chepstow Racecourse’s website from 9am on Wednesday May 10. For more information visit chepstow-racecourse.co.uk or call 01291 622260.