Born in Finchley to Irish-Italian heritage, poet and soul artist Rhett Nicholl always seemed destined for a career in the arts. With two parents working in the music industry, Rhett's earliest childhood memories include playing backstage at venues across the capital, listening absent-mindedly to soundchecks by the likes of The Ramones, Clash and Blondie, whom his Dad worked with as tour manager.
“Being around people like Blondie and The Ramones - such seminal figures in culture, not just music - must have had some impact but I’m still trying to figure it out,” Rhett admits, before adding that his parents were slow to introduce their children into the world of music. “When you’re dealing with rock stars, there was a lot of toxic behaviour and pitfalls,” he recalls. “They dealt with some people with the biggest reputations of being crazy in an already mad world and I think that gave them an in-built thing of them not wanting me to be part of the music industry”.
Despite his parents’ intentions, however, Rhett couldn’t resist the allure of the stage. Beginning with metal cover bands, he slowly transitioned through the phases of punk and rock to the safe and settled waters of soul. It was the lyrics, Rhett recalls, that first pulled him in. “If I was smart I would have been a writer because that’s what comes most naturally to me,” he says. “It’s an inbuilt thing that I’m quite good at. Words and books and poetry have always been important to me and always stimulated me”. It’s this passion for words and lyrical dexterity that I have defined Rhett’s musical output so far. In 2019, he released his debut solo single ‘Haunty’, a staggering ode to inner-city living. From there, he released a string of singles before landing on his debut EP ‘Omertà’, which wrestled with man’s relationship to sin.
His latest release, ‘Là Bas’, is an altogether darker proposition than its predecessor. Drenched in electronics and more experimental textures, it dares to delve even deeper into some of the touchier themes from ‘Omertà’. “What I’m talking about and trying to channel sometimes is quite heavy,” Rhett explains, “but once people are able to connect with something, anything, it's done its job”. Already two-thirds of the way through his next project, Là Bas is very much a step in the right direction. “I’m excited for what the future holds,” he smiles, and he has every reason to be.
WHAT: R&B imbued songwriting dappled in electronics
WHERE: North London
3 Songs: ‘Haunty’, ‘Vanilla Sky’, ‘Love In Vain’
FACT: Rhett is almost entirely deaf in his left ear – an infection became severe, but it hasn’t hampered his music ambitions. “No one’s complained yet” he smiles.
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Words: Cailean Coffey
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
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