Songwriter Interviews

Nick Van Eede from Cutting Crew

by Carl Wiser

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Arriving in England from their hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, lead singer Nick Van Eede and guitarist Kevin MacMichael formed Cutting Crew in 1986, later that year releasing the wildly successful Broadcast album, which contains the hits "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" and "I've Been In Love Before."

Their second album The Scattering was released in 1989. Embraced by fans, it suffered from record company politics, and Cutting Crew disbanded in 1993. In 2002, MacMichael died far too young, succumbing to lung cancer at age 51. Van Eede reformed Cutting Crew with a new lineup in 2006, releasing Grinning Souls.

Nick took the time to answer some questions about the inspiration for their songs, his role in Cher's "Believe," and the song that honors his fallen friend.
What's the story behind "(I Just) Died in Your Arms"? We're wondering if it was inspired by a real relationship and where some of the lyrics came from.

Yes, I cannot tell a lie. It's a song written about my girlfriend (who is actually the mother of my daughter). We got back together for one night after a year apart and I guess there were some fireworks but all the time tinged with a feeling of "should I really be doing this?" Hence the lyric, I should have walked away. I know it sounds corny but I awoke that morning and wrote the basic lyrics within an hour and wrote and recorded the demo completely within 3 days.

What was your experience with Virgin Records, and is this addressed in any of your songs?

We were signed to Siren records which was part of Virgin so we were always a little bit on the outside but it was the '80s and they certainly put their money where their mouth was. We were flown to New York for the initial recordings of the album and this is where we got a great recording of "I've Been In Love Before." Then we were flown to Australia to shoot videos... all a bit crazy really. We gave them their first US #1 with "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" but the company soon outgrew us as music starts were changing in the early '90s. We wrote one slightly veiled song having a pop at US A&R antics in our "Between a Rock and Hard Place" from The Scattering album. I sang, "I got a brick but I can't find a window," as they continually blocked our albums release for months making us lose so much momentum.

What can you tell us about your involvement in Cher's "Believe," and how that song came together?

(Cutting Crew guitarist) Kevin MacMichael and I produced the original demo with Mark Scott and Brian Higgins in 1992 I think. That shows how long the song sat around. We tweaked the melody and chords in the famous chorus... listen to the first 2 chords to "I've Been in Love Before" and the first 2 chords to "Believe" and you'll hear the similarity. We got paid a bottle of whisky between us for the session!

What is your favorite Cutting Crew track, and why?

"The Scattering." I think it's one of my best lyrics, telling of how the small villages in rural communities can die out when the life blood youth move away to the big cities. We had a lot of fun recording it as we flew down from Scotland with The Whistle Binkies who were a fabulous and famous folk band. We had 5 hours to record all their parts which included Bodhran, fiddle, pipes and accordion. This is still a firm favourite when we play live, even without the folk band!

How do you feel about Mika's track "Relax (Take It Easy)," which borrows from "I Just Died In Your Arms"?

I never noticed anything until 150 fans started writing and pointing out the similarities. I know as well as any other song writer that these things can happen and its just the way of the composing world. I am completely confident MIKA stumbled in to it accidently and I am proud to be given the co write... Kerching!!!

What were the circumstances that led you to Barbados. We're wondering what it was like living there as an expat, and why you decided to leave.

I reached a point in my career when I was solely writing for Sony publishing and also managing a band (MIR) in Canada and it just seemed obvious that I did not need to live anywhere in particular so within 3 months of my decision I was living in a beautiful big home on the east coast of Barbados in St Philip... one cane field away from Eddie Grant and his studio. It was a privilege to live amongst the grinning souls of that gorgeous island for 4 years. My daughter did some serious growing up there and I certainly learnt to take things a little slower. Also wrote a really cool song called "Map of the World" with my old mate Steve Hogarth for Marillion.

Please tell us about one of the tracks on Grinning Souls that you're particularly proud of.

As everybody knows I lost my best friend and music partner Kevin MacMichael a few years back to cancer. I miss him in many different ways and when it came to writing the Grinning Souls album the last thing I wanted and meant to do was write a song about him. Very briefly, my 7 year old niece Daizie came to stay with me on the island and infuriated everybody by repeatedly singing a melody to her silly made up words. When she had flown home I went up to the studio and the song "Silhouette" just tumbled forth and low and behold it was built around Daizie's tune. It's fitting that the song is quite Beatlesque as Kevin was such a huge fan of theirs and where on earth the lyrics came from, I have no idea but I think they stand up well (or at least many many fans have responded so well to them): "You gotta laugh, or else you cry. You gotta live, at least to try. A cigarette, an empty chair. You were my friend, the best i had. And you played it all on an old guitar."

December 16, 2008. Learn more at Cutting Crew's official site: cuttingcrew.biz
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Comments: 6

  • Liam Jensen & Dad from Long Beach, Hesperia, CaliforniaGentlemen One and All....Rock Has Nick to prove Wang Chung & the Cutting Edge Men have Style and Class that are unsurpassed. Gracious, determined, un-jaded, old souls one and all.....My son Liam will forever hold Nick in the highest esteem as a talented artist that brought him up on stage and let him experience, for a moment what team work, respect, entertainment and good friends are all about. I couldn't ask for a better first encounter 4 Liam. Berlin Rocks...:) Thank You Nick! USAF, MSgt, Mayor .
    Gotta Get your # so I can intro you to my industry friends...Working on Face Book POC...Cheers !
  • Meocyber from Alma Co. My wife and I connect "Been in Love before" w/ our first trip to Hawaii. Beautiful song in a beautiful place.
  • Meocyber from Alma, Co Easily, one of my favorites from the 1980's. A very underated song of it's time.
  • Ted RussellAll of the Cutting Crews songs are excellent. As I grow older I always revert back to those great songs of the 80's & 90's. The Cutting Crew are always at the top of that list, including the newer release "Grinning Souls".
    I miss Kevin's presence, but when I start playing the earlier stuff I am again reminded of how much of a talent we are missing today, but listening to the CC seems to remind me that he'll always be here for us.
    The Cutting Crew was something very special , and still is today.
    Shame on the Record Industry for not nurturing this amazing band through the 90's and into 2K.
    Very happy that Nic is carrying on. And I'm sure he has Kevin's blessings.
    There has never been, or will be, a band to take their place in my ears, and in my heart.
    Luv U Guys !!!!
  • Rita from Germanyevery song is worth listen to, old and new ones!
  • Amir Off from GermanyTypical 80s, love it a lot ...!
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