From rhythm and blues to musical theatre, writer and performer Nick Blaemire truly is a musical jack of all trades. But in his latest album, “Superstitious Drive,” Blaemire wanted to try something new.
“I wrote a lot of the songs on ‘Superstitious Drive’ within the year of recording it, and some of the verses I wrote while I was singing, like it’s a lot of improv … that got me to a more vulnerable place,” Blaemire said. “I was frustrated by trying to make a living making music, when it’s a very personal act.”
Blaemire is best known as a writer for his 2008 Broadway musical “Glory Days,” but has since participated in the pop/rhythm and blues group, Nick Blaemire and The Hustle, released his first EP, Ampersand and performed in productions on Broadway and beyond. Most recently he experienced a personal crisis as the Covid-19 pandemic tore him away from the stages on which he had been entertaining audiences.
In short, Blaemire has had a busy decade.
Now, not only is he using his past experiences to inspire his latest work; he is also trying to break away from the career he has had in order to explore something more authentic.
“Musicals … are extensively about something else, even if you’re writing about your own experience,” he said, “The pandemic just has given this opportunity to really speak to something specific and discover how I felt about it through the writing, as opposed to just writing another song about time has already gone by, or an experience that somebody else had.”
Beyond his work in the world of theater, Blaemire’s music still tells a story.
“‘The Hustle’ was very much about hustling and being in New York and trying to get my music out there and trying to bottle the rhythm of New York City in that record,” he said “‘Ampersand’ was more about collaboration and this idea of ‘I don’t want to do this alone,’ and I love the process of giving my ideas to somebody else who’s talented and seeing how they can respond to it and make it better or different.”
“Superstitious Drive” was also a direct response to the events happening around Blaemire.
“This record was entirely about this pandemic and the political administration that we have just lived through and the hopes for a brighter future and the acknowledgement of the sort of frustrating contradictions inside every human being,” he said.
Although “Superstitious Drive” is a deeply personal album, Blaemire was not the only contributor making it happen.
“My collaborator is a genius person named Van Hughes. Van, like the mode of transportation, which he absolutely is,” Blaemire said. “He definitely takes me from the place that I’m in to places I never knew existed. And as a collaborator, there’s kind of no more you can dream of.”
Earlier last year, Blaemire and Hughes experimented with writing and producing sounds from Hughes’s computer, and a collection of songs emerged. The two decided to move forward with the music and attempt to produce a record.
“When art tells you what it is, you kind of have to listen to it,” Blaemire said. “As an overthinking person, that’s hard.”
During a year of uncertainty and hardships, Blaemire found balance in creating.
“Writing has always been this thing where I can put my nervous energy somewhere, and where I can log my experience in a language that I find really inspiring, through music or through stories,” he said. “Once the pandemic became reality and not just like this anomaly moment, I was like, ‘I have one life and I would like to continue to live it the way that I was living.’ I liked getting up every day and writing. And even though suddenly I wasn’t sure what it was for anymore, I just felt like I should.”
Throughout last year, Blaemire wrote not only “Superstitious Drive,” but also two movies, a television pilot and three different stage shows that are still in progress.
But while the pandemic has certainly affected the volume of his output, Blaemire does not attribute the outpouring of writing simply to more free time.
“Just surviving is an accomplishment and making your time meaningful feels like the goal now more than ever,” he said. “That’s helped my art. It hasn’t changed in terms of the rate that I’m working, but I think my work has gotten deeper and clearer, because I’ve had the time and because this pandemic has reshaped the way that I think about life.”
A strong motif within Blaemire’s latest album is the theme of travel, either direct travel from one place to another or in a larger sense of aging and moving through space.
“Physically, I’ve been trying to get out and about as much as I possibly can during this time [when] there’s so much stillness,” Blaemire said.
“I especially love driving. I find it to be an incredible act, and very metaphorical for what it feels like to be a person. … You could die at any moment, so stay on the road, stay focused and there’s something like the car is driving itself at certain times. I think that’s a metaphor for the artistic process — you have to let the car drive. Let the album tell you what it is, let the music guide you.”
Nick Blaemire’s album “Superstitious Drive” is out now on all music platforms.