From exclusive interviews, live performances, special collections and more, we’re celebrating music all month long. We talked to the bands and artists playing our upcoming UO Live in Austin shows about their musical beginnings and the places they’re headed next. Click here to read from our favorite musicians.
Ahead of his debut album, Green Twins, we talk to DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer Nick Hakim about the evolution of his taste and his experimental songwriting.
Photos by Meron Menghistab
You’re originally from D.C. but moved to New York recently. How has each city impacted your musical DNA?
I also lived in Boston for a few years. each city is really different but resemble each other in some ways. east coast major cities... I loved my time in each city and i’d say the communities I’ve been around impacted me.
Tell us the story of the first song you ever wrote. How did you learn to sing?
I wrote my first song when I was 17. Singing was a very normal thing in my home, so I learned how to sing by listening to my folks
You’ve spoken a lot about your musical influences growing up, but what are some more recent musical discoveries that have been influencing your art?
My mother, Jon Bap, Princess Nokia, Jesse and Forever, Onyx Collective, NAIMA, Abdu Ali, SMTB, Norvis Jr, Froyo Ma, Solo Woods, IGBO, Sam Evian, Jake Sherman and many others..
Your songwriting is deeply intimate and feels really personal. What’s the process like for writing a new song? Is there a specific mental or emotional space you need to inhabit beforehand?
Usually how it goes is I just sit down and write about what I’m thinking.
Your new album, Green Twins, comes out in May. What new ideas have you been exploring musically leading up to recording?
I’ve been listening to a lot more music that I haven’t heard before. I also started collecting different pieces of equipment that I would essentially use to write with or manipulate sounds that I’d make. That would lead to new ideas. I was honestly just messing around and there was a lot of curiosity mixed with naivety that I had when it came to using these new tools.
You’ve been traveling the world on tour, where’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
Tokyo and London !
Who do you make music for?
Why is learning music important? How has it helped you personally over the years?
So, I was held back and changed schools in 10th grade, and thats when I started becoming interested in music.. I feel like music programs and art programs saved me, to be honest. I was lucky to have had many amazing teachers and mentors in my life when I started trying to teach myself piano to when I went to music college. I started learning music kind of late, but I had a lot of support around my development as an instrumentalist and as a singer. I had a difficult time in school keeping up but I always loved visual arts, which was where I spent most of my time until I took an interest in music.
I know about a lot of schools cutting funding for the arts and it’s frustrating that the system will continue to manipulate young people away from art programs . We need to give our youth a safe place within music, visual arts, dance, theatre etc. It’s detrimental to young people if they don’t have access to these programs.
Was there a breakthrough moment for you when you felt like you’d found yourself as an artist?
Maybe, but I’m still trying to find myself as an artist.
If you could give a piece of advice to any aspiring musicians, what would you tell them?
Community is important.
The album comes out on May 19!
See this month at UO Space 24 Twenty for UO Live in Austin. Click here for more schedules and information.