28-year-old Nicholas Jago was born in Abadan, Iran on July 19th, 1981. He lived in Iran until he was 4 years old. The subtly exotic and rhapsodic musician/painter then spent three years in various areas of South America, moving at the age of seven to England and remaining there for the latter half of his teens while studying painting at The Winchester School of Arts. By 1997 Jago was living in California with his family, it was there that he shifted his interest to music and became a part of the praised and highly original band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
In 2007 Nicholas began a solo career; he is currently recording songs and performing at various venues around Los Angeles and abroad. He may remind some of Leonard Cohen, there are glimmers of him in Jago’s songs and vocal delivery. And clearly Jago makes a point to focus on writing engaging lyrics. At this time his strongest work is the lyrically poignant, Under a Veil, a duet with HT Heartache. HT brings a delicate folk-country quality to the song and it compliments Jago’s folk-rock. Jago himself appears to be comprised of delicate nuances, perhaps this is from being exposed to so many varied cultures as a child. Since embarking into a solo career it appears Nick may have become Nicholas-
FAULT: Where are you at now as far as getting an album together?
Nick: I have been taking time out from writing to find my players, management and funding. I feel now that I have found the musicians I want to record with so I just I have to wait for everyone to be in the same place at the same time. I’ve set deadlines for myself which has made the completion of things that much more real. I have been milling about with about 40 song ideas for a while now and have managed to narrow it down to 15, some of which I’ve been playing out. Today I’ve been working on a song called “Art Walking” the second half of the words come from a conversation I had with David Shane Smith about Art walk in downtown LA. He is a singer and artist himself so I may ask him to come in and sing on his lines like i did with Mary Roth from HT Heartache.
FAULT: I want to compliment you on your work with HT Heartache. Hopefully you will do more work with her. You have mentioned previously that upon your initial meeting with HT that you weren’t very fond of her. You felt she was possibly toying with you by pretending to be musically ignorant about a certain groundbreaking band, is this accurate?
Nick: Well, yes she was great at hiding her incredibleness upon first meeting, playing off as another girl in Hollywood who doesn’t know much about anything in this case music. Once I heard and saw her sing I was blown away immediately began writing songs inspired by our interactions and noticed that one of them in particular could be turned into collaboration.
FAULT: The song ‘Under a Veil’, which you performed with HT as part of a viral video postcard campaign for presidential change, did you write it entirely?Nick: Yes I did, I wrote Mary those lines and vocal melodies to sing. I developed the song ‘ under a veil ‘ for about year before going into pre production with other musicians. For a while, I wasn’t thinking about my singing voice as much as I was about the arrangement, words and style. I could always ask musically minded friends to listen and give feedback. On the day of recording, Peter Hayes on guitar helped open up the bridge and take the song somewhere I wasn’t expecting. I had always wanted to write a song I was proud of but I didn’t realise that I would be performing it for an Obama campaign. HT Heartache turned into this angel and I was taken by her aura at this point so when it came to performing it in front of the camera I felt naked and vulnerable at sharing something I felt was intimate. I’d had little experience with performing my own songs in front of people so I was nervous.
FAULT: What are your comments on President Barack Obama and the divisiveness that has come from his election?
Nick: Barack is the one of the most laidback presidents I’ve seen. His face is of someone I can trust. I was moved with the confidence shown in his speech in Chicago; I fell in love with the Obama that night as I thought everyone did. I guess anyone in as much a position of power as he is in is going to be hated by some out of jealousy. I was grateful to be asked to be a part of one of the Obama ad campaigns but for me it was more about an advert for hope than it was about anyone in particular. At the time we filmed I had been under the radar for a while and it gave me an opportunity to let fans know I was keeping busy with music.
FAULT: Does the idea of downloading music onto a blank disc and then scrawling the according band name in black marker sicken you, even if it is purchased? Do you feel it cheapens and de-romanticizes music? Or is this merely the progression of technology, as compact discs replaced records in the past?
Nick: I’m grateful that technology has made it so easy for me to acquire music but sometimes I miss holding a sleeve that tells me more about what I’m listening to. Opening the package and looking at the artwork was part of the meal. The sleeve design and cover was the appetizer and the printed lyrics and credits were the dessert. Now it starts and ends with the main course. Free or not free, downloading does give people a chance to listen to rare stuff they might have thought they missed out on. For me when I discovered downloading it was amazing to go back and hear old telescopes songs. As long as downloading doesn’t stop artists and bands from making the best music they can I think its ok.
FAULT: How do you acquire your favoured music and what are the last 5 albums you bought?
Nick: Its cool when I meet someone at a bar I find interesting and check out their stuff and it turns out to be amazing like when I met Vanesa Corballa from the band Whispertown2000. I bought”Swim” after watching their record release performance at the echo. Gillian Welch was in the Audience and I got an opportunity to meet her. It always feels right to support a band by buying their CD at the show cause u know that they are probably making more profit that way. Vanessa also has a great Spanish song she wrote she sings by herself that is unreleased.
A friend recently burnt me a copy of Animal Collectives latest album Merri weather Post Pavilion and I went to see them at the Henry Fonda. Ariel Pink opened up so I bought a copy of House Arrest. I saw Spindrift and the Moon Upstairs perform recently and am keeping an eye out for their new releases. Having DJs as friends is helpful sometimes when I want to hear something inspiring so I keep an ear out to what London based DJ Richard Clouston from Cosey is listening to or hearing radio shows like Henry Rollins fanatics on kcrw, Steve Jones’ Joneys’ jukebox on 103.1 (rip), and Michael Stocks Part Time Punks on Kxlu.
FAULT: You stated to a fan on your Myspace page that everyone you meet now is your ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. Does this relate to any spiritual beliefs you may have?
Nick: If everyone was my brother and sister than I would never marry and have a family of my own. I’d like to be able to experience marriage and having kids. I said that everyone is my brother and sister in response to being asked if I thought if having a family and doing music would work. For me at this time I don’t see how it could work and so I’m trying my best to drop my judgments and accept my family as the world. I remind myself to treat everyone with the respect I would reserve for people such as a brother or sister. My respect for women in the past three years has also increased. However I have come to believe that to put my faith in any one person, movement, art or music alone is not enough. Music and art will only reflect the amount of soul or lack there of I have at any given moment. I grew up catholic but grew weary of the rules and prejudices. I’m down with the story of Jesus and his followers and I see there is much wisdom to be gained from it. I’ve learnt much recently from making friends with people that are like me. By that I mean people that are willing to leave behind their pasts and reflect instead on making their present and futures brighter.
Interview by Michael Floyd, Photography by Sam Hessamian