The SPECifics: Nick Heward and His Element of Style
Nick Heward is a singer-songwriter currently based out of Phoenix, who has been making original music for years. With his accompanying band The Elements of Style, he has played numerous shows around the Valley and released Nick Heward & the Elements of Style LIVE. Heward’s solo catalog includes 2011’s full-length album Love Me Till I’m Home, available on iTunes, and the Mary Jane EP.
The Spec recently met up with the local artist for an interview. Read below to learn more about his origins, goals for 2013, and upcoming projects…
The Spec: Are you from Arizona?
Nick Heward: Well I was born in Tulsa, Okla.. I migrated to Northern California and then came here to Arizona. I was between here and California when I was in high school and went to Fort Lauderdale for a brief period, when I was 21. I then came back to Arizona and finished up at Glendale Community College. I studied classical guitar and almost finished the associates in arts program there.
While I was making a living in Central Phoenix, I started playing at My Florist Café. Then I moved on to other gigs and eventually ended up where I am now, which is City Hall. I’m just playing back up guitar, singing some lead, and also singing some backup for various singers and songwriters. We mostly do covers there. We cover rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, blues, whatever. So that’s my journey, from where I first started in Tulsa to now in Arizona as a 29-year- old musician.
TS: What’s in the works for Nick Heward right now?
NH: I’m going on my first tour, which is a small tour through Northern California. It happened to be the call I got from a booking agent who does this tour called The Howling Coyote Tour this summer. I’ve got two albums out, my first album is called Love Me Till I’m Home and this new album, I’m unsure of the title right now, is going to be more acoustic-based elements of my songwriting.
TS: Is the new album more of a solo project?
NH: I’ve been going down and playing and hanging out with these guys that are in a band called Dirt Music Express. The bass player in the group has a studio so we’re going to record the album there. I haven’t seen it yet but I get along really well with these guys. They’ve been really hospitable to me. They play every Sunday at Hob Nobs. Some of the guys play slide guitar, one of the guys plays mandolin, and one plays the harp. That gives me a lot of different options.
I’ve talked to some of these guys and asked them if they want to be on the record. The only thing I want to do right now is record the sketches of the acoustics and the vocals [...] I want to have some female vocals too and some other vocalists, maybe do some experimenting with harmony and just some real stripped-down bass and voice. That’s something I’ve been thinking about. You know, just harmony and bass. [...] I spend a lot of time writing new material and I’ve been playing a lot of electric guitar as of late. Next question!
TS: What types of music and/or what artists inspire your music the most?
NH: I was born and raised listening to Gospel music. My parents are both believers and I think that specific element has affected my writing. As far as different artists go, there are so many great composers and songwriters. I’ve listened to a lot of Bob Dylan, Neil Young [...]Van Morrison, Amos Lee [...] Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Not The Beatles as much, I like them a lot, but I’ve isolated certain songs. Definitely Hendrix, and Eric Clapton as well. I’ve been pretty versatile lately as far as my style goes. I’ve also been playing some jazz standards, some Frank Sinatra stuff.
TS: What’s your favorite part about performing live?
NH: I haven’t done much acoustic performing, but I’m really looking forward to performing this record live. I think the best thing about performing is that you can bring a good song, and good music has a way of speaking to people. All elements of performing are so different though. It’s an entirely different experience if I’m backing up somebody than if I’m playing lead guitar and trying to fill in spaces with the band.
If I’m playing a solo acoustic show, it’s all about if people are there, and are they listening, and do I have material that will really captivate? Also, you have to engage the audience so that people don’t go to sleep or lose interest, because if it’s just you and an acoustic guitar and you’re just sitting up there onstage, then you better have a pretty interesting set of tunes if you’re going to perform 12 of them. I think that performing my own music live with a band and getting to hear what it potentially could sound like is really cool.
TS: What are your aspirations and/or goals for 2013?
NH: I would like to see more musical attention for the Crying Hearts Festival. We’ve already had one that featuring The Haymarket Squares and the Nick Heward Experience, which is me. It’s in downtown Phoenix, but I’d like it to be more of a festival. It’s an outreach and it’s also a good way to get the community involved in this battle with homelessness. I also would like to release a couple of albums. I have different artists interested in working with me that are from different bands. A few people have called and asked if I can back them up so I want to branch out and do that.
Listen to Heward’s music on his SoundCloud, including the track “Mary Jane” here. Fans can hear his track “Please Forgive Me” on the radio waves via local station 94.1, The Ride.