Artist Interview: Rock singer Nick 13 on his country music influence

Nick 13 – photo by Adam Guy
Over time, country music and rock music have intertwined with one another. It is amazing how each influences one another. With country music, many complain that it has taken a turn towards pop music with the latest success of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and other acts. However, when a rock musician steps into the field of country music, it is interesting to see their take on the style.

Recently, I spoke with Nick 13, lead singer of the rock band, Tiger Army, based out of California. Even though his first solo album was released a few years ago, it is gaining attention to more fans thanks to the CMT Pure Countdown. His videos have held steady in the number one spot on the countdown. Here is my recent interview with Nick 13 and his country music influence:

How would you best describe California Style of Country Music?
Well that’s a tough one. Historically it has some differences and the tones and the way it was played. If you take it back to the Bakersfield days with the telecaster generally a little bit more with bands than producers. I think more than that it had a certain spirit that was different. I think a spirit that tied into the pioneer spirit that originally defined the old west and you still see in places on the west coast. It’s about independence. Those are the things that inspire me about it. You can break it down to certain types of chord progressions, or there’s certain types of guitar licks, or types of pedal steel licks that have that certain west coast sound but what I think that really comes down for me is that it’s something that’s got its own spirit. That’s what I take from it.

Do you think the Bakersfield Sound is often overlooked in mainstream music these days?
I think so. One of the things that interested me while doing a lot of research in the history of country music is that at one time, as far as where a lot of country music was being recorded at one time Los Angeles was an important as Nashville or Texas. I think the reason that Bakersfield and California style of country music in general has been overlooked is that we unfortunately lost in touch with our roots here in California. I think Tennessee and Texas have held on to their country music roots a little more tightly. It kind of skips a generation or two here. There’s a lot of history and there are still fans of country music, but it’s not what is in the mainstream of what people are listening to or paying attention to for a long time.

In recording for the solo album, how long did you live in Nashville?
I was back and forth for quite a while. I had a place I was renting there that was right above Printer’s Alley. It was a converted loft. As far as how long, I was back and forth so it is hard to say. At one point I was in Tennessee a lot more than I was in California.

What surprised you the most being in Nashville?
It’s amazing to me even having lived in Los Angeles and touring around how much live music there is in Nashville. When it comes to roots music, there are a few cool things that happen in LA every month. However it is stuff that you have to put on your calendar. While in Nashville, it was not only possible but it was easy to go see something good roots music wise to see it every single night of the week. A lot of the times I would hit two or three things a night. It was all of incredible quality because you have players not only from TN but all over the south and Midwest that wind up in Nashville to play. I think for that reason, it is a really special place and of course the history. Like seeing the Ryman for the very first time, getting to see the Grand Ole Opry, etc. There was something very inspiring about being that close to all the history.

Did you ever get the chance to play at the Ryman Auditorium or on the Grand Ole Opry?
I haven’t, but that’s a dream of mine one of these days.

In writing for the album, did you immerse yourself into listening to old records of the 40s-50s?
I didn’t really listen too much past the 1960s. A lot of my old favorites like the Louvin Brothers, I went pretty deep into their catalog. People like Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, people like that; I got all those Bear Family box sets. I got to really hit the evolution of some of these people beyond their hit songs. If I had to pick one all-time favorite country artist, it would probably be the Louvin Brothers. I just read the bio on Charlie Louvin and it was one of the best bios I’ve read in a while.

What do you think of the attention of your videos being #1 on the CMT Pure Countdown for multiple weeks?
It’s really amazing and I’m just so happy and proud of it. It’s funny because the record came out in 2011 and I toured it in different legs for 8 weeks all over the United States. A lot of people were not aware that it existed when I was out there doing the live show. It’s interesting because really the second and third video (Carry My Body Down, Nighttime Sky) were released and now there are a lot of people that are just finding out about the album through the videos.

One thing noticeable on your album is that you don’t have any cover songs, as compared to other artists. What would be a few songs you would cover in concert?
Live I’ve done Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You.” I’ve done Don Gibson “Sea of Heartbreak,” which is a beautiful song that I love. I’ve covered Johnny Horton. I don’t do a whole lot of covers, but I do like to throw a few in the live shows.

Do you have any future touring plans soon?
I definitely will go back out on the road one of these days. My main focus has been trying to get a second solo album written. I’m about 4/5 through that process. I would really like to just write 2 songs that I’m really happy with before I get into the studio. So the record is almost written. When I get it recorded and released, I’m planning on doing some major touring throughout the US.
Who would be on your bucket list to meet or sing with?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I would love to work with Marty Stuart someday. I first became aware of him when I saw him on the Opry at the Ryman in Nashville. The last couple of albums he’s made are some of the best of traditional country sounding from the last several years. There are a lot of people.
You were at Stagecoach this past spring with Dwight Yoakam. Did you get to meet him or perform with him?
I met him a time or two. He’s a really nice guy. A lot of players that are or were in his band or played on his stuff at one point are on my record. His drummer, Mitch, and Eddie Perez, who is now with the Mavericks, is on some cuts on my records. Josh Grange, who is now with K.D. Lang is on there too. He’s got a lot of the best players in California.

Something that fans will notice is that you have quite a few tattoos. Have you counted how many you have and which is your favorite?
Gosh, I lost count at a certain point. I have a back piece. You get into “is that one tattoo or is that a bunch of different tattoos?” It was done as different things in different sessions. I lost track of pointing a number of years ago.