Inspired by soul, pop and hip-hop, Nic Hanson likes to mix things up a bit. Rather than work on an album, he's currently deciding whether or not to make a playlist of his songs and let his small but steadily growing fan-base pick in which order they're released.
His new single "Aisha" makes for a strong introduction to Hanson as an artist for those who have yet to discover him, and, with big plans for later in the year, he kindly agreed to this interview to chat about Madison Square Garden, ultimate ambitions and social media.
PW: What would you say makes you different from all the other solo artists around today?
Nic Hanson: I think a lot of artists right now are perfectionists. And that's awesome, and it's not to say that I don't take my music seriously, but my aesthetic and message is more about promoting positive energy than hitting every note correctly. My team and I have so much fun doing what we do, and we want to share that feeling with our audience. Of course, we're always practicing and always striving to be our better selves, but at the end of the day, we're about trying to show people that being an artist doesn't have to be a stressful, grueling process of pursuing your dreams 100% percent of the time. Truthfully, it is hard work, but you can have fun while you're working -- that's why we got into it in the first place and I love it.
PW: Growing up, which bands and artists were you most influenced by and have those influences changed over the years?
NH: I've always been a hip-hop head, and my parents always played soul and classic rock whenever they were doing anything. I started getting really into gospel music in junior high school. Stevie Wonder is my favorite of all time. I would put The Roots and Prince in my Top Three.
PW: Is there one particular artist you think you're most similar to or do you make a concerted effort to just be yourself?
NH: I don't make a concerted effort to be anything. But, at the same time, I don't think there's an artist who does exactly what I do. I don't think there's any artist you or I have heard of who does exactly what someone else does ... that's why we've heard of them.
PW: Who or what most influences your songwriting?
NH: Anyone I interact with is an influence. I love human relationships and connection. I think it's essential to being happy -- unless you're that old Japanese guy I saw in a Vice documentary who lives alone on that island and gargles salt water five times a day.
PW: How easy or hard do you find the songwriting process and are some subject matters easier to write about than others?
NH: I love the song-writing process. I actually like writing sad songs more, even though my music isn't sad. It's cool to get all the sadness out there on the page and then turn it into something vibey.
PW: Which, in your opinion, is the greatest song ever written and why?
NH: I'd probably say GMB -- Giving My Best’s -- "Judas." It's raw and evocative in all the right ways.
PW: What, to you, makes a good or great song?
NH: Anything that can move someone, even a little bit, whether physically or mentally, is a good song. It's not my place to decide whether something is a good or great song. But I like songs that make me move or moved.
PW: Tell me about your single "Aisha". Is there a story behind it?
NH: It's actually about someone named Alisha, but I wanted to change the name to, you know, not be too obvious.
PW: Any plans for an album soon?
NH: I'm just going to release a bunch of songs, I think. I was talking about this with my friend the other day, thinking maybe we should just release a playlist or something and let the people decide what order they want to listen to everything in.
PW: Wow, that's kind of a revolutionary idea. I guess social media helped in terms of introducing you to an audience and a fan-base?
NH: I mean, of course. Most people I know don't listen to whole albums in general, much less in order.
PW: Would you agree it’s a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
NH: No, but at least in the United States, if you want people to hear your stuff, it's definitely easier to utilize it.
PW: What are your tour and performance plans for the year?
NH: I just did a really dope show at SOB's a few nights ago. I love performing in New York, so I'll mostly do that for now while I work on new stuff. I plan on touring a lot around the east coast during the spring, and we've got big plans for the summer that I can't quite share yet.
PW: If you could share a stage with four other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play?
NH: Calle 13, C2C, and Louis Armstrong with Kirk Franklin & The Family. Maybe in Union Square, when it's nice out.
PW: You get to play one venue for the rest of your career -- which do you pick and why?
NH: Madison Square Garden. It's legendary, and a lot of people would hear me. It'd be weird especially now, people would be like "who's this guy and what's he doing here," but eventually they'd probably be like "well there's gotta be some reason he keeps playing HERE, at Madison Square Garden, so maybe we should listen to what he's saying."
PW: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
NH: A lot of songs in different languages.
PW: Finally, what's your ultimate goal? What would you have to achieve in order to be truly fulfilled?
NH: I'm already like 90 percent fulfilled. I try to live my life like that. I think as long as we're doing what we love, we're always feeling pretty good, and as long as we keep trying to be better, we won't regret anything.