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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Nick Howard
Monday, March 12, 2007

No matter what industry you’re in, you may not know the true talents of the people you’re working with. This was the case with Nick Howard, who worked with a veritable who’s who of the music industry while he was an engineer at Right Track Studio. Many of those artists might be surprised to find out that their engineer also happened to be an extremely talented singer, songwriter and producer himself. Howard’s mother turned out to be the one to suggest he stop working for others and start working on his own projects. He remembers “my mother had been telling me for years, ‘you know, maybe you should sing your own stuff,’ and I was like ‘nah, I don’t want to be a singer, I’m not interested in it, it’s not something that I want to do.’ And then a year and a half ago I finally made the decision to sing my own stuff.” Ever since Howard’s been drawing some pretty impressive comparisons, with people saying he reminds them of artists such as Remy Shand and Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay. This week I caught up with Howard to discuss the many levels on which he sees his music working, what he learned from his years of being in the studio with big name artists, and why he never wears an iPod on the subway.

Adam Bernard: As an engineer at New York’s Right Track Studio you ended up working with the likes of The Neptunes and Fabolous. How did these experiences affect your own music?
Nick Howard: Witnessing a recording session on the pro level is definitely beneficial to all parties involved because you see what actually goes on with that level of talent. Working with The Neptunes was incredible. Any time they came in they really exuded talent. It was just more hanging around with them and getting the vibe of what it is to be on that level and hanging around with the other cats and seeing Mariah Carey and Beyonce and all these people who were making it at the time and who are still making it, just having conversations with those people and being able to pick their brain about certain things. To answer the question more specifically, I think it really came down to, not creatively because truthfully I don’t listen to a lot of new music unless I’m engineering for it or assisting on the session for it, I think it more came with an attitude of the pro level more than a creative thing. You would hear Pharrell say things like “the reason why I’m doing so well is because when I walk into the room I have the feeling in my mind and in my soul that I’m completely undeniable, and when you walk in with an attitude like that you exude confidence and people believe in the thing that you’re doing.” Certain little gems like that.

Adam Bernard: With all those gems in your arsenal, how is Nick Howard going to separate himself from all the other singers out there today, because it is definitely a crowded lot?
Nick Howard: Right, it is a crowded market, you have your Timberlakes and your Robin Thickes and a whole bunch of other white boys with soul and Citizen Cope and they do great work. I don’t know. I’m not really worried about separating myself. I think people listen to what they want to listen to and me as a person, if I feel good about what I’m doing and I think I’ve made a good song for myself and I had fun doing it and it sends a message, be it a light one or a heavy one, and I feel good about it, I think because I am at least a little bit talented that will translate and move it into the public. If they believe in what I’m doing then I won’t have any problems.

Adam Bernard: Your lyrics aren't all about love. What are some of the other topics you were looking to cover on A Rip In The Sky and how difficult do you think it is for soul singers to sing about non-love subjects in 2007?
Nick Howard: I’m glad you brought that up because when I hear albums, and there are plenty of them out there, with very talented singers and very talented producers and the whole album through is all about a relationship with a significant other, or the breaking off of that relationship, or something like that, it makes the material bland for me. I love a love song, and love songs are incredible, the reason there are so many is because nobody will ever be able to explain love. It’s always a subject that touches people’s hearts because it is a heart subject, but I have views on different things besides love that affect my life and affect the lives of others and, although most of them are, not all the experiences on that album are completely my own. I’m an interpreter, an observer, and the reason why I can’t wear an iPod on the subway is because I like watching people and hearing what’s going on around me, experiencing the world, and I think the life experience thing is really the thing that pushed me in this record.

Adam Bernard: You have a very smooth, yet soulful, vibe. Where do you think you fit in in today's current scene, or do you feel you fit in?
Nick Howard: That’s a good question. I’m not sure where I fit in. As far as genre goes I think I’m a little past the neo-soul movement of a few years back but I think there’s room for easy listening, doing your dishes, cleaning your house music all over the place. You put it on when you want to feel good, and people have told me it’s good soundtrack to your life music, as well. You can put it on and it has elements that you don’t really have to listen to to enjoy, it can just be playing in the background and the thing is really moving along, and then if you really wanted to get into it you could sit down with the booklet and read the lyrics and that portion will stimulate you, as well. Hopefully that’s what’s happening. That’s what I’m really after, for people to enjoy the record from a couple of different areas and feel good about it.

Adam Bernard: Finally, your album's cover art is DOPE! Who did it and how do you feel that image represents the music inside?
Nick Howard: Martha-Alicia Matterita is the artist who did that piece. She’s out of Brooklyn and the image is sort of like a combination of a dream and a tattoo that I wanted and then she put her own spin on it. And although the A Rip In The Sky isn’t a very apparent subject in that, it is there. It’s cool, it’s blue, it’s urban, it’s got a little funk to it. It sort of reminds me of an Earth, Wind and Fire cover a bit. It’s a little bit of a throwback theme. I didn’t really want to put my face on the front cover of the album, because I didn’t put it on the back cover. In hindsight it probably was a bad marketing decision, but I wanted to put the artwork on the cover because I felt it represented the record more than just my face. And you know what’s a little ironic, I don’t ride the 7 as much as I ride all the rest of the subways in the city.

For more Nick Howard check him out at: beliefandhustle.com/nickhoward, myspace.com/nickhowardmusic & myspace.com/beliefandhustle


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:58 AM  
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