Rhythm and blues throwback Nick Waterhouse’s “Say I Wanna Know” — in heavy primetime rotation courtesy of an Acura commercial — could easily be mistaken as a lost gem of the 1950s. The slinky, horn-driven track is attention-grabbing in its uniqueness circa 2012, just as Waterhouse’s penchant for Brooks Brothers shirts and horn-rimmed glasses makes him an anomaly in an era when CEOs wear Chuck Taylors and hoodies to the office.
“I guess it’s like white blood cells — all of a sudden, people really notice that you stick out like a sore thumb,” the Los Angeles singer says of the soulful, rock-and-stomp sound found on his debut album, “Time’s All Gone,” released in May. “I’m just doing the same thing that Muddy Waters was doing to blues or Van Morrison was doing to soul or Elvis Costello was doing to classic pop. [The influences] filter through you and turn out a slightly different way, but you definitely hear traces of everything in there.”
Waterhouse says he has “kind of always been the thumb” — “I don’t really know another way,” he admits — ignoring music trends in favor of learning everything he could about early rock ‘n’ roll, soul and jazz. (A little punk rock was thrown in there too, courtesy of his dad’s Black Flag cassettes.)
“I was always really curious. I was kind of a bookworm kid,” the 26-year-old explains. “I liked reading and researching, but it wasn’t research to me, it was just trying to quench the really deep desire to understand the world around me.”
Everything began to make a little more sense with his mom’s Van Morrison records playing in the background.
“I happened to feel more comfortable in music; I thought that music was the best way to relate to the world, so that was something that I ended up pursuing,” says Waterhouse, who picked up trumpet in third grade before switching to guitar, which he continues to study and play today like a mad genius. “I could have maybe been really into something else, but I don’t know,” he adds. “This is just how it turned out.”
On his terms
After spending his early 20s in a string of dead-end jobs and no-good relationships, Nick Waterhouse turned to music and decided to record the album he wanted, on his terms.
“I spent maybe a decade of my life being afraid of [pursuing what I really wanted]. [‘Time’s All Gone’ is] a leap of faith record, where I was like, ‘Man, I’m just gonna do this and, you know, f— it,’ Waterhouse says. “I didn’t care about being judged anymore.”