Perhaps you've recently wandered into the Replay or Jackpot late at night, expecting to encounter the usual three or four-piece rock band bashing their way through a set, and discovered instead a heavily-bearded solo songwriter, hunched over his guitar, making a helluva racket, howling those "Gypsy blues," sounding his "barbaric yawp" over the roofs of LFK (if you catch our Whitman reference). Well, if so, that was Mr. Nicholas St. James, and you'll find him at the Replay again this Saturday, releasing an EP on a triple-bill with Westerners and The Sluts (who are also releasing an EP).
We sat down with Nicholas to find out how he's managing to carve out a solo career alongside these rockers. Check out his website to sample some tunes from the Honeysuckle EP and enjoy the interview.
Chip: Increasingly, the good citizens of LFK are seeing the name "Nicholas St. James" popping up on bills alongside their favorite local rockers. So who IS Nicholas St. James, and what does he stand for?
Nicholas: Who IS Nicholas St. James? I'm not sure... If you have any ideas, I'd be open to hearing them! I moved to Lawrence about seven years ago and only within the past year have I decided to make the move to performing publicly. A lot of the music I listen to was made seventy or so years ago--stuff like Robert Johnson, Fats Domino, old Smithsonian Folkways recordings--but the local scene here in Lawrence is easily producing some of my favorite contemporary music. We live in such a diverse music town where you really can see nearly anything you want on any given night. I spent my first six years here soaking up everything that Lawrence had to offer before I felt like I had something to say that added to the "conversation." I would be the first to tell you that a lot of my influences show in my music, but what's made things interesting, for me at least, is that those influences really shouldn't belong together. However, I think this has also allowed me to share the stage with someone like Tyler Gregory and then play with a band like The Sluts the very next night.
My show is usually just myself on acoustic guitar, playing through a couple of tube amps and trying to give the impression that there's a lot more going on than there actually is. I don't use loops or any "programed" equipment, but I'm always looking for ways to make the crowd ignore the fact it's really just a single guy with an acoustic guitar up there.