Nicholas Howard's music, if you have to give it a label, might be called Urban Soul. Urban, because he's New York through and through, grew up in Queens. And Soul, because his music comes from that place where we all live, whether it's New York City or Podunk, Nowhere. His music is different from what you've heard before, and yet, because it comes from a soulful place, once you've heard his music, you'll recognize it as your music, too.
His sound is not the same sound repeated with minor variation in song after song. Of the ten tunes in his new CD, no two sound alike. His grooves swing easily from bluesy ("Blood from a Stone") to socially aware ("Mother"), from lost-love or lust-filled ("Scotch on Her Lips") to philosophical ("Life Is a Mystery"), from politically savvy ("Carnival") to shake-your-hips Latin ("My Hands Are Rough"). And the title track ("God Is in the City") swings gracefully between the sacred and the profane, doing beautiful justice to them both, while giving way to neither.
Nicholas grew up with the best of both worlds, the hood outside in the streets of Queens, and in the household a pair of artist-type parents (mother a dancer, father a writer) who introduced him to Bach and Billie Holiday. As Nicholas put it, "My influences? Everything and nothing. Life is my biggest influence. Hip-hop, rock, blues, jazz, salsa, Bachata, middle eastern, a little country, a good subway performer, a guy playing the buckets with his boyz. Any music that has the power to move me."
The singer-songwriter-arranger-producer-engineer was born in LA but grew up in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in New York City. By age ten he was trying his hand at hip-hop rhymes, making his own beats. After squirming through high school in downtown Manhattan he went south to Florida to earn a degree in audio engineering, building a solid base for later musical production. After graduation he landed a job at the bottom-of-the-heap at top-flight Right Track Studio off Times Square. Before he left he was in the control room for projects that featured some of hip-hop's finest, including the Neptunes, Fabolous, Joe Budden and Guru.
But the creative bug had bitten and nothing would satisfy but putting out his own music. He took on the challenge and founded his own independent music company, Belief & Hustle Records. Teaming up with co-producer Rocky Grisez, he launched his first album, A Rip in the Sky which premiered at SOB's downtown NYC. The CD went on to earn finalist kudos in the Independent Music Awards. A line from the opening track of that CD defined the album and Nicholas' own destiny: "Miss Music, you've got my soul."
His latest CD, God Is in the City, is Nicholas Howard's ode to the city that inspires him. He explains, "To me New York is a blessed place, because it's a place where people put themselves in the toughest situation possible in order to realize their dreams." In the Thank-You's on the CD, Nicholas ends with these words: "To the streets of NYC that have influenced me and my music, I say thank you for all your inspiring attributes and the honesty and integrity you hold within your concrete shell. This album is made in your name."