20 Questions is a Q&A interview series with musicians, authors, and everyone in between, celebrating experiences both shared and individual in the messy game of being human.
Scott Nicholls is a country singer/songwriter from the UK. After growing up amongst his father’s vinyl collection, submerged in the likes of Tom Petty, Fats Domino, and T. Rex, Nicholls picked up the guitar at age 13 and the rest is history. Having always been a fan of rock music, he developed a liking for country music when living in the US and now incorporates a raw, expressive country/rock tone across his music. Falling in love with country music’s storytelling abilities, he describes music as a universal communicator. “We need more communication for good,” he says. “That’s what music is to me — what I want people to do with my music.”
Through catchy hooks and honest, heartfelt lyrics, Nicholls’ emotive songs touch on love lost and new beginnings, all coming from difficult life lessons. Writing about his own experiences became a way of talking about what he was going through and an outlet for his pent-up feelings. His latest single “Heartbeat” arose after experiencing a series of trauma, which resulted in Nicholls putting his heart and soul into his music. “Everything since 2016 has been a learning experience and forced me to grow in ways I didn’t think I’d ever have to,” he explains.
I got to know Scott for the latest edition of 20 Questions where he told me all about what inspired “Heartbeat,” why Inception makes him cry, what got him into country music, why comparing ourselves to each other is never healthy, and more.
What’s one thing that made you fall in love with music?
I fell in love with music because of the way it makes me feel. It’s bigger than all of us, I think, because it’s one of the only things we all share. I know from personal experience it can bring me out of a bad mood, make a memory that much more special, or even inspire me to do something!
What drives your passion for country music?
I love music in general but never really felt like I had a home for myself as a musician, if that makes sense. So I went to school in the US, that’s how I first got into country music and I ended up hearing the band Fun. play Lady A’s “We Own The Night” while interning at SiriusXM Radio and it all went from there, really. That was my gateway drug into country music I suppose! When I moved back to the UK and went into making my own music, I knew the only way I could tell the stories the right way was country music. I love it.
What is your favorite kind of song to write?
I really love to write songs I can kinda rock out to. For example, “More Than Love Owes Me” is one of my live favorites because of the riff and the guitar solo. I wouldn’t really say I ever focus solely on one style of song because I like it better — I just want to write music that I would listen to if it was on the radio/I was streaming it!
As a songwriter, which artists have influenced you the most?
I mean, I grew up listening to artists like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Fats Domino, T. Rex, Buddy Holly, The Jam — anything with great singing and great, great guitars in it! These days since I’ve gotten into writing my own music and not just playing in my room to my favorites. My biggest influences are people like Bruce Springsteen, Eric Church, Jonah Matranga, Joni Mitchell, Eddie Vedder — people like that. People who tell real stories, people who work at their craft. They’re the people that really drive me to be better.
What time of day are you most inspired?
Anytime, I think! It can hit you whenever I think. I always find that if I force it then it kinda becomes harder to express what I really feel like I’m trying to say. I definitely would say, though, that I get most inspired WHILE listening to music, while I’m noticing little bits and pieces in songs that make them great. And to be honest, I’m pretty much always listening to music. It’s certainly been different since March 2020 though, but with new music out I’m inspired again and very excited.
One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Measuring yourself against people who have come before, and people who started things after you, won’t help you, or drive you. It just puts this weird unjust pressure on yourself where you feel like even though you’re succeeding, you’re not succeeding enough. That’s really not healthy, and it can make people give up on things they’re great at and or love.
Who is your style icon?
Oh, GOD! I’m sure anyone that I mention here would NOT wanna be mentioned in this part! Trust me, nobody wants to be Scott Nicholls’ style icon! Honestly, I’ve never really been very fashion forward, but I DO know that I spent a long time wearing things like suits and ties… and now I don’t! I like wearing jeans, sneakers, t-shirts. I do love lounging in track pants/jogging bottoms at home with a big ‘ol hoodie or fleece! Honestly, I feel like I’m a stereotype cartoon/sitcom character “rocker” kinda guy. I’m wearing blue jeans, and a blue jean denim jacket while writing this — take from that what you will!
Once vice that you wish you could give up?
I don’t know that it’s a vice as such, but I think I get too into news coverage of things. I’m just a very inquisitive person and I think broadly that knowledge is power, right? But sometimes it can also be a bit depressing when you know what’s going on but can’t do anything about it and people don’t seem to care. So I’d say I need to be better with that kinda thing to be honest, but also, smoking isn’t great. I’m not a regular at it but regular enough to know I shouldn’t be doing it!
Favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
Honestly I feel like I should say write songs, and most of the time that’s what I’ll be doing, but I’m a huge nerd and play ONE video game called Football Manager and if it’s rainy out and I’ve taken care of enough business for the day you better believe I’ll be spending a few hours pretending I’m managing a football/soccer team. This year’s game is Almere City FC and I’m now the best club in Holland.
What inspired your new single “Heartbeat”?
I came up with the chorus first. Didn’t know where, why, or when it came to me really but I had that “Fireworks baby on the fourth of July / Sunset still sitting low in the sky” line and figured immediately it would be a love song… and then I thought about all of the relationships that I’ve had, and I got thinking about my ex-wife and mother of my children and how even though we weren’t right together, we had a lot of fun. Looking back it was right at the time, and that’s not really a bad thing at all even if it did end badly. You gotta look for the beauty in pain, right?
What does the word “beauty” mean to you?
That’s hard because it’s so different to so many people. Truly I think it takes on so many different forms and faces that you can find it just about anywhere if you want to see it in someone, or something.
Because I’ve lived in a few different countries now my “holidays” tend to be just coming home to the UK be it from America or wherever else. The last holiday holiday I had was last summer in Amsterdam. It was ROASTING hot for once, which it never is when I seem to go, and I even ended up going to the venue “Melkweg” to see Taking Back Sunday. That was a pretty great weekend for sure, we’ll go with that one!
One movie that will always make you cry?
Probably Inception because of how much hype it got and then was just… ehh. I think I cry more with TV shows, actually. This is Us has had me in absolute FLOODS of tears on SEVERAL occasions.
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I can be a bit of both, but more extrovert! I love meeting people and making new connections, being with big groups of people. Everybody is interesting in their own way, I like to hear their stories, have a bit of fun, and make people feel good.
The last book you finished?
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.
You’re stuck on a long flight. Which world-famous musician would you want sitting next to you and why?
Can I say nobody? I’ve flown so much in my life that I’ve now gotten into this routine of traveling alone and praying I have an open seat next to me! Ha! BUT… If I have to choose somebody, I think it would have to be Bruce Springsteen. The stories, the kindness, everything about him I think would be fascinating so if I’m choosing someone, it’ll be the Boss.
The last series you binge-watched?
TED LASSO. Oh my lord! It’s so good. It’s on Apple TV+ (other streaming services are in fact available!) and stars Jason Sudeikis as an almost insufferably optimistic coach who knows NOTHING about soccer/football and is struggling to adapt to life in a different country away from his family. Even if you’re not a fan of the game, you’ll love this show. I promise! That and of course, my favorite show of all-time, This Is Us.
One song that you will never be sick of?
“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure is a big one. I’m also gonna say “True Love Ways” by Buddy Holly. I know that’s two, but hey!
One thing that’s been keeping you sane throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
Keeping me sane! Wow. I think a lot of people would argue that I’ve not been doing enough to do this! But I’ve definitely been watching a lot of TV and learning a lot of songs! I haven’t really been at my most creative at all, and for a long time in lockdown, probably a couple of months, I didn’t sing or play at all. But gradually things got better and I really loved just learning some of my favorite singers’ songs, I thought about posting the covers on Instagram but it was more of a like… not a healing process but a re-start process, if you get me? Now I’m back to writing songs and it’s great, there’s one song I really cannot wait to get down so hopefully you’ll all hear that really soon, too.
What can we expect to hear next from you? An album or EP?
I quite like releasing songs one by one! I want to do a full-length album at some stage but when you’re an independent musician, it’s difficult to really fund that kind of thing without a lot of help. I do have a little retreat planned for myself, friends, and my producer where we’re gonna work on a bunch of new material as well as the older stuff that’s been ready to go for a while, so who knows — maybe sometime in 2022 we’ll see a bonafide EP/album from me. For now, I’m focused on writing more than ever before and getting out to play some shows. Let’s go make some noise!