Nick Waterhouse is a rising star, and at the age of 27, he has found success playing rhythm and blues, jazz … and old-school soul?
Yes, that’s right, old-school soul. See for yourself when he stops by Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, March 15, for his third appearance at the Pioneertown venue.
The Southern California native first picked up the guitar at the age of 12. When he started to develop his interests in music, they were somewhat atypical for a teenager.
“It was one out of 100 songs on the radio,” Waterhouse said. “I remember hearing songs like ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison or ‘Shop Around’ by The Miracles, and those all were more visceral than the stuff I had been exposed to. I just kept trying to chase that feeling.”
What were his peers listening to?
“Blink-182, Limp Bizkit and stuff like that,” Waterhouse said. “That all felt like fake anger. There was no relation or affirmation of life in that music.”
He honed his guitar skills by playing in a band while he was in high school. He moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State University; while there, he fronted another band. Unfortunately, San Francisco’s music scene didn’t seem to appreciate his musical ambitions. Nonetheless, he found inspiration while working at Rooky Ricardo’s Records in the Lower Haight.
“It’s great, because it also serves as a hub for other people to turn you on to things,” Waterhouse said about his time at the record store. “You get to meet other people and find out about other walks of life. Some of the most important people in my life, I’ve met in record stores, and not just over music. It’s a way to interact.”
Waterhouse also mentioned the pitfalls of becoming a music aficionado.
“Anybody who gets obsessed with collecting music … is never going to be fulfilled. You always want more,” Waterhouse said. “You just keep thinking, ‘If I just figure this out, I’ll be fine.’
“It’s a much better pursuit than gambling or drugs, I guess.”
In 2012, Waterhouse released his debut album, Time’s All Gone. After a successful North American tour, he moved his show to Europe. He also began recording his follow-up album, Holly, which is due out on March 4.
As Waterhouse’s career began taking off, he made time to collaborate with a childhood friend, Ty Segall, of Fuzz, the Ty Segall Band and other projects. While Segall is primarily known for playing rock—in fact, he’s said in interviews that Hawkwind is his favorite band—he and Waterhouse have found common ground. Waterhouse, for example, covered Segall’s “It #1.”
“We met when we were young,” Waterhouse said. “We were both playing in teenage rock ’n’ roll bands. To me, it’s really a testament to the fact that our music comes from the same place, but comes out differently. Ty expresses himself in a different way, but I felt like me covering his song put the differences aside.”
Holly features more of a jazz feel, an electric organ that Booker T. Jones would envy, and sleek guitar solos. It certainly shows Waterhouse’s progression in songwriting.
“I was really pleased,” Waterhouse said about the new album. “I’m just constantly working toward an ideal. If things are going right, it’s like I’m progressing any time I’m doing something. I see it as adding to a body of work or continuing to gain knowledge and experience. I was very fortunate to have a very talented crew of musicians on this record. I auditioned a lot of different people, and tried to record the record once before with different players, and this one I was really pleased with.”
While Holly is a great album, it did not take long to record.
“Most of the primary tracking, which was live, was done in about five days,” Waterhouse said. “The rest was sort of mixing and doing an overdub here and there. What’s funny is it’s kind of like launching a space explorer or something: You do a year of work, setting up and making sure everything is right, so you don’t blow yourself up.”
Waterhouse said his love of classic R&B and soul with a jazz influence comes naturally: There is no commercial influence, even though folk music, Americana and other older genres are again becoming popular with contemporary bands.
“I don’t get to control that stuff,” Waterhouse said. “My job is just to make the records. … It’s a filter people see music through. It’s kind of hard to make a case, and it’s like being guilty until proven innocent.”
He said people should look at music and its different eras and genres differently, perhaps.
“I think that people maybe need to use a different metric for interpreting art other than looking at other things and seeing it as a strictly corollary process,” he said. “I think that’s something fairly recent in Western culture, because in the past, it wasn’t that unusual for a 15th-century Italian painter to paint something that occurred in biblical times, or Shakespeare to write about something in Denmark that was already told. It’s not about the thing itself, but what’s being expressed through it.”
When it comes to Pappy and Harriet’s, Waterhouse said he feels a closeness to the Pioneertown venue.
“The place feels like my home,” Waterhouse said. “I grew up in Southern California. I used to race motorcycles in the desert until I was about 15, and my dad was a big desert guy. A desert roadhouse feels like where I was when I was a little kid—and that’s where I probably learned a lot about American music as well.”
Nick Waterhouse will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, March 15, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.