American singer-songwriter Nick Hakim makes psychedelic pop heavily rooted in the soul music of the early seventies. After two critically acclaimed EP’s, he has released his first full album Green Twins last year, followed by a tour in North America and Europe. When Hakim came to Eindhoven for his show at So What’s Next? festival, we talked about feeling at home, his favorite music and the weird relationship he has with his own music.
You have toured in Europe for five weeks. Did you miss home a lot?
‘New York has been my place for a couple of years. I’ve been starting to love it but the first years were extremely difficult. It was a sweet and sour time, mainly for financial reasons. I had to keep multiple day jobs for a while. I moved to another apartment in Queens with a cheaper rent and more space to live and work. It’s a peaceful neighborhood but there are still a million things going on. So yes, I missed New York because it brings stimulation and at the same time a lot of tranquility.’
It was not the first time performing abroad, right?
‘My first time in Europe was in 2014 for a tour after the release of my first EP. I was performing alone and traveled from city to city by public transport. In Holland I also performed at the small stage of Paradiso. The most interesting thing of touring in Europe is that most people I met speak multiple languages and I guess it’s a common thing all over the continent. I am bilingual but there are people that I’ve met that speak five languages. That’s impressive! Also the cultural differences are very big, in a good way. It’s interesting so see the way people treat you. I really like being in Europe so I decided I’m gonna spend some time in London.’
“I love all the songs on my album
but I can’t listen to them.”
Let’s look a little bit towards the future: what’s your dream location to perform?
‘It would be awesome to play in a church because I really like the acoustics and atmosphere. I’m curious how our music would sound although I think it will be a little muddy. Actually, we are just grateful to play anywhere. We get to so many different places. Small clubs and more and more big venues, mainly because we toured with Fleet Foxes and Bonobo.’
How did those collaborations come about?
‘With Bonobo I don’t exactly know how it started, our booking agents have arranged everything. With Fleet Foxes it was different, more personal. Lead singer Robin Pecknold hit me up so we were communicating directly. He is very involved in who comes on the road with the band and he is really supportive of what we are doing. Touring is also interesting because you get to see playing so many colleagues. Some of them are close friends and they were moving in the same direction, like Moses Sumney and Gabriel Garzón-Montano. But the funny thing is: we were playing in almost the same countries and cities, but one day apart so we never got the chance to meet up properly.’
Was there a song or album you were listening to a lot while being on the road?
‘A track I really listened to many times is ‘Party Down’ by Little Beaver, aka r&b soul singer Willie Hale. I’m good friends with the son of his bass player so I have a strong and personal connection with the song.’
Do you have a favorite song on your own records?
‘I have a weird relationship with my music because I played it a lot the last months. I love all the songs on my album and they are all so different. But I can’t listen to them, only when I really need to, for example with rehearsals. The album is not mine anymore, I am proud that it’s out and I can share it with the world. Spiritually and mentally everybody can create it’s own feelings and ideas of what the songs mean. Now I just wanna keep writing, I have a lot of things that I’m trying to articulate. I am not able to focus on it fully on the road and that’s frustrating. I just wanna be home and write new lyrics.’
“I don’t have any idea what
music in 2050 will sound like.”
Are you a crate digger?
‘When we played in Paris, I went to a record store and was lucky to find the original single of ‘Anything You Sow’. It’s a track of William Onyeabor, a very influential Nigerian artist. He made electronic and funk music and became more famous when in 2013 a compilation of his music was released on David Byrne’s record label Luaka Bop. Unfortunately he died last year.’
Let’s continue crate digging: which record has a spot of honor in your closet?
‘Shuggie Otis’s album Inspiration Information (1974) is my favorite album of all time. My own record partly draws from it.’
And which concert made a great impact on you?
‘This has to be Big Thief in the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn last September. It’s amazing music and the singer is also a friend of mine. The band is playing in Europe again soon, so go if you have a chance to see them.’
You’ve played at So What’s Next? Festival, so the logical last question would be: what’s next for you?
‘I feel a lot of people are listening to music from the past and try to figure out how to blend it all together and push something forward. To be completely honest I don’t have any idea how music in 2050 would sound. There are so many kinds of music nowadays and so many reasons why people like music. It’s all very subjective. There is a lot of power in good genuine songwriting though. I am sure by that with time there are going to be artists that will really make some impact and will touch the next generations of music lovers.’