As I sat with Nicky Egan in a little alcove of C’mon Everybody, tucked away from the socialization of the bar scene, I could tell she was nervous. Her low raspy voice made it a little hard to hear as we chatted over the sound of Blondie’s “Call Me” playing in the background, but the way her face lit up as she spoke told me she was just as excited as she was nervous about the night. She was about to play with a new group of musicians and share some music she has been working hard on for quite some time now.
“This is our second show playing all the new material,” Nicky tells me, as her musical counterpart, Colin Brown approaches. He matches Nicky’s quietness in his demeanor but his eagerness to play screams loud through his eyes.
I could tell the two had a knowing connection between each other just by seeing them interact for that short amount of time. When they went on stage later that night, the connection was as strong as ever and magic was created.
Nicky and Colin met in 2012 while they were both a part of a funk band called Turkuaz. Colin had been subbing in on keyboard for a couple gigs after which, the two remained in contact. The two reconnected and began writing together in April of 2015 after Nicky attended a showcase that Colin’s label, 3rd Generation Recordings, had put on. Nicky remembers that when she and Colin started working together, they kind of just clicked writing wise and brought out the best in each other.
“It’s really nice, any time you write with new people and collaborate, it brings out things that you wouldn’t normally do by yourself,” she explains. “Colin’s an amazing organ player and keys player so harmonically he’s kind of opened my eyes to a lot there.”
Colin is excited that, with this project, he gets to write lyrics and melodies that Nicky gets to sing.
“I’ve always wanted to write vocal tunes but am too shy to try my hand at being a front person, it’s a lot easier to lead and be in front when you have an instrument to hide behind,” Colin explains. “It’s great to be able to work with a trained singer and musician like Nicky and write vocals for someone who will execute them well and in an attractive way.”
Their immediate plans for the project are just to get their music heard – including playing a lot of local shows, producing and publishing recordings and video content and to keep writing.
“I think it’s important to be continuously trying to write,” Nicky says. “The more productive you are, I feel like that’s when you get a lot of the great songs.”
Some of the songs that the two wrote together came out of conversations that they were having daily with friends and with each other.
“One of our songs was sparked from a conversation that I had with two women that are my girlfriends and are both a lot older than me, both single ladies and just talking about our various guy problems and relationships and seeing their perspective,” Nicky says. “Some of the other songs were lyrically sparked from Colin and I talking about what’s going on in the world today, which is a lot.”
Colin explains that the two have a lot of common ground when they write together, but they also have their differences that both strengthen and sometimes weaken their writing process.
“I’m more reserved and focused on minimalism, what we’re not doing, and only articulating very specific things – I almost take a polarizing approach to writing where I focus on the outcome rather than what’s being generated,” he explains. “Nicky tends to be a little more energetic and more in the moment, which is great, one of us has to kind of focus on outputting energy.”
When writing music, Colin explains that there tends to be “an urgency to make a quick decision or be ready to try someone’s idea out on the fly before the moment of inspiration is lost” so it’s helpful to work with someone who has the musical knowledge and capabilities that Nicky possesses.
“It can be frustrating to work with someone who can’t work at a fast pace, it can feel like they’re not able to support your level of inspiration,” Colin explains. “Nicky is really sharp when it comes to all that stuff and it’s very exciting to work with someone who doesn’t need a recording device or to write stuff down as a crutch when composing arrangements together.”
This is a direct result from her years of studying music and composition. Both musicians have had many years of musical training under their belts. Nicky studied piano and took voice lessons starting at a young age and eventually attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating with a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production. Colin took lessons in multiple instruments as a child including being classically trained in piano. He went on to study Indian classical music (Hindustani) from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan at a private college in San Rafael, California.
Classically trained musicians such at Nicky and Colin, in modern music lovers’ eyes, may seem out of place playing a show in a dive-y NYC or Brooklyn concert venue, but their knowledge of music is a what the music scene needs right now. There are far too many musicians of their caliber getting over-shadowed by the musicians who sing the same tired pop-y lyrics and the DJs who count on the light show for half of their performance.
With the music scene being so over-saturated, it’s hard for even the most talented musicians to make themselves stand out among the ubiquitous Soundcloud uploads and numerous curated Spotify playlists.
“It’s great in some ways that you can put a song out into the world, with the click of a button but that’s what makes it harder because there’s so much out there,” Nicky says. “I think because it’s so uncertain all the time, especially right now with all the stuff that’s going through Congress with copyright laws, it’s almost like all you can do is just keep writing and keep putting stuff out and hope that when all is said and done, if it’s good and people like it, it’ll carry.”
It’s so easy for musicians to put up music as fast as they want that sometimes they’re so hasty to have something posted online that they don’t spend enough time ironing out the wrinkles. Colin doesn’t want to make that mistake and wants to work at a rate that will allow him and Nicky to make careful decisions about what they’re putting out.
“I’ve been through several experiences with groups on the rise who made hasty or compromised decisions due to being too focused on the future and suffered the consequences,” Colin says. “I think [Nicky and I] are on solid footing and the touring, press, marketing, etcetera will happen as long as we continue to really do justice to our creative vision, focus on our craft, and generate the highest quality content and performances we are able to with what is immediately in front of us.”
Nicky and Colin’s creative vision shone bright as tambourines were shook and keys were pounded on stage that night at C’mon Everybody. The duo and their backing band performed some funky, dance-y tunes as well as bluesy ballads that people were able to get excited about and any music junkie would appreciate.
Article: Merissa Blitz