A song that sat unsung for decades sparks a unique and exciting collaboration.
By Steve Houk
Take 15 year-old guitar prodigy Nicky Renard for example. She took a song left dormant by Swedish-born musician Max Foxx, 59, decades ago and woke it up, jostled it around and lit a fire under it with her burgeoning, clearly exceptional talent. And lo and behold, “Grovy Lane” was not only reborn and is out on Spotify and iTunes, but the two are working on a full album of songs featuring some top notch players, including an American Idol-winning singer.
“The basic parts [of “Grovy Lane”] I composed in 1976, and I wasn’t able to make it anything better than it was, it was actually quite a bad song, so I never did anything with it,” Foxx said as he and Renard were recording in the mountains of northern Europe. “It was dormant until last year when Nikki picked it up and made a complete song of it. It had been just the chords and she added all the other parts.”
Listening to “Grovy Lane”, you can surely hear some prog-rock influenced licks, and some hard rock influences, but it’s definitely a distinct sound highlighted by Renard’s wondrous older-than-her-years guitar playing.
“Max had only composed the acoustic guitar chord progression of the verses and choruses,” Renard said. “The song was left forgotten until last autumn when we were just sitting around jamming. We played with it for a while, I composed a few parts such as the intro and solo, he added a bridge, and suddenly, “Grovy Lane” was a complete song.”
The collaboration has been a wonderful surprise for the two, but Renard’s sheer, innate talent is no surprise, and has been developing for several years.
“When I was ten, it was kind of funny, because I think we watched some kind of movie about a rock and roll band,” Renard, who enters the 11th grade this fall, recalled. “I just thought it was really cool. So for my birthday, I really wanted a guitar. Luckily, my parents got me a Yamaha acoustic 3/4 guitar and I started playing quite a lot for about half a year. Then it slowed down for some reason, but when I was thirteen, I started playing more and more and more again. That’s when I realized that I actually really loved playing guitar. I started dedicating a lot of time to playing guitar.”
“It started early last year, when her level of guitar playing picked up rapidly,” Foxx added. “She started to compose songs, there is a song which will not be on the record, she composed it entirely by herself. When I listened to it, I couldn’t believe it. She was just fourteen at that time and it’s a really, really good song. And because of the quality of the music, alot of professionals in the industry have listened to it, and they can’t believe it’s hers. Based on that, we started to play together intensively. I would say second half of last year and that’s how it started.”
Once word of Renard’s talent got out, the pair found themselves in a Nashville studio courting one of the industry’s top voices, American Idol winner Caleb Johnson, to be a part of the evolving magic, and to make Grovy Lane a reality.
“We believed in our song and we wanted someone really good,” said Foxx. “We saw some guys, good singers, but not right for our job. Then the chief engineer at Southern Grand Studios played us Holding On with Caleb Johnson. I decided on the spot, I want this guy. My opinion, I would say he’s one of the ten best rock singers currently on this planet. We contacted his manager and he listened to our early version of the song, and we ended up together.”
The pair are looking to finish the record this fall when they hit the studio for three weeks starting the 9th of September, then there may be some talk of a tour. But bottom line, it’s Foxx’s wise knowledge and Renard’s constantly flourishing playing and songwriting chops that make it a great partnership.
“In very little time, she can add bits and pieces and just convert a bad song into a good song,” Foxx says proudly. “At the same time, I can do the same thing with some stuff she has. It’s a magic collaboration. The only thing I can say, especially when she’s playing her solos, when I’m watching it, I only wish I could have done that when I was fifteen.”