Millennials are often touted as the lazy generation. The general discourse is that we’ve been coddled, don’t understand the value of holding an underpaid position, and are too lazy to eat cereal— New York Magazine wrote this week— and yet millions of dollars continue to be invested to understand us. Nieman Gatus, R&B sweetheart and Chapman University film student’s story is the perfect nod to what other generations seem to be missing. Millennials, like Nieman, have an unshakable hunger to pursue their dreams, despite the unorthodox path that may lead them there. For Nieman that dream is to win a Grammy and an Oscar. “I used to say to myself, I need to think realistically” he told me as we sipped Portola Coffee. “But why can’t I achieve both?”
While he courted his love for music in choir, theatre, and worship, the career path that he intended to pursue out of high school was medicine. “My best friends and I had a band called Undone Superhero”, he pointed to the tattoo that his girlfriend designed on his wrist to prove it. “I sang in this really nasally voice….I guess I was trying to imitate the Jonas Brothers at the time. I wrote songs on my guitar about what felt like heartache” he told me. But when it came time to graduate, he applied for the pre-med track and was declined. “It felt like my world was shattering” he explained. “I went to Saddleback and then IVC, still taking biology and chemistry classes. But around 19, I realized this wasn’t what I was suppose to be doing.”
2013 was a year of rebuilding for Nieman. He bought a camera and started filming, became a videographer for DisneyExaminer, took his first trip by himself to see a friend in Portland, he asked his girlfriend to be his steady (by way of postcard at a Justin Timberlake and Jay Z concert as “Mirrors” played), and he started making music again.
One year later and Wyatt Bock was recording Nieman’s vocals as Nick Pacoli produced his first EP Lanes, debuting December 2014. The five tracks, which effortlessly take you back to ‘90s R&B, are fused with poetic and carefully crafted lyrics that reminisce on his cultural identity, brief obsession with fixies (hipster bikes to those of you that are unfamiliar), and trying to find his way. While the baby making beats are present throughout his tracks, Nieman offers a refreshing spin on subject matter. “When did something as sweet as Brian McKnight’s “you’re like a dream come true/just wanna to be with you” become Chris Brown or Trey Songz?” he says. “They’re not bad—in fact I listen to them—but when I decided to pursue R&B, I knew that my Mom had to be able to listen to it. I don’t need to glamorize something that I’m not for. I wanted to bring class and easy listening back to the music and that’s why in “Throwback Love” [a single he released 1 year ago that has garnered 18.2 k plays on his unplugged version alone] I ask to bring it back to a time when three words— I love you— meant something.” Nieman wrote the song strolling through Target on Black Friday, after Pacoli sent over the music.
His next EP, Palette, slated for release late March, demonstrates his unceasing will to transcend in his musical abilities (wait for the escalating falsetto at the end of “Let Me”). The album features six tracks inspired by his entourage, his first duo in the song “Why Do I Still”— co-wrote by Katie Li and featuring the majestic May Angeles— and a chilling, I can’t stop listening to you kind of song, “Only Me” produced by Casey Lagos and featuring Daniel Fojas on the guitar.
Being a film student and visionary, Nieman’s music videos are an art form of their own (shot, edited and directed by Clay Boonthanakit) and we are happy to unveil “Love Like Wine” below.