Nick Waterhouse Matures Into a Bigger, Badder, Blue-Eyed-Soul Man

On a brisk Thursday morning, one of the few things that motivates Nick Waterhouse to rise and shine is the opportunity to catch some waves with his dad and spend some quality time in the ocean in his native Huntington Beach. But it wasn't meant to be; rough surf put an end to his well-laid plans. Even so, Waterhouse looks at the bright side of things.

“At least it's not as bad as the late-'90s,” he says. “It was an intense time to be around surfers. I'm bigger now, so they can't beat me up.”

The same can be said about his growth as a musician. Despite not fitting into clearly defined genre lines, Waterhouse's fusion of R&B, soul, and garage rock won him plaudits on his debut, 2012's Time's All Gone. Touring behind that album for two years, including a stop at Burgerama II, saw him play bigger rooms as his profile grew, thanks to both his unique sound and a keen sense of style. This time on the road helped to shape the vision he had for his sophomore album, Holly, released earlier this year.

Despite his newfound fame, Waterhouse was aware of the pressures that go along with a second album. His first record was originally supposed to be a simple 45 single and was intended to be part of an entire collection. That album was recorded at a breakneck pace, but Waterhouse had more time to flesh out ideas and properly write the material that became Holly. More important, it felt to the singer as though it were a more cohesive body of work.

“This time, I knew I was going to make a record, and I could think about it in terms of being a record,” he explains. “It's different in that I had more ideas this time around. There was less of a rush and more thoughtful than the first record was, and I have a lot of things going on. There was something bigger going on than just individual songs.”

Co-producing Holly with Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) also helped. The two shared similar technical philosophies, and before he worked on producing rock albums, Augunas had a strong background in jazz, something that was important to Waterhouse. This is reflected not only in the lyrics, in which Waterhouse traces the journey of a girl named Holly, but also in the tightly woven horn section that grooves along to surf rock.

Committed to creating a particular sound, Waterhouse has embraced what people such as Chico Hamilton and Human Expression bring to the proverbial table. Putting aside categorization has allowed him to create something with feeling that cuts across different styles. While others may be concerned about Waterhouse's snazzy image and emerging brand, the musician realizes that if his songs aren't good, then the external factors don't mean a thing. “People have notions of designing their T-shirts and websites before they write any songs,” he says. “All I'm concerned with is the energy of all the songs.”


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