Siblings chill out at Potato Shed

Clifton Springs siblings Elena and James Nicholls will perform at the Potato Shed next Friday.

By Luke Voogt

James and Elena Nicholls hope to help locals chill during COVID-19 with acoustic covers and their unique mash-up of two Fleetwood Mac classics – Rhiannon and Dreams.

“They’re both in similar keys so it’s really easy to transition between the two,” James told the Independent.

“June 12 – get around it! We’ll play some fun tunes for you.”

The Clifton Springs siblings will combine in the Potato Shed’s new Bird Bath Cam Sessions, with songs such as Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire.

The latter, which Sheeran wrote for film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, was a fitting collaboration to play with Elena, James said.

The song and his sister were the two reasons he began playing music, he explained.

“We actually started off playing together,” he said.

“I remember sitting down and listening to that song at the end of the movie, it just blew me away.

“Later on, mum came up and asked, ‘do you want to learn guitar?’ and I was like, ‘yeah sure!’

“She said, ‘I was actually talking to your sister but if you want you can do lessons as well.’

“Elena had already been doing piano lessons for a while and singing lessons, so I had already learnt from that too.”

Their mum, Susana, has performed with the Potato Shed since James was four years old.

The youngest of seven children, James and Elena followed in mum’s footsteps by acting in Potato Shed productions of Aladdin, Cinderella and Totes Ma Goat.

Both now play guitar, ukulele and piano, while James is also handy on the drums.

They cut their teeth playing at Open Mic nights at the Shed, and both study music at university and have separate bands that play at local venues.

But their live gigs have dried up during COVID-19 restrictions and both siblings have been out of work, temporarily, as council swim instructors.

“I’ve been working a lot here and there with my older brothers as a labourer,” James said.

“[Elena and I] don’t have jobs but we’re going OK. Elena doesn’t seem to be too fussed and I’m pretty chilled.”

Both siblings have been working on new original music during the pandemic.

“I know for my own stuff I’ll be getting Elena to do some harmonies, because I think male and female vocals blend really well,” James said.

Like many artists across the region, live-streamed gigs haven given them another creative outlet.

Next Friday’s performance will be the siblings’ third online gig at the Potato Shed.

“The first time was a bit daunting – it was weird to play just to a camera,” James said.

“We played a much better set the second time.”

The live-streamed shows helped bring locals together online amid the social isolation of COVID-19, James said.

“You can have the show playing in the background and just relax a bit, because I know a lot of people are stressing at the moment.”