In the midst of what many have dubbed “bro country,” which has songs left and right about beer and girls in cut-off jeans, Nick Wayne has positioned himself on a different path as an artist. We caught up with him during they Key West Songwriter’s Festival about his songwriting journey & upcoming new music.
The Nashville native, who just celebrated his 30th birthday, signed a publishing deal with Black River Entertainment in October 2016 and began releasing his own music 2 years later. His sound – a blend of blues and country and soul, mixed with a soulful voice – stands out in a sea of mainstream country waves.
Nick began his journey with music right after high school. After picking up a guitar and never looking back, he jumped headfirst into his music career. “I grew up in Nashville, which is interesting because people come here to do music, so when you’re from here, you see it through different eyes,” he shares.
After contemplating heading across the country to Los Angeles, he ultimately settled on pursuing music right in his backyard – Nashville. “The community that has been built around co-writing fosters a love of sharing with each other. In other markets, they battle a lot of ego and one-sidedness, which we don’t have,” Nick explains, “Nashville really humbles you, in a good way.”
Nick shares that while growing up in Nashville, most of his friends began their careers by playing other people’s songs, which in turn influenced them later on in their own music. By the time Nick started his career, he was secure in who he was before jumping into finding his own sound.
“I knew myself when I stepped outside of the circle of music,” he begins, “and then when I stepped into the circle of music, I still took who I was with it, so I feel like I already knew who I was and I already knew my sound.” He notes because he found music later on in his life, he felt it easier to be who he was and know what he wanted his sound to be.
While he knew what he wanted his sound to be, he did still deal with outsiders trying to influence his music. “If you listen to too many people, it can change you. I always turn off what anyone wants me to be and take a second to breathe and shut it down. I don’t want to make music just to fill the empty air,” he explains.
Perhaps Nick’s most powerful weapon is his captivating emotional depth as a songwriter, which is evident in his song “How Do I Get Close.” The song, written by Nick along with his girlfriend, singer/songwriter Hannah Ellis, and his friend Josh Kerr, was inspired by Nick missing his girlfriend when their careers on the road keep them apart.
“How Do I Get Close” was recorded by both Keith Urban and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill but was never released – which Nick surmises is because it was him that was supposed to sing it. “I’m very logically based, I’m not a very emotional person,” Nick shares, “so I always try to write songs from what I’m feeling and what I’m thinking because if I don’t feel in a song, then I’m not feeling at all.”
The attention to detail is evident not just in Nick’s voice but in his execution of his songs as he proves himself to be a versatile writer time after time from softer songs like “How Do I Get Close” to songs with grit and edge such as “Drink,” providing a little something for every one in the audience.
Having spent a lot of time on the road in the last year, Nick says it’s been rewarding to be face-to-face with fans. “Meeting people and getting to know their stories and connecting through music is really what means something to me,” he says.
“Music wasn’t supposed to be a ‘money maker’ or a commercialized product, it’s meant to create a community. In the 1930’s, people would buy guitars and put them in a café for people to share. It was about bringing people together,” Nick reveals, “Playing shows and being able to meet people face to face and see people in the crowd singing the words to my songs back to me, that’s my favorite part, without a doubt.”
Nick’s dropped his latest track, “I Knew It Was You,” on July 12th and has plans to continually release singles off of Bourbon Neat and Coffee Black two collections of music he is unveiling piece by piece.
“I Knew It Was You” is available for streaming on all platforms.
* Header photo by Jason Myers Photography.