Nick 13, best known as the frontman, guitarist, and lead songwriter for psychobilly band Tiger Army, has just released his first solo album and will be playing Velvet Jones in support this Thursday, August 11. For his debut, Nick took what many would consider to be a leap, moving from the more hard-edged sound of Tiger Army to the world of Americana. (As for the band, fans needn’t be concerned, as Nick has assured that Tiger Army will be back.)
But Nick’s songs have long pulled from country music, and he’s always cited Americana artists as influences, from Merle Haggard and Ray Price to Carl Perkins and Warren Smith. Still, Nick 13 the album is no mere regurgitation of these sounds. There’s a stirring noir element to the record that’s strongly rooted in heartfelt storytelling and imagery of travels, both physical and metaphorical, all rooted in his unmistakable timbre. And, as Nick puts it, he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t bring something new to the table.
I recently spoke with Nick 13 via email in anticipation of his Thursday-night stop in S.B.
What elements from your punk/rockabilly music have you been able to glean and infuse into your new album? It’s not really about that for me. Rockabilly is what originally drew me into honky-tonk music as a teenager, hearing artists like Charlie Feathers and Carl Perkins cut honky-tonk sides, but it was more of a gateway. That’s what initially exposed me to pure hillbilly music. But the music that I’m playing solo isn’t drawing on the energy of punk, or even rockabilly for that matter, and people looking for that will be disappointed. There are many connections between rockabilly and hillbilly music of the ’50s, of course, but they’re not the focus when it comes to what I’m doing here. This and Tiger Army are two different sides of a coin.
Your writing for Tiger Army has always been distinct and strong in its storytelling. Do you feel that your penchant for storytelling within the Americana/country genre tells a different story from what you had in Tiger Army? I’d say it’s a bit of both. Some of the same themes are explored in different ways, but there are some new themes for me, as well. Some of the lyrics are more autobiographical, more directly personal than with Tiger Army.
You’ve been touring with some big country acts. How have the shows been going? Was it much of a culture shock for you? It’s mostly been festivals that we’ve played in that world, if you don’t count smaller club gigs with other Americana artists. It’s been great to see a positive response from both fans of traditional country music and the Americana scene, along with the fans coming over from Tiger Army. It’s not much of a culture shock, though. In some ways it reminds me of the punk scene when I was younger—it’s actually a community where people are friendly, and it’s all about the music, something that you see less these days in most music scenes I’m familiar with.
How do you personally identify with country? I think what draws me to this music is the emotion and the honesty—without those things, it’s nothing. There are some things I’ve dealt with that were pretty difficult, but that’s true for most people. I think country music deals with the universal experiences we all share, I just try to find a unique twist in expressing the universal.
Nick 13 plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Thursday, August 11, at 8 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit newnoisesb.com for tickets and info.