Nick Waterhouse is not part of a movement.
Despite allusions to the soul sound of Daptone Records in Brooklyn, or the proximity to the rise of doo-wop and R&B in Los Angeles thanks to Burger Records, the still-young singer-songwriter is following a vision that is simply his.
While rising to fame so close to Phoenix, Waterhouse's show this Wednesday at Crescent Ballroom marks the soul bandleader's first visit to Arizona. For this tour, the singer is bringing along a tight sextet to reproduce a vision of his always-full recorded sound, complete with keys, female backing vocals and percussion, and a baritone saxophone.
While accounting for budget and time constraints, Waterhouse chose his backing band carefully, noting that "I like the live experience being a little different than the record; I don't believe in trying to replicate it exactly."
Following the massive buzz of his first 45s and debut full-length, 2012's Time's All Gone, Waterhouse focused his energy on touring rather than an immediate followup, taking his time to produce this year's Holly, hailed by The Huey Show on the BBC as one of the best of the year.
"What's a lull for you is very active for me," Waterhouse says of the break. "I find that the listening audience tends to get impatient."
In producing the tightened-up sound of his latest record, Waterhouse simply looked inward.
"I think that I'm following my own vision. I think I definitely cross paths with all those people [in the Burger Records and L.A. scene] and you can't help it, everybody's touched by something. [But] a lot of times the outside world needs to place an order on things," he laments of any lazy categorization of his sound amid a "movement."
So when asked about the consistent labeling of his music, Waterhouse disagrees with any order he has been given.
"I object. I think that you're projecting that I'm genre-conscious. I think that you and a lot of the other writers are genre-conscious. I just kind of do my thing. I made a record without very much intent. I have my own agenda which has nothing to do with genre," Waterhouse says.
"I like funk, and music that has a soulful feeling. I like songs and music that have a bluesy tonality to them. But whether or not I really care much for anything that falls under either banner is really not a part of my agenda...I guess this is sort of a paper tiger, people like to talk about this stuff."
The singer-songwriter could not be clearer. While delving into retro sounds and influences as much as any artist, Waterhouse simply stumbled upon something that wasn't quite the flavor of the month.
Similarly, the musician is puzzled by the attention given to his clothing, which has been a consistent topic of discussion over his career thus far. Dressing in a mix of vintage R&B duds with a California flair, it's clear Waterhouse stands out from many of his peers.
"[My fashion was a] very organic development. None of this is a funny little conceptual game for me. This is pretty much just all the things that I just really dig...It's been really strange having to reckon with the thought of people looking at me or asking me about these things. I never thought about it when I started doing these things," he explains.
In producing his art, Waterhouse refuses to bow to suggestions of iconography. Instead, he only wants listeners to connect to the music he writes and performs.
"[I want people to identify with] just the stories and the atmosphere and the feeling. That's what I like in music."
Nick Waterhouse makes his Arizona debut this Wednesday, August 6 at the Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix
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