Aussie singer/songwriter Nick Cunningham has been making waves on the Australian music scene from his base in Byron Bay for the past few years. What begun as busking in the Byron streets has taken Nick across Australia playing backyards, bars, venues, and some of the country’s most famous festivals: Splendour and Byron Bay Blues Fest.
Nick’s following is growing rapidly and it’s no surprise given his soothing vocals, spellbinding melodies and beautiful, memorable lyrics. Having just released his new EP, In Between, Nick is embarking on a busy 2018 of touring, writing and recording his next album!
Nick took a week out of his somewhat hectic schedule to make the trip over the ditch and check out the New Zealand countryside and music scene. We caught up with Nick over coffee in Raglan to chat about his roots, life as a singer in Byron Bay, and plans for the future. We also probed him about the inspiration behind his captivating lyrics, and of course asked the all important question: where are the best surf spots in NZ and Aussie?!
Nick, first things first, what brought you over to New Zealand and how are you enjoying your time here?
I wanted to have a holiday. I also thought I could use it as a good chance to check out the country and suss out some spots where I might play when I come back for a proper tour later in the year… But yeah, mainly just a holiday this time!
I’ve loved New Zealand, it’s an awesome country. So many cool spots. I like Raglan in particular because it reminds me of home (Byron Bay), it’s small, has a cool vibe and character, and good waves!
So Raglan is your top place in New Zealand?
Yeah I reckon so, and Kerosene Creek in Rotorua. That’s a pretty epic place, I had no idea that there were hot rivers in the world!
Yep, New Zealand definitely has some unusual spots!
What are your plans when you get back to Australia?
I’m touring Australia from February to April and I’m planning to start working with a band to record some new music. So this will entail trialling drummers and bass players, working on songs and organising some much needed studio time!
And what is your favourite part of what you do? Writing the songs? Performing live? Recording?
My favourite part of what I do used to be the writing. I’m more comfortable on stage now when I play so I like that more as I get further down the rabbit hole!
The recording I’m warming to...
Speaking of recording, we’re stoked to hear you’re planning on recording some new music soon, when can we expect to hear your next album?
Definitely before the year is up!
I think it will probably be more similar to my first EP than my second.
And to the question we’re sure all your fans are wanting the answer to, where does the inspiration for your songs come from?
Mainly… ummm… I dont know I guess it really depends what is going on in my life at the time. I’m mainly inspired to write when I’m annoyed or upset so things that piss me off? And girls, definitely some of the inspiration comes from girls.
Evidence for the latter source of inspiration is the new single off your EP, ‘California’, right? What was the story here?
I was just hanging with a girl and we had a great connection then she left and moved to California. Basically, I wanted her to come home back to Australia.
Which artists do you listen to and/or admire? Are there any that stand out as a source of inspiration and admiration for you as a singer/songwriter?
That’s a hard question, ...it’s definitely changed in the last few years.
I guess the people that I looked up to and wanted to emulate when I first started out as a singer/songwriter maybe have proven to not be all they stacked up to be. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the people I used to admire and I guess it’s a little bit of a reality check as I’ve realised that they may not be the artists that I had envisioned and built them up to be.
The people that I have come to admire now are more the people behind the scenes, because they’re not so much in the spotlight. There’s some awesome musicians that I’ve met and worked with, not necessarily artists, who are super passionate and original and yeah, I admire what they do.
Ok that makes sense!
Did you always want to be involved in music? Were you singing from a young age?
No, I actually grew up playing professional football in South Australia. So I did that from the age of about 14 until I finished school but then realised it wasn’t for me so decided to pursue music.
I'd always played guitar through school but started writing heaps when I was about 21 and realised that music was what I really wanted to be doing.
Wow that’s awesome, so a total career change for you!
Do you ever miss playing competitive sport?
No, it’s not a lifestyle that suits me. It wasn’t good for me health wise and I much prefer surfing to playing footie now! As for the competitive part, I try and translate this into my drive to succeed musically… plus I’m pretty competitive when it comes to playing cards!
Who doesn’t love a competitive card game?!
You grew up in South Australia, so when did you head East to Byron and what was it that drew you there? We’re guessing the gorgeous beaches, weather, and people played a part?!
I left in 2014 and moved to Byron. I just came for a holiday at first but the weather and social life definitely helped me make the move!
If I could play enough to make a living back at home I’d think about heading back. Unfortunately there’s only three places to play in town there and of course heaps more venues in Byron so I’m staying put for now.
Tell us, what is life like as a singer in Byron Bay, we’re imagining it to be pretty dreamy, is this the case?
Yeah it’s a pretty good spot to live as a singer. There’s lots of opportunity to play both at venues and busking. There’s also a solid community of artists and musicians in Byron too which is cool.
What do you do outside of writing, singing, and recording?
I enjoy surfing and partying with my friends. Yep, mainly just surfing and hanging out with my mates in Byron!
And just one last question, where in your opinion are the best surf spots in NZ and Aussie?
Well I reckon in NZ, from what I’ve seen I’d have to go with Raglan and I’ve heard the Mount (Mount Maunganui) too although it was small when I went there. In Aussie, that’s tough, there’s usually good surf in Lennox and then back in South Australia where I grew up around Port Lincoln.
Check out his website for upcoming tour dates.