Nick West’s trajectory as a musician has been far from certain, yet his most difficult experiences have inspired some of his best songwriting (Image Source: Corey McGill).
By Ashleigh Buck | @ashkbuck
Growing up on the streets of Huntfield Heights around the mid-coast of South Australia, 21-year old singer/songwriter Nick West has always had a passion for music.
“My dad Andrew used to write music … my sister Teagan used to sing on top of it,” he said.
“Being young, I always wanted to join in.”
At the age of five, Nick had his first experience performing.
“I had my first attempt at singing with my dad at church. If you’ve ever seen Happy Feet with the penguins, yeah that was me, croaky and screechy.”
After that performance, his father decided he never wanted Nick to sing for him again. Although disheartened, Nick continued to immerse himself in music, picking up drumming and later the acoustic guitar.
But the music stopped a year later when his parents divorced and his father left to start a new life in America. Although Nick’s mother, Bec West, made many attempts to keep the music alive, her efforts weren’t quite enough: Nick had lost his enthusiasm, Teagan had stopped singing, and the home went quiet.
It wasn’t until high school that Nick began to play again. His then girlfriend’s father played guitar, which—combined with Nick’s love for one particular artist—encouraged him to play again.
“I was inspired by an artist, Mike Rosenberg, and his song ‘Let Her Go’; I was dedicated to learning the famous riff and the fingerpicking patterns he used.”
Although Rosenberg’s 2012 hit song inspired Nick to create his own music, he still lacked confidence in his own abilities. It wasn’t until his relationship with his girlfriend ended that he began to sing again, albeit never outside of his room. He kept to himself, mulling over lyrics and perfecting the guitar.
Three years later, Nick decided it was time to reattempt a debut by putting together a performance in his backyard. As an untrained singer, he asked his older sister Teagan to help him out. After a few lessons, he worked up the confidence to perform in front of an audience.
“The night of the concert, I appeared on my makeshift stage, and everyone started clapping. I played my set terribly, but everyone got into it,” he said.
”That was the moment I knew I wanted to do music for the rest of my life.”
Over the next few years, Nick performed with several duet partners and continued to write music. An old friend introduced him to veteran musician Ronnie Taheny, owner of Arty Records, which kickstarted Nick’s career.
Ronnie helped Nick strengthen his voice, giving him weekly lessons for two and a half years until he was confident enough to sing his own songs.
“Ronnie helped me find my own unique voice register, challenging my voice with different practices including singing arpeggios, octaves and every little note in between,” he said.
“She played the piano while I sung to train and fine-tune my ears to the notes so I could sing in pitch.
“I was assigned homework, Ronnie always made me work hard. I used to write 4-5 songs a night. She really helped push me out of my comfort zone and boost my confidence because she always believed in me.”
As with most artists, Nick faced many roadblocks: writer’s block chief among them. Coming up with something new wasn’t always easy, and giving up was always in the back of his mind.
“It took me a while to understand that every song I produce won’t be the best song ever, and comprehending that helped me a lot to move forward and complete full compositions,” he said.
“It got me really frustrated, and yes, at some points, I wanted to quit writing all up. But I knew I had a lot of stories to tell about breakups, love and depression that people could relate to.
“That kept me going, and I am glad I did because the outcome is always worth it.”
Nick has always maintained that his mother is his most important support system. Without her constant reassurances, he says he would not have had the strength to chase his dreams.
Bec has forever been Nick’s “number one fan”, and she firmly believes her son has always been gifted even though he would never admit it.
”I always knew that if Nick wanted something, he would get it from his hard work and effort,” she said.
“Watching Nick grow as a man and artist original to his own work defines exactly what I have always seen in my son.
“My response to him anytime he asks me if he is capable enough will always be: ‘Nick you can do anything in this life that you put your mind to if you want it bad enough; the world is your oyster’.”
Nick released his first album, ‘Pieces of One’, last year.
“Writing my EP ‘Pieces of One’ was both an easy and complicated task,” he said.
“At first, I did write a lot about depression, aiming for men’s mental health because I know how important it is to bring that up.
“I am conscious of the fact that a lot of boys and men do ache mentally, and I wanted to connect with those men to let them know that are not alone and that it is going to be okay.
“My song ‘European City’ talks about losing who you once were and finding the new person you want to become. Of course, you will still always have that old person in you as that is who you once were, yet you are okay with always having that; you use it to grow.”
Nick continues to write and perform new songs. His experience with parental divorce and the emotions associated with loss have inspired his lyrics and love for music, allowing him to work towards a bright future within the profession.
For those looking towards music as a future career, Nick’s advice is simple.
“Love what you are writing. It is not going to be everyone’s favourite,” he said.
“Perfectionism will hinder you. I can give you all the advice in the world, but this journey is yours; you write your own stories.
“Work long and hard and you will see the results. And remember, always, always stay true to yourself.”