Long before the boom of resurged soul through the feminine touches of Laura Mvula, Chila Lynn, and Amy Winehouse, Huntington Beach-bred Nick Waterhouse was tackling the masculine side of soul behind the Orange Curtain—and became the man that brought Long Beach to its feet at the inaugural Dancin’ in the Streets event in 2012 by way of the Summer and Music (S.A.M.) festival.
Waterhouse’s connection to Long Beach is not new. After having played regularly at places like Que Sera and Que Sera, Waterhouse found himself wedged in a parking lot next to a hardware store for the Dancin’ event downtown. At first a quiet gathering, it was Waterhouse who brought a crowd to its feet by way of sounds that seemed like someone was spinning Atlantic Record 45s behind the stage—not the ever pervading four-on-the-floor beat of EDM.
While Waterhouse won’t be returning to S.A.M., his label mates De Lux and Allah-lahs will—but this is probably for the better since, unlike Waterhouse’s first album, Time’s All Gone, his second full-length album, Holly, features far more complex arrangements, or what Waterhouse described as “the product of knowing I was going to make a record.”
“I actually had the pleasure of working with a really old friend on this record,” Waterhouse said. “He had left music and works at a mathematic think tank in Louisiana but I managed to coax him out of work for a few days to work on the record… The last album was a really well-shot, black-and-white noir thing with a great cinematographer and no budget. I really wanted Holly to be my Cinemascope: great, big, wide shot with a lot of colors on the palette.”
His latest appearance at The Queen Mary for Ink-n-Iron was the perfect fit: with the Mary’s equally great, big, and wide elegance, Waterhouse brought his own swag while performing alongside Merle Haggard and Wanda Jackson.
There is a strange irony in the fact that OC brought forth one of the leading blue-eyed-soul acts in the nation. After all, he openly admits that—with his retro-geek-gone-chic look of thick-rimmed glasses, pleated slacks, and sophisticated button-ups—the children of OC would consistently bully and taunt him while growing up. Not surprising since, long before the days of Ty Segall and the Cold War Kids—two acts that Waterhouse is not only associated with but is directly connected to—OC was the land which brought forth Social D, T.S.O.L., The Vandals, and The Adolescents.
“I definitely think that Orange County was an influence but in a different way than most would think,” Waterhouse said. “It motivated me to find my own world. It wasn’t gonna give me anything so maybe I should be thankful for that.”
Waterhouse likens his OC history to that of London: historically, the general conception of London is that the city is a rock-and-roll generator. After all, it birthed rock legends like Eric Clapton and Led Zepplin, The Beatles and The Who. But in the words of Waterhouse, “They were creating the music they were creating because London was fucking boring and gray and nothing was cool—they dreamed of playing in Chicago with Freddie King and Muddy Waters.”
It is this spark—the weird in-between state of being stuck in a place and escaping that place through creativity—that makes Waterhouse thrive musically.
“Nowadays, especially with the internet, people like the idea the idea of being creative and all the trappings associated with being creative but don’t want to put in the work of actually being creative,” Waterhouse said.
That work, for Waterhouse, is not necessarily the thrill of going on tour or promoting an album or the fame—far from it. It’s the “absolutely fucking boring moments” of one’s existence, trudging through the banality of it all while simultaneously embracing it in order to generate something that didn’t exist before. In the case of Waterhouse: music—and music that is perfected on a level that some mistakenly find shocking for his a man of 27.
“I have to shrug off people who downsize and condescend me in that sense,” Waterhouse said. “And it’s an attempt to emasculate me. It’s really just about marginalizing the person you’re talking about. It’s the same thing as saying, ‘This record is really good—for a woman.’ So whenever people want to talk to me like, it’s really about talking down to me: ‘Oh, he’s a perfectionist.’ Yeah, I work just as hard at it than anyone else.”
As Waterhouse continues his tour, he hopes one day to return to Long Beach—maybe even to return for Dancin’ in the Streets, which will be headed by Long Beach local fave DJ Lithuanian Prince (who appeared at the original event with Waterhouse) and Waterhouse’s aforementioned label mates The Allah-Lahs. His other label mates, De Lux, will be playing at S.A.M.’s inaugural Twisted at the Pike.
“I always performed in Long Beach growing up in Orange County and I hope to keep doing so,” Waterhouse said, “Dancin’ in the Streets was too much fun.”
To purchase Nick Waterhouse’s latest album, Holly, click here. For more information about S.A.M., click here.
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