Nick Hakim | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Nick Hakim

Blended Soul

May 18, 2017 Issue #60 - Father John Misty Bookmark and Share

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After speaking with Nick Hakim about the background of his debut album, Green Twins, you come away with the impression that he’d just as soon let the music do the talking. Hakim also doesn’t put too much thought into being labeled a neo soul artist, or for that matter, any specific classification of his sound.

“I think neo soul is seen as a genre but around the time it was coinedlike when Erykah Badu and D’Angelo and Jill Scott or Bilal were coming upthey were just making music, ya know?” he says. “The label is more for the media. The people who really fuck with [my music] know that it’s a lot of different things.”

That it is. Through the immersive listen of Green Twins, the 26-year-old’s broad scope of musical exposure is evident. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Hakim absorbed everything from the Latin American folk music of his Chilean/Peruvian roots to the grunge and punk rock his brother introduced him to, and the go-go and hip-hop that flowed through his circle of friends. A kaleidoscopic swirl of ‘80s/‘90s hip-hop drums, contemporary R&B, and textural allusions to alternative rock all pass through the foggy soul emulsion of Green Twins. “It represents where all the people involved were coming from,” says Hakim. “There’s just a wide variety of things that we listen to and they all have an influence.”

It all funnels into a relaxed musical body language that continues through the album. At times songs seem let free to explore the environment created for them, one that’s spacious and reverberating and rather distinct from that of his first two Where Will We Go EPs.

“I recorded with a live band on the EPs and every song was a one take recording of however many we did. On the album, it was me learning to record and engineer by myself and really take things into my own hands. Obviously I still collaborated with the same guys but I’m playing most of the instruments on every song.”

Though Hakim starts his songs in the solitude of his bedroom in most cases, his collaborators help bring them to life. Having played and recorded with the same guys from his days at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and on through his move to Brooklyn three years ago, a second nature has set in.

Hakim has found especially fluent rapport with Green Twins producer and bass contributor Andrew Sarlo, who has become a reliably different “other ear.” When recording, they never deviate too much from the original inspiration. For Hakim, the demo is way more than a rough sketch.

“We would literally build off of my demos. There’s a lot of things I do originally that are hard to recreate sometimes, it’s like there’s one spirit [of the song]. In some cases it was more intentional but mostly we would build a song [from its bottom].”

Ultimately the philosophy of sticking with songs, and the people you play them with, has proven fortuitous for Nick Hakim, and made way for his brilliant debut.

“I’m so proud of the record. It feels really good to finish something, to actually finish a piece of work. It was also a lot of fun. Some of those songs were so fuckin’ fun to record, man. Sometimes I would just be jumping around the room in my boxers with my girl in the bed, listening to them.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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May 18th 2017

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May 22nd 2017

he just let the music do the talking

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June 19th 2017

Nice! I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! Your blog posts are more interesting and informative. I very like and visit regularly.

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June 21st 2017

After reading the article I came to know about Nick and his albums. I want to know more about him and his works. Is there ant problem with the first album. Update more details about him. I am eagerly waiting for the latest updates.

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February 22nd 2019

I think this is one of the most underrated albums of our day. Truly inspiring. And I loved this interview. Thanks!

Ryan Penn
April 22nd 2019

The prog rock-style cover of Nick Hakim’s debut indicates that he is no ordinary soul singer. Like New York’s answer to Lewis Taylor, the cult British 90s singer-songwriter, Hakim drifts between genres and moods, displaying a soft spot for shadowy beats, ribbon blenders, hip-hop and the early 70s, when psychedelia was embraced by R&B. His voice, like the music, has a dream-like quality, whether mulling over his girlfriend’s resemblance to God (the rapturous Bet She Looks Like You) or dissecting nightmares (the sensual title track). Needy Bees, meanwhile, a murky modern ballad, showcases his ability to gaze into the future without alienating soul traditionalists.