Musician Nick Austin: “It’s Ability To Make You Feel Things Without Words”
When did you start to play music?
“I played the euphonium when I was about 8. I chose it because it sounded like a fart, and as an 8 year old that was very important to me as an artist. I kept playing for about 5 years until the novelty wore off, then started learning drums and guitar, which I took more seriously. Writing songs was initially just to give me something to record drums to, as I wanted to be a session drummer and needed practice recording parts to a click track. After a while, the writing became the most fun part so it went from there.”
What were your influences?
“I remember going on a car journey to Wales when I was little and listening to a mix-tape that had: The Beatles, Nina Simone, Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. That was the first time I heard any of them, and probably the greatest car journey of all time. All four of those are still artists I love, as well as Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Sparklehorse, Chet Baker, Brian Wilson and Frank Sinatra among others. I’m working on a new sound at the moment that is influenced by Boards of Canada and Tangerine Dream, using analog synths recorded onto cassette four track.”
Who were your inspirations?
“I am inspired by artists who evolve and change their sound, like Tom Waits, Miles Davis, Scott Walker or Tim Buckley. I think for me whenever my writing feels blocked it means it’s time to change and go in a new direction. A lot of writers are inspiring too: the poet Samuel Menashe I like a lot. I feel he developed his own style and received very little credit for how original he was (at least not in his lifetime), yet he kept writing and improving for its own sake. Other writers I like are Basho, Lorca and Ted Hughes. I think poets are a good source of inspiration for modern songwriters, as most never could ‘make it’ with their writing and most had to maintain jobs and separate lives alongside their creative ones. The way that modern music has developed as a result of the internet and streaming means this is the way it has become for musicians too. There are a lot of writers you can look to for inspiration on balancing your work and personal life with creative achievement. T S Eliot, Phillip Larkin and Wallace Stevens all wrote incredible things while juggling careers and families etc. so it can be done.”
What are the different obstacles you’ve faced in order to be where you are today with your music?
“I regularly go through phases where I hate what I’ve written and feel like I’ve been wasting my time, but that passes and then I enjoy it again. I guess just keeping going with it during those periods has been the main obstacle.”
What style/genre of music do you play?
“I feel like it has changed a lot in the last few months. I’m now making songs that use unusual vst synths of old synths/instruments like the novachord, omnichord, ondes martenot, mellotron and ondioline. I run these through cassette tapes and pedals until they sound unrecognizable. My current focus is on developing an original style and sound, but my older stuff was more concerned with just writing songs that I liked.
What are some of your completed projects?
“I have completed two albums, and am working on a third which is a big change of sound to the synths and analog cassette recording described above.”
Where can we find your music?
“And gig info usually posted on Facebook”
What messages do you hope to portray through your music?
“I like to think of writing as making really fancy mirrors. I put effort into making songs that will make people think of themselves and not about me. I find you have to start with a real experience or thought otherwise there will be nothing there for people to latch on to and it will sound false, but if you find the universal part of an experience and keep rewriting the words until almost all of the specific or personal information is replaced by metaphor or symbolism you are left with something which describes the experience itself and not you. One of the aspects of music that makes it so interesting as an art form for me is its ability to make you feel things without words. The sound of a chord progression can create an emotionally distinct reaction in a listener that has no real ‘basis’ in terms of specific context. There are so many interpretations possible for music as a result, so it seems a waste to me to create specific, confessional lyrics that could only ever have one interpretation or meaning. I know what inspired each of the songs, but the point for me is to have used a specific feeling/experience to make something universal that will say different things to different people, depending on their interpretation. It says more about them than me that way. Like some kind of fancy mirror.”
Has it been difficult making time to pursue your musical career whilst successfully sustaining the income you need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle?
“I think once you just accept that times have changed in terms of what can financially be achieved with music, you can adapt to how it is and just get on with making music on your own terms. I think a lot of musicians are still hoping for a 1990’s style ‘big break’ and a massive record deal, and they are made unhappy because they are chasing something which doesn’t exist anymore.
“There is a great Steven King quote where he said that life is not a support system for art but the other way around. That is the way I feel about it – I want a varied and interesting life as it helps you to be creative and make interesting things in response to those events. I think the huge amount of young people hoping to make it in bands or as artists/musicians says a great deal about our society.
“All these people looking for a magic way out of a ‘normal life’ because the jobs and lives on offer to them are unfulfilling. It is sad, but completely understandable.”
What has been your biggest achievement yet?
“I played at the Dome Studios in Brighton as part of their Spectrum night for new music. That was one of my favourite musical experiences, the sound system and stage were incredible. It made it quite hard to go back to playing in the corner of pubs to mostly dogs afterwards though.”
What other extra curricular activities do you enjoy?
“I love baking pies. Sweet or savoury I don’t care it’s all good. Especially giant American pies.
Do you plan on staying in Brighton?
“I am probably going to be moving to London soon, but will definitely return. Brighton is my favourite city.”