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Are You Ready For The Country? Tiger Army’s Nick 13 on the status of his solo career

July 29, 2011
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For right now, we’re just kind of doing our own shows and we’ll see who responds to it and what the opportunities are. It’s definitely something that I’d like to be doing for quite some time. At times I’ve referred to it as the “solo project,” but “project” sort of implies that it has a finite amount of time that’s going to be devoted to it, and that’s not necessarily the case. I’d like to be doing it and Tiger Army in tandem for as long as I can.

What is the status of Tiger Army?
I’m fortunate to just kind of go where my inspiration takes me right now. I’ve learned an incredible amount, musically, making this record. One thing that’s interesting about this record and the whole process of recording it and touring it, is this is the first time I feel like I’ve learned some different things, from rhythm patterns to a lot of things that relate to approach in terms of learning the craft of traditional country. I should have some new tricks up my sleeve that I can funnel back, because I’ve always been looking for the next step with Tiger Army. How do I push that a little bit farther? How do I put another twist on it? How do I keep it fresh for myself? When all is said and done with the playing on and promoting this record, I think I’m really just going to look inside and say, “What am I feeling right now? Where does my inspiration lie right now? Do I feel like I want to keep going with this and get into a second Nick 13 record, or am I ready to switch gears and get back to some harder-rocking stuff?” Which I know will happen eventually; it’s just too big a part of who I am musically to stay away from that forever. But this has been a nice change of pace. I think when the time comes to decide, I could be ready fairly quickly to hit the studio with either solo or Tiger Army.

What’s the window on that?
It’s hard to say, because I don’t know exactly how long I’m going to be touring this record. Definitely, the label’s expectations are different than most rock labels are as far as touring. Sometimes, Americana records catch fire quite a while after they’re out, and sometimes the artists don’t tour at all—or they tour on a very limited basis. I kind of figured they’d expect me to go out on the road and stay there—because that’s what most labels in my experience want—but that’s not necessarily how they’re looking at it.

I’m not a country music fan, only because I see what’s being passed off as country over the last 20 years. But I still can’t understand why “Nashville Winter” or “Carry My Body Down” couldn’t be full-on country hits. Is there some weird business party line with what gets embraced and what doesn’t?
One thing I’ve gotten an education about that I wasn’t aware of is just there’s a whole different sort of radio thing for Americana music. It’s a different network than rock: A lot of NPR stations, AAA stations, college radio stations spin it pretty heavily, and it has its own charts. It does get played, but just not in the places that typically play either mainstream country or mainstream rock, but it is out there on the airwaves. I was able to do a few things on this tour, like go in and do acoustic stuff on the air at an NPR station. That just wouldn’t happen with Tiger Army.

I know [my album] being played on the new country stations I never listen to is unlikely, just because they don’t really play anything—at least as of right now—that really sounds like country music. There are other places out there that are supporting the real deal, whether it’s old or new, and I think that’s really cool. It’s funny because in the early ’90s, there was a trend to go to these pop-based song structures in country and to simply put some window-dressing on it—throw a pedal steel or a fiddle on it, then have a vocal with a pretty pronounced twang in it. But everything else about it [was] sort of ’80s pop-rock song structure. Well, as time went on, there’s a reaction in the industry against the window dressing, so they’ve gotten rid of the pedal steel and the fiddle. Those last links to real country music have kind of been bulldozed over, because they’re kind of going for the crossover, trying to get [Middle America] on board. In some cases, these singles you hear [are] just pop-rock, and there’s no connection to the roots at all. I think that’s a shame.

Should we blame Mutt Lange? [The producer of classic albums by AC/DC and Def Leppard responsible for the pop crossover of his then-wife, Shania Twain. —rock minutiae ed.]
I won’t point any specific fingers. But I can’t feel too badly if I’m not played on a station that wouldn’t play a song off Merle Haggard’s new record. alt

Written by AltPress