Jim Sclavunos, the drummer from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, has shared a solo cover of Bob Dylan‘s ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune’ with The National‘s Scott Devendorf. Check out the charity single below, along with our interview with the musician.
The Bad Seeds drummer’s second solo release, following from last year’s ‘Holiday Song’ to benefit the Music Venue Trust, sees Sclavunos team up with Devendorf on bass and Dave Sherman (Valerie June, Nicole Atkins) on piano – with all money raised from the BandCamp sales going to the DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and Ellis Park Wildlife Sanctuary. Fans have until May 13 to download the song, but it will be deleted and no longer be available.
The choice of track came about after the drummer heard about the terminal illness of dedicated Bad Seeds fan Kathy McCoy, who has since passed away.
“I first met Kathy with The Bad Seeds,” Sclavunos told NME. “Nick used to go wondering out into the crowd at shows and on this one occasion he dropped his watch. Kathy retrieved it. She was a Facebook follower and she reached out to me to get it back to Nick. That was a nice gesture from a fan – she didn’t pocket it!”
He continued: “Some of our fans go to multiple gigs, and she showed up at a few, and she was on stage at one point. She also started a Facebook group called ‘Music From Big Jim S’, dedicated to stuff that I’ve worked on and participated in.”
During the COVID pandemic, The Bad Seeds auctioned off hundreds of prizes to help raise money for their live crew while touring wasn’t possible. One of them was the chance to appear on Sclavunos’ Soho Radio show – which McCoy went on to win.
“She was very charming and vivacious – sarcastic at times too! During the course of her co-hosting, it came out that another big musical love of hers was Bob Dylan,” the drummer told us. “Months later, I heard the very sad news that she had cancer and was dying.
“She was such a nice lady and I thought, ‘What could I possibly do for her?’ So I decided to record a Dylan song with a couple of friends. I knew Dave Sherman from playing with Nicole Atkins, and I’ve known Scott Devendorf for quite a while as the bass player from The National.”
Bad Seeds’ Jim Sclavunos and The National’s Scott Devendorf. Credit: Sarah Lowe
As for why he chose the Dylan track ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune’ to record, Sclavunos said: “I wanted one that had a broader sense of life and death – with a touch of hope, but based in reality. It just seemed right. I didn’t know this, but it turned out that it had a personal meaning for her because the song was played at her uncle’s funeral some decades earlier. It was far too fitting, and almost a bit spooky.
“I presented that to her as quickly as I could in her final days, and the suggestion came up that maybe it could be used as a fundraiser. The Ellis Park Wildlife Sanctuary, that my bandmate Warren has a strong connection with, was very much on Kathy’s mind.”
During her final days, McCoy was presented with the track and it was decided that money raised from the single’s sales would go towards The Ellis Park Wildlife Sanctuary. Founded in 2021, it provides home for animals with special needs who are unable to be released back into the wild due to injuries sustained from maltreatment by humans. Fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis and his family donated land to the Jakarta Animal Aid Network to help establish the sanctuary.
After McCoy’s passing and while waiting for approval from Dylan’s publishing team, Sclavunos reached out to McCoy’s family to ask if money could also be donated to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
From here, Sclavunos also had a whole solo album planned with another solo single due to be released before Autumn. “I wanted to get this out first, he said. “I’ll be putting out things fairly regularly. I’ve been working on my record since before the pandemic.”
Asked about the vibe of the rest of his material, the drummer revealed: “It’s a little bit out of my comfort zone. Some of them are turning out quite stripped-down and ballad-like. I used to have a band called The Vanity Set, that was a bit of a free-for-all with a tuba player – a little bit silly and a little bit of cabaret craziness.
“It remains to be seen how [my solo material] will be received! I’m not known as a singer by any means. It’s not an unusual move – I have predecessors like Phil Collins, Ringo Starr and even Taylor Hawkins! It’ll be interesting to see whether people take to it or not.”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Credit: Cat Stevens.
Meanwhile, this summer will also Sclavunos reunite with The Bad Seeds for a long run of festival dates – a prospect which he said made him feel “absolutely elated”.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s like riding a bicycle – get back on, you’re wobbly at first, and then zooming away.”
Sclavunos remained tight-lipped about what the shows would involve (“Why spoil the surprises?”) as well as whether or not the band were back at work on writing and recording new material. “I don’t know what I can say about that,” he added. “All shall be revealed!”
After a critically-acclaimed tour for Cave and Ellis’ 2021 album ‘Carnage‘, The Bad Seeds will be hitting the road throughout the summer – including a headline date at London’s All Points East Festival on Sunday August 28. Visit here for tickets and more information.
This Much I Know To Be True, a new Andrew Dominik-directed film about Cave and Ellis’ collaborative relationship, will be released on May 11. Faith, Hope & Carnage, a new book from Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan, follows on September 20.
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