Introducing Rhett Nicholl – Busk Music’s One to Watch for 2020
We’re kicking off 2020s first introducing piece and doubling it up with a Busk Music One to Watch…… with Rhett Nicholl it’s not hard to see why.
Creativity for many people is hard to come by, and the understanding of where that might have come from, what meaning it has and where it eventually leads to is another concept altogether. For Rhett Nicholl, this concept is a well-known memory, with periods of his life where creativity was the last thing on his mind. But the last two years for this talented guy have been anything but quiet after throwing himself into his work and perfecting his art to where he is today. Rhett released three tracks during 2019 all with different meanings but all tie together with one thing, the sheer talent as a lyricist and vocalist. Over the last few months Rhett was signed to Since 93, an imprint of RCA Records UK at Sony Music, and even bigger news released his debut EP ‘Omertà‘ last week.
The EP is made up of five tracks, of which three were released in 2019, and the other two are brand new titled, ‘Vanilla Sky‘ & ‘Lo Town‘. Until you listen to Rhett’s music you won’t be able to appreciate the combination of the husky ghost-like vocals, seamless production and story to each track, you’re only left wanting more….
We caught up with Rhett at the start of January to find out.
Listen to Omertà here:
BM: Without using the words ‘singer-songwriter’ how would you introduce yourself and your work?
RN: I’m an artist from North London currently focusing on music but I work in a few different mediums; painting, poetry and so on. My music aims at channelling my wider influences in these mediums through the cultural fabric of the city.
BM: Having the opportunity to make a living out of being a creative is something which many kids growing up only dream of. How important is this opportunity to you and what advice would you give to your younger self?
RN: Being able to wake up every day and choose to make music and being able to live with a degree of comfort is honestly an amazing feeling. Without being too corny, if it was only sustainable for 5 years in the form that it is I would still feel really blessed. Unfortunately, it’s the only way I feel I can exist at this point in my life, I don’t really function too well in the real world so I’ll always have to find some of surviving from art. My younger self would not have been trying to hear anything I could tell him.
BM: Your most recent release ‘Border Line’ depicts a vulnerability and shows off your emotive vocal ability, a track we cannot stop listening to. Originally written back in 2014, what was the influence behind the track and how does it feel to actually see it being received so well 6 years later?
RN: Borderline was the distillation of a lot of years of compounded emotion. Most of my songs are either written retrospectively as I’m coming out of a situation or in a kind of prophetic way, when you’re being honest with yourself about your behavioural patterns it’s not all that hard to predict the future. Borderline was written and later recorded in the midst of the pain it’s trying to process. For me, this lends it a depth that has kept it relevant to me on an emotional level. The fact that it stands up sonically when music has evolved exponentially over the past 6 years is something I’m very proud of, I’m glad it’s been given an opportunity to resonate with people.
BM: Out of the producers you have been working with on singles and the upcoming EP who has been the most interesting to work with and why?
RN: I think with this project Joe Hertz and I developed a great working relationship, he’s got 2 tracks on ‘Omertà’ which kind of stake out the realms I’m exploring now. Sometimes it can take a while to be totally comfortable with throwing out any little idea you might have but with Joe it’s always been easy, he deserves a Grammy for the most patient producer.
BM: How important is it to you that you are able to give back to the community you grew up in and make a positive change through your work?
RN: As much as I believe in music’s ability to impact change in people’s lives, I don’t think it can compare to working on the front lines. I hope that further down the line I’ll be able to parlay the music into “giving back” directly working with my boy Rickardo Stewart at ‘Art 2020 Feature Rhett Nicholl 20/01/2020 Against Knives’. A few of my people do similar work in the community so while I understand the role of art in a wider context, it’s hard to compare what I do to that.
BM: Having a talented network of people around you from a musical perspective is important to you; ‘your little bubble’. Who have you learn most from and what did they teach you?
RN: The biggest influence on my artistic practice with regard to music is without a doubt Bapou Costi. Our relationship has been instrumental in reconciling the hard-wired aspects of who I am as a person with absolute vulnerability and integrity in my art, I think we showed each other to a great extent how to maintain our values and principles in the real world and how to play the game on our own terms. I say it all the time but he is everything the poetry and art worlds reaches for but don’t want to shake hands with.
BM: How do your most recent tracks such as ‘Haunty’ differ from older tracks like ‘Border Line’, how has your style developed over the last 6/7 years?
RN: I think with all the songs prior to ‘Haunty‘ my goal was to write good pop songs that dealt with heavy issues, the tension between pain and hope is a big part of my music and while ‘Haunty’ still has that tension in it I feel like it was the first time I really let my creativity run wild. The follow-up EP that I’m working on now is really about trying to bridge the gap between those songs.
BM: How has your upbringing influenced your work and creative drive?
RN: Growing up and I saw two different sides of the world, from being comfy in the bubble of the music industry where my parents worked to having nothing and feeling like an outsider for most of my childhood. It showed me the world and humbled me to where I realised that no one is entitled to shit and that if I wanted a life where my soul was fed I would have to really work for it. I guess I hold myself to a sometimes cripplingly high standard to give everything to this because I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t.
BM: ‘Haunty’ is an accessible track to a lot of people having practically blended three songs together. We know the track holds a close place to you, what was the story behind the track, tell us a bit more about the place seen in the music video and finally how do you intend work like this to connect with people?
RN: ‘Haunty‘ was the first time I approached a song conceptually, the idea was to tell three loosely interconnected stories and be really free in the way we accomplished that, it was also the first time working from a structure that I’d actually made myself in logic so the energy behind it was really powerful even before I knew what it would come to mean to me. I’d left writing my part to the last minute, I knew it had to be special sitting between two such incredible pieces of poetry and was kind of stuck and maybe a bit intimidated by the challenge. The world moves in wicked ways, I‘d gotten the news of a good friend Jan Francis passing and while still In shock found out that 2 family members had also died 2020 Feature Rhett Nicholl 20/01/2020 prematurely, it made me reflect deeply on how close I’d come to that point and gave me the clarity and fearlessness of emotion to try and put it down. Now that I’m in an upswing of my own creativity and feeling confident with it I want to start connecting with other artists and musicians who stand for the same things as me. I also have some ideas to explore with the Nasty Poet and Bapou Costi separately but that’s all I can say on that right now.
BM: Explain your creative process, you mention the use of your emotional spectrum to define the feel of a track alongside sewing together lines from poems you have penned. A really interesting way of working which I’m sure people would love to hear more about.
RN: I’m always working on making ideas for instrumentals and stuff on logic but where I’m still learning my creativity out-reaches my ability to fully realise a lot of things so I’ll usually to try and re-imagine the best parts of those ideas with real producers. Once that’s taking shape I’ll try to lace it with a melody and pull phrases usually from fragments of poems I’ve written. It’s kind of like a sonic collage for me, but with 3 different palettes, it can be a puzzle sometimes but the more I work the more I’m starting to streamline the process.
BM: Having recently signed with Since 93, 2020 is already shaping up to be a mega year for you, what can we expect from your upcoming EP, ‘Omertà’ and the rest of 2020?
RN: I’ve got my team in place, now it’s just about continuing to dig into my craft and really live up to the talk, I’m going to carve my lane and do it better than anyone else. ‘Omertà‘ the upcoming EP will fill in the pieces of that chapter of my story. The follow up that I’m working on now will show a big leap in skill and artistic maturity and won’t be too far behind.
Keep up to date with Rhett on his socials here, new music and live shows.
Posted By Andrew Bottomley