Rebel Style: Nick Waterhouse
Andrew Richdale, GQ Magazine
Think music ain't what it used to be? Then you haven't heard Nick Waterhouse. His jumped-up take on 1950s rhythm 'n' blues is the real deal, and he's just as fastidious about his old-school style, too.
If you're walking around Los Feliz in L.A. and you crash into a slight guy in high-waisted trousers who looks like he just climbed out of a time capsule, then you've found 25-year-old singer and guitarist Nick Waterhouse. On his debut LP, Time's All Gone, Waterhouse makes R&B the way the old guard did it. Seeing him onstage with his seven-piece band, the Tarots, is as close as we can now come to catching Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm or "Hit the Road Jack" era Ray Charles. Like Jack White, Waterhouse is an anachronism—a brilliant and obsessive musician trapped in the wrong era.
The Guys Behind the Guy
"My biggest influences aren't mainstream icons like Elvis. I'm more interested in the underloved guys—like Elvis's songwriters Leiber and Stoller. They didn't have six-inch-high hair or sharkskin suits. They wore dressy bohemian gear like shawl cardigans and loafers. They were vain but not flashy."
"As a kid in Orange County, my look was such a radical thing. I was the only one wearing collared shirts, pegged pants, and leather shoes. I got accosted, beat up, called 'weirdo' and 'faggot.' Then I found this community of rock 'n' roll bands. Those guys saw me as this audacious young guy—the one who played 'Long Tall Shorty' on an organ at their emo shows."
The Song That Blew My Mind
"I didn't have that moment where Radiohead freaked me out and made me want to cry. Instead, I saw this guy Gene Ludwig, a badass guy from Pittsburgh, play Ray Charles' 'I Got a Woman' that left me thunderstruck."
"When I was younger, I read that Miles Davis wore Brooks Brothers shirts. He looked so subversive that I went out and bought one. Later, I got a job there, totally for the discount. The best place to buy their stuff, though, is at Salvation Army. Old men die and their fifty Brooks Brothers shirts sell for ninety-nine cents apiece."
Suitcase Full of Blues
"I've loved suits ever since I saw the Blues Brothers. A suit should have natural shoulders, high-arm holes, and fitted pants that hit at the waist. Basically like Dick van Dyke looked."
How I Record
"I have a deadline-oriented mentality. I throw myself into my music and go through birth, life, and death within the course of a week. It's my own cycle of discovery."
It's Not Just Nostalgia
"I play a 1963 electric Martin. I use '60s Ampeg and MegaTone amps. But it's not because they're old. It's because they sound better. I also wear retro Katin swim trunks, because I like the fit. I use an old-school single-blade razor, because my skin is sensitive. As for cars, I don't drive one. I get around on my wit and charm."