“Call me when it’s all unraveling”: Jodie Nicholson Breaks Down Her Soul-Stirring Sophomore Album ‘Safe Hands’

Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson’s inner light shines on her breathtaking self-produced sophomore LP ‘Safe Hands,’ an intimate, achingly vulnerable album of unraveling, inward connection, empowerment, and release.
for fans of Daughter, Angie McMahon, Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers
Stream: “Safe Hands” – Jodie Nicholson




Perhaps that’s the key to inner transformation: We must first unravel ourselves in order to rebuild; we have to break down before putting our pieces back together. Otherwise, why transform at all?

The soul’s unraveling is one of the key themes in Jodie Nicholson’s breathtaking sophomore album, and the deeper you listen, the clearer it becomes that hers really is a beautiful breakdown: Like a phoenix, she soars gracefully out of her own wreckage, channeling her own darkness and pain into inspiring warmth and wonder as she finds her footing and her voice, and harnesses both the to the best of her abilities. Nicholson’s inner light shines on Safe Hands, an intimate, achingly vulnerable alt-pop album of self-assurance, inward connection, empowerment, and release.

Safe Hands - Jodie Nicholson
Safe Hands – Jodie Nicholson
How could I be in this mess
Painting your pictures as I rest
It’s always in past tense
You’re under every corner of this mess
The more I turn, the less I rest
I thought I’d be over it by now
By now
Where do we go when it all falls down?
Where do we go when it all crumbles?
I’m burning under every sun
Where do we go when it all falls down?
Where do we go when it all crumbles?
I’m burning under every sun
– “Embers,” Jodie Nicholson

Released May 10, 2024 via Quiet Crown, Safe Hands is a record of relentless reflection, reckoning, rebirth, and reclamation. Arriving five long, long years after Nicholson’s debut album Golden Hour first introduced her contemplative, confessional artistry to the world, her self-produced sophomore album is more like a reintroduction than it is a follow-up. The “alternative folk” of her first record has not entirely vanished, but there is no denying Nicholson’s artistic evolution; while her lyricism has become even more haunting and personal, her seductive soundscapes are at once stunningly expansive and hair-raisingly intimate. Firmly in control of all aspects of her output, she utilizes a range of instrumentation while retaining a sense of minimalism and hushed intimacy, thus creating a record that defies strict genre definitions while still feeling cohesive and true to itself.

In other words, don’t think of Safe Hands as an indie folk or alt-pop album; think of it as a human record.

Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon

Safe Hands feels like the first time every facet of my sound has been showcased in equal measure, with equal importance, and they each sit stronger together in the context of a whole album,” Jodie Nicholson tells Atwood Magazine. “To anyone who is new to my music, I imagine dipping into my back catalogue (after hearing Safe Hands) will feel like unravelling the journey as I slowly grew confidence from that first album, and how each release was really forming the building blocks for this album, from the genres I’ve explored previously, to song structure and how I navigate my music vocally. To anyone familiar with my music – Golden Hour in particularit will likely be no surprise that Safe Hands is self-produced, as I think the producer in me has always been there right from that first album back in 2019.”

“I’ve always been inspired by prog rock and artists who change sonically with each album, so Safe Hands stays true to the way I weave between genres and lead my songwriting on intuition when it comes to lyrics and song structure. It’s biased, but Safe Hands captures each of those aspects in their best light, and the process of making this album has definitely resulted in a more confident and explorative body of work.”

“Unintentionally, maybe, but I think Safe Hands demonstrates how much my outlook has changed when it comes to creating music and what I want to get out of it. Golden Hour was like ‘let’s finish twelve songs that I like and form an album, so people have something to listen back to if I ever stop playing music’, whereas Safe Hands was a way of developing my practice as a songwriter, artist and producer, and thinking more about shaping the future of my artistry beyond this record. After a three-year gap of not releasing music, I’d like to think that this album reflects the time, research, experimentation, and thought spent finding who I want to be as an artist, how I want to develop my career, what I want to say and how I hope people will feel through my music.”

It’s an outline
Another loaded dice
Caught in, against the sides
What if I never showed up
Maybe it was never your love that I needed
to get this right
What if I never showed up
Maybe it was never your love that I needed
to get this right
And if this ain’t who you are
Here I am, here I am
– “Here I Am,” Jodie Nicholson

“WHAT IF I LOSE SIGHT OF YOU?”: JODIE NICHOLSON DWELLS IN HAUNTING HYPOTHETICALS ON “WHAT IF I”

:: PREMIERE ::



Safe Hands aches from the inside out as Nicholson cuts to the core of who we are and how we interact with the world around us, unpacking our relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, and even our pursuits.

I wanted this, I wanted this, I want it,” she repeats in hypnotic, melancholic tones on an opening track that wrestles with the very act of being an artist. Her voice rises up out of ethereal depths slowly, confidently gaining more power and passion as the song progresses and a wayward soul regains its temporary balance. “We can take it to the start, wading in the light you gave me. No distraction. Call me when you’ve gone, call me when it’s all unraveling.”

Safe Hands is, ultimately, an album centered around self-trust, both creatively and introspectively, and is a personal reminder to believe in myself more,” she explains. “The title ‘Safe Hands’ was inspired by the lyrics of an unfinished demo during the writing process for this record; ‘I know my future’s in safe hands, safe hands with you… My future is safe.’ I remember writing it during a pretty low spell; I was unemployed, uninspired, my confidence was at rock-bottom and I felt quite lost, both in and outside of being an artist, so this idea was a reminder, an affirmation almost, that I can fall back on myself and trust that future me would steer me on the right path. Although the song itself didn’t stick, the concept of being in ‘safe hands’ – and the record being in safe hands, in terms of its creation and my choices surrounding that – really spurred me on throughout the making of this record and was something I referred back to mentally as a form of self-assurance. It felt so right as the backbone for this project and this chapter in my career as an artist and a producer, so naturally became the name of the album. It really became my holistic outlook on the whole project.”

“The songs themselves reflect nuances in the different relationships we have in our lives: Friends, family, with ourselves and, more personally, my relationship with music and how that’s changed over the years. Sonically, it takes on all the different facets of my sound and touches on the prog side of pop in the classic it-starts-off-slow-but-gets-bigger-at-the-end kind of fashion that I gravitate towards with my music. If you love music that makes you feel sadness, hope, nostalgia, and/or euphoria, you might like Safe Hands.”




Nicholson candidly describes her record as moving, euphoric, and uplifting.

She recorded and produced it at Blank Studios in Newcastle, and enlisted Oli Deakin (CMAT, Elanor Moss, Benjamin Francis Leftwich) for mixing and Katie Tavini (Arlo Parks, Liz Lawrence, Sega Bodega) for mastering.

While her songs themselves are about soul-searching and self-discovery, Nicholson says she went in with a vision – or at the very least, a game plan – in mind.

“When I set out to make this album, I had pretty big, non-negotiable aims in terms of how the record was going to be created: To record it in a professional recording studio (everything I’ve released prior was either produced remotely and/or recorded at home), collaborate with session musicians for the final recordings, be the sole producer across the entire record, and for the album’s creation to have a strong foothold in the North East, where I’m from,” she says.

“To many artists and maybe people reading this, these things might not sound all that ground-breaking but, for me, it’s how I’ve always dreamt of making music, but previously never had the confidence, connections or resources to take the leap. All my previous releases were recorded at home and either produced by myself or remotely over Zoom, so this album felt like now or never in terms of changing that narrative, taking on new experiences, and carving my name as a producer for this release and releases to come. There were so many moments of thinking ‘I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew,’ ‘Whose idea was this?’, but the impact those decisions have made on the music and the record as a whole has made everything feel so worth it. It’s a huge part of this record for me.”

“Working across an album really brings out the characteristics of your music and what defines your songwriting and/or ‘sound’ as an artist. Safe Hands is the first time I’ve released a series of co-written, co-performed songs, such as ‘Another Frequency,’ ‘What If I,’ and ‘Limit,’ and I love how it’s still detectable which elements make those songs feel as though they belong within the album as a Jodie Nicholson release. It’s been really refreshing for me as a solo artist, but I think it’s also refreshing for people who are already familiar with my music. Taking the reins as producer adds an extra element, too, as it’s given me the ability to showcase across different genres what I could bring to the table on other artists’ music.”

Let’s rewind for a minute
Won’t you let me finish
Can’t you read my lines
One word at a time
The lightning starts to swell
It’s raining, can’t you tell?
I’ve reached my limit
The temperature starts to rise
Filling up our skies
I’ve reached my limit
Let’s free-fall for a second
Maybe you’ll stop guessing
Won’t you tell me why?
Please just tell me why
– “Limit,” Jodie Nicholson
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon



Highlights abound throughout Safe Hands’ dreamy, dramatic 48-minute runtime. Unafraid to sing the quiet part aloud, Nicholson plunges into life’s metaphorical ‘deep end’ straight away, holding a mirror up to herself and to the folks in her periphery as she lets her emotions and her imagination run rampant. “Bad Dream” is an angsty, feverish five-minute upheaval that grows from a soft, whispered entrance into a low roar – smoldering, cinematic, yet still somehow soft and whisper-like.

Aching with regret, despondency, and words unsaid, “Another Frequency,” the album’s shiver-inducing lead single, is a gut-wrenching requiem for a love gone sour: “You only say it when you have to; you only say it ’cause I do,” Nicholson sings, her heart heavy and her intimate voice pained. “I don’t know why it’s taking so long, dancing to a different song…” The weight of the world comes crashing down around the artist not in screams and shouts, but in a haze of emotionally charged atmospheric sound as, together with The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths, Nicholson unravels. It’s an undeniably stellar, hypnotic moment of musical magic, and one that captures her formidable talents as a writer, singer, and producer.

When I close my eyes
I can almost see
Just a shadow of you staring back at me
And now the music’s ‘Blue’, playing on repeat
And yet I know thе words, I now know what she means
You only say it when you have to
You only say it ’cause I do
And we sit in the car with the full beam on,
how’d the radio get so high?
You only say it when you have to
You only say it ’cause I do
I don’t know why it’s taking so long
Dancing to a different song
You’re on another frequency…




The hauntingly beautiful “What If I,” which premiered on Atwood Magazine earlier this year, is another highlight that finds Nicholson emotionally imbalanced and physically unsteady – existentially lost and dwelling in a space of intimate, unfiltered vulnerability. Manifesting all her melancholic longing, Nicholson sings about fearing a loss that hasn’t quite happened yet – but could very well happen, if she lets it.

Her heavy heart aches palpably as she asks, “What if I lose sight of you? What if I lose sight of wherever you are?” She could be singing about loved ones drifting apart – and that’s certainly what it sounds like, upon first listen – but as she explains, the song was inspired by her love of making music, and her fear of losing that spark.

“I remember thinking that I didn’t want to lose sight of why I love making music and what made me want to start releasing music in the first place. At the time, I was feeling quite under pressure to write and make good music, ironically for this record, and all the far-ahead planning that comes with being an artist and creating an album was really getting to me. Writing ‘What If I’ together felt like a remedy to all that.”

Got carried away
I daren’t look up this time
It’s a dead-end maze
Always keeping me up late
Circle round my head
Am I thinking straight, racing to the end?
What if I lose sight of you
What if I lose sight of wherever you are




For Nicholson herself, it’s some of the deeper cuts that hit the hardest. “I’ll always have a particular soft-spot for ‘Starlight’ as this magical little pocket in the album and the catalyst to making a second record. To me, it’s perfect,” she smiles. “‘You Wanted This’ is definitely my proudest production moment. ‘Love, I’m on Fire’ for being the most beautiful, vulnerable track on the record. ‘Bad Dream’ for its forwardness and being a big melting pot of musical influences. Lastly, the end section of ‘Embers’ is a personal highlight – Fran’s drums are incredible!”

“Embers” is without a doubt one of the album’s breathtaking climaxes, both for its musical growth and for its unabridged, exposed, poetic lyricism. Nicholson shares several of her favorite lyrics off the album, notably including two lines from its fiery fifth track:

‘Is it what you miss? Is it what you’re missing? Is it what you said? Is it what you can’t say?’ – “You Wanted This
‘How could I be in this mess? Painting your pictures as I rest. It’s always in past tense’ – “Embers
‘You’re under every corner of this mess’ – “Embers
‘Cast out a line for me, always’ – “Starlight
‘On the back of a bad dream tonight’ – “Bad Dream
‘Am I thinking straight, racing to the end?’ – “What If I
‘If it’s my mind against my own, and it’s your world against our own, then it’s our mind against our own flesh and blood’ – “Flesh & Blood
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon



Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon
Jodie Nicholson © Ellen Dixon

A soul-stirring journey encompassing melancholia and euphoria, Safe Hands is as beautiful as it is breathtaking, as soft and tender as it is bold and fearless.

Saying as much in her silences as she does with her words, Jodie Nicholson has without a doubt come into her own both in front of the microphone and behind the scenes, and this twelve song spectacle – one that exposes her humanity, in order for us to feel our own fragility as well – bears all the fruits of her intimate, intense labor.

Starlight, a distant shore away
Cast out a line for me always
Oh what if I’m there
What if I’m scared of losing out
On everything
Oh what if I’m there
What if I’m scared of losing out
On everything I love
– “Starlight,” Jodie Nicholson

“My hope is that Safe Hands inspires listeners to take a leap of faith, whether they’re making their own music or not, and for anyone experiencing self-doubt to have confidence in themselves and what they’re doing,” Nicholson shares. “Making this record was ultimately one big trust-fall onto my creativity, my ambitions and my skill set in an attempt to prove to myself (more than anyone else) what I can be capable of as a songwriter, musician, producer and human being. It’s taught me a lot about how I want to make music in the future and how important your choices in the process can be in terms not only the final result and music itself, but also your experiences creating it and what you personally want to get out of that process. The learning curves have been steep, but what I’ve gained as a result, personally, sonically and creatively has made the whole process so worth it.”

“Since releasing some of these songs as singles, I now also really hope that listeners take away that making music isn’t always a happy, joyful process; a lot of what we perceive online are really highlights and moments we as artists/creatives feel comfortable sharing, compared to the full spectrum of emotions, thoughts, conversations, challenges, setbacks and personal hurdles we experience in navigating this industry. For listeners who are involved in the music industry themselves or are creative in some way, I hope it opens up conversations around the many highs and lows that come with being an artist, particularly solo, independent artists. The deeper I dive into this album, the more I realise how much those experiences are reflected in my writing. It’s a strange but beautiful thing, really. I’m very grateful people can finally dive into the whole album and listen to it in full!”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Jodie Nicholson’s Safe Hands with Atwood Magazine as she goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!

— —

:: stream/purchase Safe Hands here ::
:: connect with Jodie Nicholson here ::
Stream: ‘Safe Hands’ – Jodie Nicholson



:: Inside Safe Hands ::

Safe Hands - Jodie Nicholson

— —

You Wanted This

You Wanted This was the first time I’d really thought of myself as a producer whilst in the writing/demoing stages and is definitely my proudest moment on the record from a production standpoint. It’s a song centred around my love/hate relationship with being an artist, remembering why I fell in love with music as a kid and using those memories and this song as a way of regaining that child-like excitement for making music. You Wanted This is also my nod to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, an artist I’ve listened to since being a teen and whose music has soundtracked over a decade of my life. I love how he navigates vocals in everything he releases and is always redefining what we view as dance/electronic music.

Bad Dream

I am someone who has very vivid dreams and can often remember them in detail when I wake up. Bad Dream fell out of me quite quickly after having a pretty disturbing dream the night before that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and I got really caught up on the notion that we all fall asleep at night not knowing whether we’ll dream, what we’ll dream and whether it’ll be a nightmare or not. I remember being in a barren field at night and people walking towards me with a blank canvas as a face, no features, saying my name and talking to me as if I knew who they were. I pulled a lot of visuals into the lyrics for the song, hence the ‘you may not know their face, but they seem to know your name.’ The end section of this song is my favourite part, it’s easily the most dramatic and angsty my music has ever sounded.

Another Frequency

Another Frequency very nearly didn’t make the record and only came together in the final stages. It was written with Sam Griffiths (frontman of York-based band, The Howl and The Hum) in 2021, not long after I supported them in Middlesbrough at Teesside SU. When Sam joined me at Blank to record bass and vocals, the whole song came to life and finally fell into place. It became one of my favourites on the record and really made me realise how powerful collaboration can be. I also had a lot of fun recording radio static on this and me flicking through channels. There are a lot of references to driving and listening to the radio in this track, so it felt like the perfect way to add context and place you in the moment.

Pity You Had to Leave

Pity You Had to Leave was inspired by a series of dreams I had over consecutive nights, each centred around female friendships throughout my life that I’ve either drifted apart from or don’t speak to anymore. To me, it’s a nostalgic kind of song about reliving old times and having that one last hurrah with those people. Pity was my biggest conundrum for the album and almost didn’t make it in. I’d created a band-style demo and a more electronic-based one, and I went back and forth on numerous occasions deciding which version should make the album tracklist. The song itself fell out of me quite quickly, and was heavily inspired by the main pad that acts as the track’s backbone. The track title, though not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, was actually a melody and lyric idea I started out with. Even after I changed the whole chorus, it still felt like a cool song title for the track.

Embers

Around the time I wrote Embers, The National’s album ‘I Am Easy to Find’ was on heavy rotation in my car and I remember really wanting to write a song like Dust Falls in Strange Light. The track feels almost nondescript until some huge drums come in, and suddenly the whole track makes sense. It’s definitely one of the bolder tracks on the record and the one I’m most excited/nervous for people to hear when the full album’s out. Witnessing Fran (Francesca Knowles) record drums for the end section was one of my biggest highlights recording the album at Blank, it was pure magic!

Situation

Situation is one of the rare occasions I’ve taken a demo to my band as a song we could shape together. My drummer at the time, Rich Endersby-March, settled on a really cool groove that completely elevated the track and when Fran (Francesca Knowles) came to record drums across the album in Blank, I wanted to retain as much of Rich’s groove as possible. This song probably had the most amount of changes compared to any other track on the record, the main change being a middle 8 that I wrote on the way to band practice in the car, but didn’t actually sit down and demo until a week before heading into the studio. That middle 8 section, the drum groove and little passing notes between the chorus lines on synth are my favourite parts in the whole track.

What If I

What If I was co-written with my wonderful friend, artist in her own right, Harri Endersby-Marsh (check out Harri Endersby and ETHR), in May 2022. It was the first time we’d written together, which felt long overdue given how much we’ve played music together in each other’s live set-ups over the years. Sonically, it sits perfectly between Harri’s releases (particularly through ETHR) and mine, and I took inspiration from soundtracks like ‘Stranger Things’, a series we both love, to shape that euphoric outro section. To me, it’s a real symbol of our friendship and how it’s evolved through music, because the biggest part of this song’s inspiration really comes from the love we both have for each other’s music; that was really the driving force behind it.

Starlight

Starlight ultimately kick-started album-two thinking and acts as the lullaby of the record. As soon as I wrote it, I knew it belonged in the context of a bigger body of work – an album! I’ve always loved the simplicity of this song and that it doesn’t necessarily need to ‘go’ anywhere; it’s just this little, intimate, fleeting moment and the harmonies are what guides you through the track. It fell out of me after writing with a friend over Zoom, someone who is really special to me in my life, and I think it was my way of saying to that person “no matter where we are in life, what we’re doing, where our paths take us, I hope we’ll always have each other”.

Here I Am

Here I Am is the most introspective, personal song on the record and really captures that feeling of being in ‘safe hands’. I particularly love the production and how it leans on my more prog-based influences, with the guitar riff tone being a little nod to Marillion, who my dad absolutely loves, and the way it completely changes at the end with the piano-based outro. The outro, to me, sonically defines what it feels like to be in ‘safe hands’ and immediately came to life with drums and backing vocals. It’s my favourite moment in the track.

Limit

Limit is the dark horse on the album to me and really taught me how big of an impact recording in a studio can have on a track. Recording the drums, vocals and piano in the same room instantly gave this song so much context and made it feel complete. Limit is also particularly special as it was written and performed with Joe Ramsey, an incredible artist in his own right and also my partner, who really witnessed all facets – the highs and the lows – of this record’s creation first-hand. Getting the opportunity to create part of this album together and record Limit in the studio was such an emotional and memorable moment for us; I feel really proud that it’s part of the album.

Love, I’m on Fire

The song that made me cry mid-recording! I don’t think I fully realised how much this song meant to me until I recorded the lead vocal takes. It’s very personal, despite not being written about me. My favourite moment is the piano at 2:14. It was totally unplanned (quite out of character for me, I’m not a very spontaneous person!) and came into my head on my walk to the control room after doing a series of lead vocal takes. It’s such a magical moment and I particularly love the way it hangs so delicately across the track’s outro. I’m particularly excited to perform this one live with my band.

Flesh & Blood

Flesh & Blood is one of the most special songs on the record, to me. I wrote it after watching ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ and being incredibly moved by it in a very unexpected, ugly-cry kind of way. For the first half an hour you have absolutely NO idea what’s going on, it all just seems a bit bonkers and fast-paced, but by the end I realised how much I related to Joy (the daughter) and how much I personally needed to hear everything her mother, Evelyn, says to Joy in those closing scenes. Flesh & Blood is written about that mother-daughter relationship, stepping in Evelyn’s shoes and speaking to my imaginary future daughter about our shared experiences, as a way of saying ‘I’ve got you, we’re in this together, it’s us against the world’ kind of thing. It felt like the perfect message, tone and final track to close Safe Hands.

— —

:: stream/purchase Safe Hands here ::
:: connect with Jodie Nicholson here ::



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Safe Hands - Jodie Nicholson

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? © Ellen Dixon

Safe Hands

an album by Jodie Nicholson



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