“It’s 2021 – sexuality is a fluid thing,” says Sydney-based musician, Nick Ward. “I don’t ever want to find a label for myself because I know that I’m always changing.” Nick explores this self-expressive modernity and so much more in his debut EP, Everything I Wish I Told You that comes out today. The project amounts to a deeply moving, personal six-track snapshot of the artist’s life so far, not least because it features literal audio from his birth.
If the EP’s defining mantra is the question, “Do you know who you are?,” its emotional centrepiece is the track, I Wanna Be Myself or Nothing At All, a triumphant declaration of personal identity directed as much to Nick as it is to the listener. For Nick, the project’s main theme is "the interrogation of identity, but I don’t think someone can do that on their own.” Instead, Everything I Wish I Told You opens itself up to us, the listeners, and the personal becomes interpersonal, leaving us to wonder if we know who we are. Join us as we chat with Nick about reinventing the limits of self-expression, refusing to let others define us, and navigating the tender realm of personal vulnerability.
For those who might not have listened to Nick Ward yet, how would you sum up your sound in one sentence?
It’s hard to say! I think I have a very different interpretation of what my music sounds like because I’m the only person who knows all of the influences. I make music in my bedroom, so one could reduce it to ‘bedroom pop,’ but I try to push what that can be, and what I can achieve with the resources I have. I hate being compared to other artists but I think the obvious points of reference are Bon Iver, Perfume Genius and Rostam. This is definitely not one sentence.
Even though you’re only 19, you’re obviously very experienced in creating music. You play the drums, guitar, piano and double bass, alongside being your own producer. Where does your passion for music originate from?
I’m not too sure. My parents are not musicians or artists or anything but they did play me a lot of music growing up. The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, ABBA and Bob Dylan were my favourites I think. I started learning classical piano when I was 5 or 6, and only stopped lessons a few years ago. I also played guitar in quite a few bands growing up. I think my passion is self-expression more than anything. If I wasn’t making music, I’d be trying to make films or something else. Music plays such a big part in all of our lives – way more than any other medium.
So, your new EP, Everything I Wish I Told You, has just come out. As for the title, who is ‘you'? Is it yourself or someone else?
‘You’ is anyone. Me, my parents, my friends, the audience. The main theme of the project is the interrogation of identity, but I don’t think someone can do that on their own.
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Your production on the project feels really clean and cohesive with some really lovely features like the backing vocals that appear throughout. And while all the songs feel completely connected to each other, you still seem to include different sounds and genres into each. Were you inspired by any particular artists or genres while creating it?
I knew that I wanted this project to be direct in both the lyrics and the sound. I always think that the production and mixing of a song should be one part of the story. I Wanna Be Myself or Nothing At All is the most personal, diary-like song I’ve ever written, so I wanted to contrast the emotions of that song with thick bass and gigantic choral vocals.
As the songs in the tracklist become more and more vulnerable, the production does too, I think. Looking back over my playlists that I made for this project, I can see that I was listening to a lot of Alex G, Frank Ocean, The 1975, Perfume Genius, Neil Young and Phoebe Bridgers.
I also have to ask, does the track FMF! stand for… fuck my friends? Talk me through this one!
This song was written in COVID-19 lockdown in early-2020 and is pretty much a reflection of what life was like then. I wanted to write the saddest song I’d ever written, and then contrast it with the most upbeat instrumental I’ve ever made. It’s the only flat-out pop song on the record I think, but yeah, if you just read the lyrics acapella it’s so depressing.
As a young gay guy listening to your EP, I think you describe the fear and exhilaration of coming out really beautifully, especially in my personal favourite track from the EP, I Wanna Be Myself or Nothing at All. Did creating music help you come to terms with your sexual identity in any way?
The first and final line of the project is "Do you know who you are?" and I always knew that I wanted the question to bookend the project. It’s weird because I think the further I got into making it, the more the initial ‘meaning’ of it changed. I thought that this project was about me coming out and then becoming my ‘truest self’ or whatever, but in real life, I was left with more questions than definitive answers. As soon as you explain yourself to people, they try to box you into something more palatable or something easier to label. It’s 2021 – sexuality is a fluid thing. I don’t ever want to find a label for myself because I know that I’m always changing.
I also think the music video that you directed with Jacinthe Lau for your track Holding the Man is fantastic! What were you trying to convey with this video specifically? And do you see yourself as more than just a musician?
Thank you! People really like that one. The song is about the positive feelings of coming out, and the hook is pretty much saying that I felt like floating away into the sky. I usually hate it when music videos are literal interpretations of the lyrics, but it felt appropriate here. I definitely see myself as more than a musician.
As I said before, if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be doing something else creative. I was a 'filmmaker' long before I even made a beat, and I still watch some of the old short films I made. I love the intersection of film and music, so I think I’ll always be walking that line.
When you look back at Little Life from 2018 and compare the Nick from then to the Nick now, have you changed as an artist? Do you always strive to grow and change?
Oh, wow, you guys dug deep. That was just a random collection of beats I made when I was fucking around on Soundcloud. I think that nowadays I take myself a lot more seriously. That might be a bad thing sometimes, but at the end of the day I’m confident in what I make, and why I’m making it. I definitely strive to grow and change. I’m halfway into making the second project, and I already think it’s a huge step up from this first one. If I was 100% content with everything I make, then I wouldn’t be growing.
Overall, I think Everything I Wish I Told You will leave its listeners really excited to hear more. Do you have anything upcoming planned for after its release, or will you be taking some time to chill?
I hope so, too. I am probably going to celebrate the release by making even more music, to be honest. The second project will be out this year, too. I think it marks a really big step up. Now that I think of it – the FMF! video will be out in mid-February, so that will be fun. I just finished editing it today so I can’t wait for people to see it.
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