Nick Ward's debut EP Everything I Wish I Told You, is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.
Image: James Dryden
Sydney songwriter/producer Nick Ward has unveiled his debut EP Everything I Wish I Told You. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release and so much more.
A coming of age story expressed affectingly across six tracks, the body of work discusses sexuality and identity, and serves as a documentation of your life so far. With a strong lyrical focus on the concepts of breaking down traditional ideas of masculinity, sexuality and gender, as experienced by himself as a teenager navigating the current political landscape, the release is a step into Ward's world, immersing the listener within the young artists inner monologue.
Since the age of five, Ward has evolved into a well-rounded multi-instrumentalist, mastering classical piano, the guitar, double bass and drums. When he was 11, he began experimenting with production, using his mothers computer to create his own tracks on GarageBand. Not long after, Ward began toying with lo-fi hip hop beats, playing around with vocal lines and the structure of his songs. In 2018, he released his debut single, Crush.';
After a string of single releases, Ward found himself on tour with New Zealand indie pop sensation BENEE. After more performances on tour with with local artists Tora and JOY, Ward was named a Triple J Unearthed High finalist in 2019. Not only just a talented musician, Ward is passionate about filmmaking, directing all his own visuals as well as a bi-monthly series on YouTube. His work explores masculinity and identity, and in 2017 Ward took home a win at Tropfest Junior with his short film, Boys Don’t Cry.
Everything I Wish I Told You is out now! Read our interview with Nick Ward below.
Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey...
I started playing classical piano when I was five or six, and until the age of seven, I thought I was going to be in The Beatles. It took one kid in my class telling me that they were dead for me to give up on my dreams. I also picked up guitar, double bass and drums for a little bit. I can remember trying to make cover songs on Garageband on my Mum’s iPad, and I was really interested in the recording and editing process. Looking back, I was learning to produce, but I just thought I was remaking Green Day. When I was 16, I started making mashups and lo-fi hip hop beats on Soundcloud, and eventually realised that no one else was gonna sing on my songs – so I would have to. Anyway, I released my first single, Crush in late-2018 and the rest is history.
Congratulations on the release of Everything I Wish I Told You!
The body of work discusses sexuality and identity, and serves as a documentation of your life so far. How important was it for you to represent these topics within your music?
I just don’t think I could sing about anything else. Every time I’ve ever released a song that doesn’t make me squirm because of the lyrics – I feel like shit. I just need to have that discomfort to feel like I’m doing something good. A lot of my favourite artists did the same for me, so I hope I can be that person for someone else.
What was the hardest part about creating a body of work that is so personal and documents your own experiences?
Playing it to my friends and family. I always talk over the lyrics because it’s just so awkward. I’m such an open book, and I’m really close with everyone, but I still can’t do it.
The release traverses different palettes of sounds, built around acoustic guitar and fusing together influences of hip-hop with bedroom pop. How did you arrive at the present soundscape of your music?
I knew that the project needed to be super straightforward and bold, as a springboard for everything in the future. I used to make music that emulated other artists who I thought I resembled, and it took a while before I realised you can be inspired by anyone. I’m inspired by M.I.A, Death Grips, Portishead, Blood Orange – and heaps more artists that don’t really share the same musical space as me.
The project opens with recording taken from your birth. What prompted you to utilise the audio and how do you think it sets the scene for the personal stories that are set to unfold within the following tracks?
As you mentioned before, this project (to me) is a summation of my life until I was nineteen, so it was only natural that it started from the beginning.
You’ve released some great visuals throughout the EP’s rollout! How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on the track?
Visuals are everything to me. We’re living in an interesting time in music, where visuals are playing such a huge role in artists’ identities. I don’t know why Spotify canvases are still a thing, but apparently they’re essentially the new album cover. Anyway, the visuals for this project are pretty DIY and lowkey, because to me, that’s what the project sounds like. I love the idea of artists having ‘eras’, so I’ve already been planning the next one.
You worked with some talented musicians on the release, including Lontalius and Chris Lanzon to name a few. What were these collaborative experiences like and what do you think each artist brought to the project?
Chris has been a really close friend since the start of last year, and he definitely shaped the way the project sounds. We send so much music to each other, and he’s really good at giving feedback. He helped me write the hook on Overture and provided backing vocals for every song on the project but one. As for Lontalius, he was one of the biggest influences on the project before I’d even spoken to him. I love his music, so it was huge to get him on a track.
If you had to pick one song off the EP to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would they be and why?
Either Holding The Man or Aubrey Plaza I think. They’re definitely the most emblematic of the rest of the project. I think that songs like FMF!, I Wanna Be Myself… have more power in the context of the whole project.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from Everything I Wish I Told You
Embrace the grey area! You don’t have to know who you are, but you should definitely probe that question.
If Everything I Wish I Told You was a piece of visual art, which artwork would it be and why?
Ren Hang and Robert Mapplethorpe were the biggest visual influences on the project, and I wanted to make sure the images looked candid, but surreal. I think that the weird synthetic shit on the project paired with all the organic production is a bit like that? I don’t know.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
Definitely allowed me a lot more time. I was kinda forced into making this project, since I had nothing else to do. It all came together in like three weeks, but the final touches and mixing took the rest of the year.
Identity is the conceptual thread that runs through your creative outlets, from music to film. Do you have any filmmaking projects in the pipeline?
Nothing that’s separate from my music. I definitely want to return to film at some point, but right now I’m just happy finding the right visuals for the music.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts?
Australia has the best music on the planet, and I’ll take that to my grave. Some of my favourite local artists are Lonelyspeck, ninajirachi, Golden Vessel, E^ST, Kllo, LOVER, Zion Garcia and Jerome Blazé.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live shows?
We’re talking about some shows! It’s hard to know what’s concrete and what’s not, but people can expect much more live instrumentation. I’m trying to get a live drummer to play with me.
Kevin Abstract, Steve Jobs, Rei Kawakubo, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Lorde, Lou Reed, David Bowie, The 1975, Phoenix, James Blake.
Jean Dawson or Mallrat
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Either Blonde by Frank Ocean or Contra by Vampire Weekend. Or Abbey Road.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
I don’t. Lol.
A musical release you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
New Lorde! And BROCKHAMPTON.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Something directed by Sofia Coppola or Spike Jonze.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley, only because I didn’t watch the show growing up. I think Miley was so misunderstood, and she definitely paved the way for female artists to embrace their sexuality in their art.
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
My first show was with BENEE in Melbourne. I don’t know if I was any good, but in hindsight that’s pretty wild. Otherwise, I always enjoy playing Oxford Art Factory in Sydney.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Golden Vessel’s last album was called a ‘road-trip’ record so I’d have to pick that.
Best concert you have been to?
The 1975 at the ICC was pretty crazy, but BROCKHAMPTON at the Enmore was nuts. Apparently the ceiling was bending from the moshpit jumping so hard.
Last concert you went to?
My own one, when I played with George Alice in Wollongong. But before that, I think it might’ve been Vampire Weekend?
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
This is another question that proves how un-Y2K-cultured I am.
Guilty music pleasure?
I don’t have one.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Drink less coffee you’re literally going to die
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I was at BROCKHAMPTON’s screening of their documentary, and they filmed a music video for NEW ORLEANS. In the video, you can see Kevin Abstract grab someone by the shirt on the right side of the screen. That was me. He looked me right in the eye and my soul left my body. I promised myself that I was gonna give it my best shot after that.