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In 2012, the music world was introduced to Time’s All Gone, the debut album from Nick Waterhouse. Perhaps because of his look, maybe because of the sound, he was instantly compared to acts like Sharon Jones and Mark Ronson. But Waterhouse he has a uniqueness all his own. His sophomore album Holly (released March 4th) presents another soulful collection of work that continues to set him apart.
You say that Holly feels like a novella or poem, a work of fiction. What inspired its creation?
I guess I was just writing songs about what I was witnessing or happened to be around between the first and second albums. With the first album, I kind of made it just to make it, if that makes sense. With Holly, I wasn’t really thinking about making an album. I just accrued a lot of material on the road, which was great because I took my time and got to pick and choose what I wanted.
How long did it take, from conception to completion?
There wasn’t really a set time. After Time’s All Gone, I was in a bit of a dark place. I had a lot of changes happening. I lost my home studio, which for me was kind of like going away to war and coming back to find my childhood home had been demolished.
Yeah, there were other things taking place and a few times I felt like “this is it.” I was having trouble finding a new studio, had a lot of people giving me advice who really didn’t get what I was trying to do. I tried cutting the album twice and it just wasn’t what I wanted.
You pulled it together though.
It was a rocky journey.
If I had to pick a favorite track from Holly, it’d be “Sleeping Pills.” I’m trying to learn to play the guitar and have a running list of songs I want to learn. That’s now on my list.
Well from one guitarist to another, it’s a fun song to learn and play, it has this natural momentum. I think the part between the second verse and the guitar solo is my favorite. I had a lot of fun with that.
Why the name Holly?
Well, I can’t tell you everything; I have to leave some mystery there.
I get it. A word’s meaning can vary from person to person anyway.
They do. I’ll let everyone speculate and decide for themselves. For me, Holly was just a good name.
I found that you’ve been labeled as everything from neo soul and jazz to rhythm and blues and rock. How do you feel about people categorizing your sound? Do you feel like you fall under one genre?
Not at all. I think that labels create expectations. I really think that some people believe musicians wake up and say, “Hey I’m making this specific type of music today” and that’s not the way it is.
I guess you end up feeling kind of boxed in?
Yes! You put a horn on anything and instantly you’re a jazz artist but then you listen to some people in that same category and think, “I’d never make a song like that.” To be categorized just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s unfortunate.
Do you have a favorite piece of gear?
I’ve never been one for attachments, I’ve never believed in “magic” with a particular instrument. I guess my favorite gear is my left hand.
Your left hand? That’s interesting. How about other instruments? Do you play anything else?
Not well. On “Dead Room,” that was me on electric piano. But even with that, I think I liked what I did -not because I was better than an actual professional pianist. I just knew exactly what sound I wanted, which just happened to be what I played.
So as a writer, do you have a favorite time or place to write?
Time….I guess when I’m on my way down.
Writing from the dark place, I get that. Sometimes there’s more depth from down under.
Yeah. For me, I just write when it comes to me. I’d have an idea or thought and would jot it down to try to revisit it later.
I HATE that. I do the same thing but half the time I get frustrated because I can’t even remember where I was going with it.
Exactly, that happens to me too. It’s almost like you become an archeologist of your thoughts…trying to dig until you find the meaning in whatever it was you were trying to say.
I saw a clip of you singing on “Live from Daryl’s House.” That looked like a lot of fun. What can you tell me about that experience?
My people got an email and they told me, “Daryl Hall wants you to be on his show.” I was shocked; I just knew they were talking about someone else. But they said no, it’s THE Daryl Hall so at that point I was thinking, “What is really going on?” Of course I emailed back and we set everything up. Pretty much what you saw on the clip was exactly how it was…a bunch of guys just playing and enjoying music.
“Hit the Road Jack” – who chose that song?
We were just going through all these songs trying to pick one and someone said, “Fuck it, let’s just play “Hit the Road Jack” and we ended up having a lot of fun with it. The whole experience was a lot of fun.
I see you’re about to go on tour to promote Holly. Do you get excited about touring? What’s the most difficult part?
My attitude towards playing is if I don’t feel it, I don’t force it. When it comes to music, some people expect the live sound to match exactly what it is on record. And when you’re on tour, the sound is never the same every single night. Sometimes that makes it hard.
So I guess the pressure might be one of the most difficult parts?
The pressure can be difficult. I would never pull a Van Morrison and just drop the mic and walk off stage or anything but sometimes you just don’t feel it. I like to improvise. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don’t. I just try to play in the moment.
photos by Naj Jamai