Punch ‘Nick Harrison’ into YouTube’s search engine and you’ll notice the third video on the page titled Nick Harrison- Johnny Cash Cover (coming in behind an amateur grime remix and a DYI exercise lesson) is a clip of a lad nursing an acoustic guitar playing Cocaine Blues with uncanny likeness to the Sun Record legend.
Though darkness shrouds the exact identity of the gifted mimic, singer songwriter and pop’s latest glint of young talent, Nick Harrison of Folkestone assures me that indeed, it’s an impostor, pointing the finger for my confusion at the ordinariness of his “bog-standard” name. And alas, the very next video to feature on the page is a hand held live recording of THE Nick Harrison, the most persistently chipper soloist in Britain playing ‘Honey’, a tune he co-wrote with legendary indie all-rounder Paul Epworth. Girlish squeals are hurled at his bopping stiletto formed by budget stage lighting, and yet his performance is flawless, despite such intense attention.
Fast forward to a humid afternoon in central London and Harrison, the newly signed and adored artist of A&M Records is so visibly nervous; it’s rather upsetting. Appearing much younger than his twenty-two years, the song-throb is keenly suited for our chat, lad-ishly handsome, yet frantically combs his sandy fringe forward and talks through a nervy lip. I enquire into his apparent uneasiness,
Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, was like amazing when I first heard that.
“I think… Ah! I’m quiet nervous to begin with but then I become more confident I think. I’m not like really overly confident. I’m quite shy to begin with but then I become quiet good. Right now I feel quite comfortable. Make sense?”
Before I reply, the hastily spoken singer adds jokingly,
“If I have a beer or two, you know, I’m a bit over confidant,” and with a reciprocated chuckle, he’s relaxed. Phew!
Born and raised in the working class beach town of Folkestone, Harrison’s knack for a tune was pledged at infancy with an innate fascination in the drums, a trade he remains fond of, recollecting hitting pots and pans as a youngster. From clonking on pots, his musical evolution into a stellar solo act has evolved rather organically, from a pubescent youth dabbling in a number of music college bands to his current incarnation as a hotly tipped showman with a basket of punk-influenced, doo-wop ska pop. Releasing debut single ‘Oi Rude Boy’ earlier this year, Harrison’s self-crafted ditties whip together the narrative quip of the Arctic Monkey’s with the bold brass kick of The Police, a style that plays homage to a variety of genres though Harrison admits it all started with one man,
“I was really into dance, you know, Ministry and garage. Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, was like amazing when I first heard that. It was like ‘Wow!’ When I was a kid I thought that was amazing.”
Indeed, citing “Quincy Michael” at the top of his list of most influential solo artists, preceding the four respective members of The Beatles, Harrison’s musical influences shifted significantly during his late teens when he attended the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM), an institution he commemorates facetiously as the “The Academy of Rock and Pop”.
“I was into loads of ska-punk bands, at that age when you think every lyric they write is about you. Like Real Big Fish when I had my first girlfriends it was like he knows what I’m feeling this guy a million miles away from me.”
Harrison’s affection for his experiences at ACM is detailed with unwavering enthusiasm and an almost child-like positivity, an untiring demeanour that doesn’t drop once, whatever the topic may be. Indeed, it becomes apparent that this particular music man is wholly agreeable, a characteristic almost unheard of in a traditional rock personality and so many other ‘next big things’ that quiet quickly, it’s revealed that such humour and humility owes much to his vast experience as above all things, being a fan.
“When I play gigs I still revert back to when I go to gigs, you know? When I go to gigs I go nuts and start dancing and having a good time. When I finish playing I always go and check out the bands pretty much every night. I really like meeting people after shows and saying ‘hello’ to people, because I remember when I go to see bands if you ever saw someone who was playing, I was always like “Man, your show was amazing!” It was always fun to talk to them.”
And so, prior to Harrison’s recent rise in opportunity, which included a critically acclaimed support jaunt for the The Courteeners and a record deal with A&M Records (an achievement every twenty-something band kid across the continent would give his Arctic Monkey guitar pick for) it’s safe to say he has lived an exceptionally normal twenty two year’s in the South East which has seen him frequent festivals as a giddy under-ager, making his set at this years Under Age Festival, Something Special. Pun intended.
Debut album ‘One Drop’ is recorded and pressed for release
Though almost impossible, Harrison’s joy intensifies at the mention of this future gig, though for none of the obvious reasons, but the somewhat secondary singularity that he will be on the Topshop stage. Scheduled to DJ the following week at the Oxford street flagship store, unsuspecting to the garment mogul, Harrison reveals his plot to “hit them up” for a pair of “pointy” shoes that he currently can’t afford. Indeed it’s apparent that this potential star still has work ahead of him, though while on the topic of the financial return of being a musician Harrison’s undeviating humility reins, stating,
“Though I understand money is apart of it, and there is money to be made, that drives some people, but a part of the music industry is there to put out music that they really love, and that’s why I went with my label, as their was a small roster and they really cared about their artists. We’ll see, I probably won’t make much money,” he giggles with nervous indifference.
“I’ve never been out of work since I was fourteen. My mum never gave me any money, so if I wanted it I had to go out and earn it, I’ve always had that mentality,” the quick talker continues more confidently.
And true to his word, debut album ‘One Drop’ is recorded and pressed for release, working with Paul Epworth on his first full length recorded effort, Harrison is another chapter in to his fairy tale career, though not ignorant to the fact that a great deal of his current success owes to lady luck, hinting at an acquaintance with the abundance of talent splashed across the UK that would also enjoy the opportunities he has earned, frequently mentioning his circle of friends in bands that have yet been asked to sign the dotted line.
“There are thousands of people out there. Loads of my mates are in unsigned bands or bands that are sort of brimming on the surface. It’s really hard and I consider myself in the same kind of bracket. Really I’ve had nothing! You know I’ve recorded an album, big fucking whoop!” he states playing down his achievement.
And it seems that even if Harrison’s current level-headedness strays, with the reunion concert of all original members of The Beatles looking more probable, the industry he has recently earned a wrist band into will be quick to snap him into line, describing the lowest point of the story so far being the day he had to contend with his label pushing back the release date of ‘One Drop’. A jolt to the music biz rookie, Harrison accounts,
“I felt really scared, like something was wrong. It’s quite scary to think that they can just take it away since I’ve had a taste of it, being in a studio and playing on wicked gear, and playing to crowds.”
It’s a moment of flashing self-doubt and raw sensitivity from the clear-eyed kid, a moment that would have evoked much sympathy on my behalf if I hadn’t already heard the hip shimming-ly brilliant album sampler that exposes ‘One Drop’ as potentially one of the most triumphantly solid debuts to feature in 2008. ‘Come Over’ is a touting stomp from the start, clicking charmingly into a reggae-felt chorus as Harrison sings summer sunshine into a standard punk structure with Sting-esque swagger and might. ‘Oi Rude Boy’ picks up all the obvious hints from The Specials, and masterfully entangles nostalgia with cutting edge production while ‘Honey’ is without doubt a feel good favourite, described by this very big talent as a “positive thing about checking yourself, and where your head is at.”
So by the sound of things to come this summer, at the humble hands of Harrison, there is defiantly a “big fucking whoop” to be had, as this boyish talent and general good guy with the ordinary name delivers brilliance and everything but ‘bog standard-ness’.
Nick Harrison releases ‘Oi Rude Boy’ on Polydor Records on the 25th August.