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08 Apr 2013

From Psychobilly to Hillbilly: Nick 13 Readies His Sophomore Stagecoach Performance

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Stagecoach is a country-music festival, of course, but it’s known for featuring performers across a wide variety of country-music subgenres—and that fits Nick 13 just fine.

Nick 13, the frontman and guitarist of the Berkeley, Calif., psychobilly-punk-rock group Tiger Army, is making his second solo appearance at Stagecoach.

“It was a bit intimidating. That was my first live appearance as a solo artist,” said Nick 13, in a recent phone interview, about that first Stagecoach performance, back in 2010. “I was playing in the Palomino tent, and the artists immediately following me were Ray Price and then Merle Haggard. There were a lot of old-timers in the audience who were basically saving their seats for those artists. During my act, when I started playing, it got a positive response very quickly. It felt like a real accomplishment to me.”

Nick 13 said that when he decided to take that break from Tiger Army to record a solo album, he was influenced by hillbilly and bluegrass music from the 1930s through 1960s. “That stuff has been an influence on Tiger Army, to an extent, but only to an extent. I guess as the years went by, I found myself more and more drawn to those styles and to those sounds. And as a listener, I kept going deeper and deeper.”

In spring 2011, Nick began recording his self-titled solo debut album, at studios in Nashville and Los Angeles. Nick’s inspiration from the Bakersfield sound and the early roots of California country music was important to him during those recording sessions, he said.

“If you go back to the 1940s, Hollywood was arguably more of a center for hillbilly music than Nashville was at the time; we had the recording studios and the cowboy-movie element,” Nick said. “The West Coast sound has definitely been a big influence on me.”

Nick’s songwriting abilities—featuring literary inspiration, earnestness and a fair amount of storytelling—have always made him a bit of an outsider in psychobilly and punk rock. He used Buck Owens as an example to explain his method: “For traditional country music, I was always drawn to the earnestness of it. When some people think of Buck Owens, they think of Hee Haw, unfortunately. … But if you listen to the raw emotion, storytelling and earnestness of his records from the early-to-mid-60s, that’s some of the best music that was ever made.”

Nick 13 was released in June 2011 on Sugar Hill Records. The reception has been mostly positive; Great American Country and Country Music Television took notice, and his music video for “Carry My Body Down” even reached No. 1 on CMT’s Pure 12-Pack Countdown. (Scroll down to hear an acoustic performance of the song.)

“The fact it was well-received by so many people into Americana, people in the underground, and, to some extent, the mainstream country world, it was nice,” he said.

When it comes to his Stagecoach performance this year, Nick 13 cited that variety of country subgenres as something that excites him.

“One of the things that makes (Stagecoach) unique is the artistic commitment to representing the whole spectrum of country music,” he said. “You do have those huge multi-platinum headliners, but you also have the best in Americana and some of the incredible legacy artists who don’t make it to the West Coast that often. I don’t know if you get it all in one place anywhere like you do at Stagecoach.”

Nick 13 plays on Saturday, April 27, at Stagecoach. The festival takes place Friday, April 26, through Sunday, April 28, at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51 in Indio. Passes for all three days start at $239. For tickets or more information, visit www.stagecoachfestival.com.

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