10 Minutes with Nick Waterhouse

Crate digging in the Internet era and other retro pursuits

Twenty-eight-year-old L.A. soul blaster Nick Waterhouse arrives at the Parish on Friday with his second disc, Holly. His band features dueling guitars and keys, backup singers, horns, and a three-man rhythm section, all taking cues from Van Morrison and the mid-20th Century. We spoke while he was stuck in traffic between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Geezerville: How are you?

Nick Waterhouse: I’m feeling a little under the weather right now. I had to play a two-and-a-half-hour set last night, something I’ve never done before.

G: Do you have enough material?

NW: I made enough material.

G: Earlier this year I read an article where you asked yourself why you’re compelled to do what you do to make music. Any closer to answer?

NW: No, but I think I’m getting better at letting go of getting an answer.

G: You seem like someone who’s well rounded. Have you thought of other creative alternatives to making music?

NW: That’s awfully nice of you to say. I could easily see myself doing other things. Sometimes it crosses my mind, but if you talk people in San Francisco, where I was before I put my first record out, they didn’t even know I was a musician. I don’t know, maybe I’ll do something else next year. This could end and I’m okay with that.

G: The new album tells a story. I was wondering if you thought of turning into a screenplay, novel, short story.

NW: I initially had the idea to make it into a bunch of short stories. Like little vignettes. I thought about trying to write it out. But you know, you start to make a record and get so involved with trying to be a musician that it’s hard to find the time to do that sort of thing.

G: Have you done any writing, fiction or otherwise?

NW: I have and those thankfully stay in the filing cabinet. Thanks for asking that instead of whether or not I wished I lived in an episode of Mad Men.

G: The music you’re making goes further back than the Sixties.

NW: I think it goes a lot of places.

G: There’s a growing number of people your age who are doing the same kind of thing. I wonder where that’s coming from. Any ideas?

NW: There’s a lot of ways to interpret things that are going on. I think part of it is being young in the Internet era. Our tastes are all developing. People are less hung up on eras, genres, sources, scenes. That could be for better or worse. Some come from very small niche things. Some people are combining that with the do-it-yourself mentality.

G: I’m curious where your interest in this music comes from. I know you’re a deejay and you play, not necessarily obscure songs, but things someone else your age might not necessarily know. I lived through that era and I’m familiar with a lot of that stuff.

NW: You kind of are, but you’re not. You’re talking about the music as pop cultural thing. I have friends my age and we could play you boomer records all day that you’ve never heard. That’s the beauty of it. There used to be a way to distribute music for people to hear. What we’re doing is sort of dismantling all these parts, whether it’s British guys who are Northern Soul collectors or Belgian pop collectors or American blues hounds and whatever. We’ve hot-rodded back into all these little scenes to approach it in ways that are interesting and different. The point is, it’s a youthful and modern take on it which I particularly dig.

G: Where did that interest come from?

NW: If you want to go really early, it was hearing Them with Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, and Aretha Franklin.

G: You cover Mose Allison’s “Let It Come Down” on the new disc. How did you discover him?

NW: I found Mose Allison when I was 13 or 14. I read Pete Townshend talking about Mose Allison, so I thought I should check that guy out. When I did, I was floored beyond any way that I ever was by any musician. Thanks Pete!

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