THEAUSSIEWORD.COM special interview with Aussie singer/songwriter Nick Kingswell.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
I grew up in a house where great music was always being played… Leonard Cohen, Carol King & Bob Dylan, etc. So when I picked up a guitar at age 8, I just assumed everyone wrote their own songs. I was in bands during primary & high school who played venues around Phillip Island and Melbourne. I remember playing the Gershwin Room at The Espy when I was 14 and being given a 6 pack of Carlton Draught as our rider… well, they gave it to my Dad!
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
The pursuit of writing better songs wakes me up most mornings and keeps me awake at night. There is so much mystery in what makes a song “good” and it’s exciting when you stumble upon one that has potential. I know my best songs are still ahead of me, so that keeps me going for now!
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
My bucket list gig scenario is being able to play a 1-2k cap theatre with a pin-drop kind of audience. My realistic short term goal is to release my album and crack on with new material next year… and hope that touring is an option sometime soon.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
My new album, Brontide, comes out on October 23rd so I’ll do everything I can to share that. Not being able to tour right now makes it a little tricky, but I’m excited about the challenge that presents and look forward to getting creative with alternative methods of reaching people.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
“There’s No Cure” is my current single and it’s all about letting go of what could have been. It’s a song that was easy to write once I got going and on reflection, it’s scarily relevant as it deals with the regret I’ve carried with me for years. I think this song and my music in general is retrospective and might at first come across as sad or sombre, but ultimately is steeped in hope.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
The day to day things are what inspire me. Unpacking a memory or an emotion that is impactful. A song can start from a single word or a whole melody I find myself humming. I think coming up with the song in it’s full structure is only half the battle…lately I’ve been going deeper into the re-write thanks to my producer, James Bunton who has inspired me no end to explore that side of things.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
I think maybe in my older songs I’d try to be clever in the way I said something, whereas these days, I’m more interested in saying it how it is and using less metaphor. I love that style of writing and it’s so great to have artists like Phoebe Bridgers flying that flag too.
Success, what is the secret to it?
I’m yet to find out, so I’ll get back to you on that one. But if I was to be faux-humble and inspirational I’d probably say something like “loving what you do”
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
Finishing my new album. It’s been the longest and most rewarding work I’ve done to date. I’m really proud of every song and I’ll stand by it until my next album comes out at which point I’ll rave about that one instead.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
I know I’ve just mentioned her, but Phoebe Bridgers is the best writer going round right now in my opinion. I also admire Tom Rosenthal for his creativity and prolific output.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
I’ve been working remotely with my producer, James Bunton, on new music for the last 4 or 5 months. I plan to release that sometime next year.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself in a few years?
I’m slowly getting my act together as far as release strategy and self marketing go. It’s never been my strong point but I’m genuinely excited to see what I can achieve this year with the album and then next year with new material. I remember releasing a couple of singles maybe 3 or 4 years ago, when getting a million streams on Spotify was a real benchmark…these days it seems like you need a billion! I’m not kidding myself that I’ll ever do that, but I’d sure like to reach a few more people and I feel like it’s getting easier to do that now through social media and the fact that we can’t tour for the minute. But at the end of the day, I’m just going to keep releasing the best songs I can write. Seems like a good place to start anyway.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
My favourite part is the uncertainty. You can release what you think is a stone cold hit, only for it to not connect with fans at all. Then you’ll release an EP and track 4, which you nearly didn’t record, is the stand out… it’s anyone’s guess why songs work or don’t.
My least favorite part is also the uncertainty. There’s no guarantee of work or pay in this industry. But I’ve gone too far now to do anything else.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
I like Gordi’s new album, Our Two Skins. She’s such a talented writer and the production is amazing. I’ve been living in the UK the last 6 years so I’m a little out of touch with what’s happening back home, but it’s so cool seeing guys like Hollow Coves and Dustin Tebbutt doing really well overseas. I also need to give Something For Kate a shoutout. They were my favourite band throughout highschool and it’s great they’re still releasing killer albums.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
What’s crazy to me is that I started playing in bands before I was 10, got to play iconic pubs and venues around Australia before I was even in highschool, toured the country (and the world) playing guitar for a bunch of bigger acts, got signed to Sony as a country singer pre-spotify, moved to the UK (again, pre spotify blowing up) and I STILL HAVE NO IDEA HOW THE HELL YOU MAKE IT IN THIS INDUSTRY!! It’s a mystery. One thing I’ve learned, thankfully, is that I couldn’t give two shits if a label, or a blogger or a fan doesn’t like my music. If I’m writing music to please other people, I’m doing it wrong. And I feel the same way about social media. If I was posting selfies leaning against a gold plated Ferarri with the hashtag #dothework, then I’m way off course! In 2020, you have to be yourself. No one cares about who you want to be. Just be who you already are. I don’t know how to reach a million new fans with marketing alone in today’s market, but it definitely isn’t by pretending to be something you’re not. Also, it’s a level playing field now. You don’t need a label or a huge budget to write a hit. That’s super exciting to me!
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
By keeping it real. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! I’ll just do my thing and put it in front of people. It’s for them to decide if they like it.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
This is my first time working with a producer like James Bunton. He’s helped me level-up as a songwriter and kept me on course. I’m not even trying to talk him up when I say he’s my “wish-list” collaborator. But he is.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Write better songs, take your time, don’t go on t.v shows that promise to make you a star (they can’t) … keep writing songs and then re-write them.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
Instagram seems like a well built platform for interaction. Come on over!
Any last words?
Don’t take anything I just said too seriously. What do I know?