Jim Duguid

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 24 Jan 2010
  • min read
Jim Duguid hails from Glasgow. A drummer and songwriter, formerly of pop-rock band Speedway, and more recently a co-writer on Paolo Nutini’s first album. He now has a London studio where he collaborates with artists as both player and composer. He’s currently working with Starsailor frontman James Walsh on his first solo project.

Why did you become a drummer?
My brother was a guitarist and that’s what first got me interested in playing an instrument. Drumming just seemed like a cool option.

How did you get into songwriting?
As a drummer I found that when we were rehearsing or recording my part was always over first and I got bored. So I taught myself a few chords on the guitar and started writing songs.

How did your collaboration with Paulo Nutini come about?
I was at a David Sneddon gig with my manager Brendan. David was late on so they offered someone in the crowd a chance to perform if they won a pop quiz. Paolo Nutini was the winner and we thought he was great. He was only 15 at the time but we started working with him and soon after that he moved to London and got signed. By this point my band Speedway was coming to an end, so Paolo and I wrote his first album together, along with a few other contributors.

How does the process of writing a song usually happen for you?

Sometimes I start off with a few piano chords, sometimes it’s a lyrical idea. Sometimes it’s just listening to loads of other stuff in a certain style that can generate inspiration. I much prefer collaborating with an artist to writing on my own as it’s easier to put some feeling into a song when you can see who is actually going to sing it; the chemistry is really important in that process. Plus there’s a much better chance of it actually getting used!

Do you think there is still room in the industry for people who write songs but don’t perform them?

Yes, I do. There are definitely people around who just write songs and then pitch them into labels. For me it’s a bit detached and more risky though.

What song that you have written are you most proud of?

Probably Autumn (from Paolo Nutini’s These Streets album). I came up with a nice melody but when we talked about a few ideas for lyrics it wasn’t really going anywhere. Then Paolo took the song away and ended up putting these beautiful lyrics to it about losing his grandfather. He’d taken a tune I started and turned it into something really special.

What do you think makes a good pop song?
Keeping it simple – that’s the one common factor between great pop songs. I also try to write songs that mean something.

Who has influenced you in the music industry?
I think my ethos for keeping it simple comes from the Beatles who I’ve been into since my teens when their music first came out on CD. That makes me sound old!  I like older music, like the Drifters. These days I admire Max Martin who’s written some amazing pop songs and been so successful. And Mutt Lange who’s done such varied stuff - you can hear him doing backing vocals in both AC/DC and Shania Twain!

You’ve toured extensively but also spend a lot of time recording; which do you prefer?
Touring is great fun obviously, but it’s nice to be in one place now. I’m married and it does get hard being away all the time. It’s good to just focus on the song-writing for the time being.

How important are royalties to you?
Vitally important – royalties pay for my living and upkeep. I’m not sure people always realise that if creators don’t get paid, there’ll be no music. The system takes some getting used to though. When I started writing songs, I always thought one big hit would make you an instant millionaire, but it doesn’t really turn out like that!