It's time to wrap up another year, and with its passing comes time to reflect on personal growth and the year that was — and, oh, what a year it was. 2016 was a parody of a bad year, with a fiercely divisive election and deaths of luminaries and musical gods, notably Prince and David Bowie — the latter just ten days into the new year. There's still over twenty days left in 2016, so someone better corral Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan and hide them in an underground bunker until the ball drops in Times Square. (And film it, too. This may be the greatest reality show idea of all time.)
Faced with the deaths of musicians who were messengers of whole generations, and with the current political climate heavy with hatred, the creation of art and music is a necessary tool for survival and sanity. Singer-songwriter John Nichols recorded his latest project with all of this in mind.
John Nichols + Friends is a celebration of collaboration. Each song on the six-track album was written and recorded with a different artist, all of whom Nichols met at the University of Miami's music-business program. Nichols will premiere the album today in its entirety with a performance at Area Stage Company, with all of his collaborators in tow.
“You're supposed to have a senior recital; this is kind of my version of that,” says Nichols.
His collaborators — fellow UM music students Gabriel Berenbaum, Colin McKinley, Mosay, Liam O’Brien, and string quartet the Wild — will play sets of their own before launching into Nichols’ performance, which will be accompanied by a narration of his musical journey over the past few years. “When I release collections of things, I like them to have a big picture overall.”
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The format echoes the spoken-word narration in between songs on his last album, Beach.
“The cool part about Beach is its relation to this new project. Beach was the album that I wrote everything on myself. I recorded it all myself. I produced it all myself. I did everything on that album by myself and I'm really proud of it, but the funny thing about it is when I released it, it wasn't connecting with people as much as I thought it was going to. I've realized it was because it was very, very intensely from my perspective. It kind of inspired me to start going in this more collaborative direction, and I realized that I didn't have to give up that individuality that I solidified in Beach when I was collaborating with others. An important part of collaboration is having your own style and your own personality and individuality that you bring to the collaboration.”
The collaborative theme of the album strikes a necessary tone in these hostile times, Nichols thinks. “We live in a very divided world right now," he says, "and the reason I'm doing this concert is because I think people are most powerful when there's as little division as possible.”