Shane Nicholson shares his heartbreak at the loss of John Prine

OUT OF THE GREY: Shane Nicholson played his first show since the beginning of the pandemic last Friday at the Warners Bay Theatre.
OUT OF THE GREY: Shane Nicholson played his first show since the beginning of the pandemic last Friday at the Warners Bay Theatre.

IN late March Shane Nicholson read the news that one of his musical heroes, John Prine, was hospitalised with COVID-19.

The prognosis was dire given the US country-folk legend was 73 and had existing health problems due to previous bouts of cancer.

Nicholson went to sleep that night in his Central Coast home with Prine on his mind, and in the morning he wrote the song Don't Take John Prine. The track, which pleas to God to save Prine, was hastily recorded and uploaded to Facebook.

The response was instant. People wanted a proper version of the track. Unfortunately before Nicholson could re-record the song Prine died on April 7, arguably the music world's highest-profile casualty to COVID-19.

"He meant a lot to me as a writer and to a lot of other writers in the weirdly-vast genre we inhabit," Nicholson says. "He was a pioneer in a lot of ways. Songs I've written in the past wouldn't have happened. In fact, the entire Bad Machines record wouldn't have happened without John Prine."

Don't Take John Prine is one of three singles released this year by the alt-country artist. The others being The High Price Of Surviving and a popular duet Long Way From Lonely with ex-Deep Creek Road singer Hunter Kaine.

A follow-up to 2017's album Love and Blood was due for release in June, but because of COVID the album was postponed til 2021.

"I had the album tour booked but we put it all on ice because it didn't seem like the right time to do it," he says. "The album's been done for quite a while and we'll plan it for next year.

"If a tour can happen around it, that's awesome, if not, I'm still gonna put it out because I can't sit around with a record collecting dust for too long because the songs get old and I move on."

However, Nicholson hasn't been idle. He's produced six albums in his home studio, including several remotely.

"I never thought we'd be making records this way, me freighting a microphone around the country for people to do their vocals and emailing them back," he says.

"It's been crazy stuff, but it's working, People just wanna make music and we've been finding ways to collectively do it."

Nicholson is also out of the studio and back on stage for the Great Southern Nights gig series. Last Friday he played his first show in nine months at the Warners Bay Theatre.

"It took a couple of songs to get my sea legs back," he says. "It's funny, I've been playing music all year in the studio, but it's just not the same as being on stage and being in the moment in front of an audience. There's no replicating that in the studio."

Shane Nicholson & The General Waste perform at Dashville with Kevin Bennett & The Flood and Anna Weatherup on November 28.

This story Shane Nicholson offers lament for the loss of John Prine first appeared on Newcastle Herald.