Australian-born, LA-based actor and musician Nicholas Hamilton has released his sparkling new single In Line, a track which is the cumulative result of two years of hard work.
As a young actor and muso, Hamilton relocated from his hometown of Byron Bay in NSW to LA. As an actor, he’s starred alongside Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving and Jessica Chastain, including roles in global blockbusters It, It: Chapter Two, Captain Fantastic, Strangerland and more.
Hamilton’s style encompasses modernised pop with a retro twist; it feels perfectly unique to Nicholas Hamilton. There’s plenty of room in this expert arrangement, leaving room for Hamilton’s voice to soar to unexpected heights. It’s that voice which takes centre stage, even as the beat escalates and the chorus fills out. The track was written alongside Ben Kuhl and produced by Arthur Pingrey (Sia, Karen O).
Varied influences including Quinn XCII and Mackampa shine through the layers of this release and Hamilton’s deep passion for music is clearly evident when he discusses his craft.
Nicholas Hamilton has recently returned to Australia, in time to celebrate the release of In Line, a song about his life-changing move to the States when he was 18 years old.
We sat down with Nicholas Hamilton to discuss his new single, “In Line”.
So, you grew up in Byron Bay?
Yeah, I’m here now actually. I was living in the States for two and a half years and right now I’m in Ballina. I just turned up at my collaborator and guitarists place, we’re in the middle of organising some set lists for gigs around here. It’s the main reason I’m back really, gigs in the States weren’t really a thing really for a long time because of [covid]. It’s starting to open up again now so I’m able to be an actual Byron musician after living in Byron for so long. So it’s exciting.
Is it good to be back home?
Yeah, it’s nice. It’s been nice to see my family and friends. I’ve had a few gatherings, which even saying the word gathering as an LA gathering is quite odd. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people and hug them and touch them, it’s nice.
What does your creative process look like?
I like to have a full song written before I start recording it. I think a lot of people like to write in the studio and record and produce it as they’re going. I like to have a full vision before I start producing or recording anything. All of the songs on the EP were written before I went into the studio. I worked with a phenomenal producer for most of the songs in NY, his name’s Arthur Pingrey. He’s got so much experience in the industry and he brought me into his studio in Jersey and he’s basically taken me under his wing in every aspect. I very much enjoy his company and respect him and he’s created these phenomenal tracks out of, basically, writings on a piece of paper.
And are you writing your own music?
At the very least I’m co-writing with someone, there’s 5 songs on the EP. 4 are co-written, one is written by myself. In Line was co-written with Ben, he and I have known each other for about 4-ish years now he’s a brother of mine. He’s a phenomenal guitarist and basically we starting writing together in 2018 and it was all just okay, the first showings of a songwriters talents. “In Line” was the first song we ever wrote that felt good and that was over 2 years ago. That was religious, the bass lick, it was either Ben or I who came up with that.
Originally we had those words in there, they were directed at someone, it was more of a break-up song. “I wanna stay, but you say that your heart’s run out of time, nothing that I can do can change your mind”. And none of that really applied to me, I felt, I like to make my songs relate to me as much as possible. It makes it easier to sing. It eventually morphed into me talking to my brain about my conscience. About leaving here to move to the states in the first place.
How did the lyric video for “In Line” come together?
It was technically through Arthur, my producer. Through every aspect of releasing these songs he’s been a massive integral part of it. He got me my distribution deal in NY. He put me together with Caleb, the animator of the video. It was all kind of structured around – I had a fan, still have a fan, I hope. Her name’s Vicky. I’ve seen her, she’s been a fan for a long time and I’ve seen her on Twitter a lot. I’ve seen her art on Twitter a lot.
I reached out to her, when I was putting together the “In Line” cover. I asked her if she wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t show her the song, I just kind of said “this is what I want”, and she drew that picture of me, on the cover [art]. We used that as a reference for Caleb to do the rest of the video with. The biggest inspiration for the song was Arctic Monkeys, a heavy baseline and electric guitar. They did a lot of animation so it was definitely a big part of my inspiration.
Have you always been interested in making music?
I was always there, it was always in my blood in some way. I remember when I was a kid, going on road trips with my mum and dad and my brother. It was a rule in our family that whoever was driving got to be the DJ, I was always the youngest. I didn’t get to drive obviously until I was 16, so at that point I drove myself everywhere. So I didn’t really have anyone in the car, I grew up listening to their music, singing to my dad’s INXS and The Eagles and stuff.
My mum liked a lot of old country stuff, like Kenny Rodgers and JJ, my brother, used to listen to a lot of top 40 stuff. So it was a very eclectic group of tastes which kind of informed, less my music taste and more my love of music. It’s always made me want to do it in some way. I’ve been acting for over 10 years now, so entertaining has always been there. I’m glad it’s now morphing into a bit of both.
What are some standout moments for you so far?
I was recording the last song on the EP, it was the only song on the EP that I wrote myself. I’ve gone through all of these recording sessions and producing sessions with these other songs. They were still my songs, I had co-written them with someone else though. It was still very cool to see them come into something.
So, I’d gone through all of these different recording sessions and producing sessions with these other songs and on this last track, that I wrote by myself, we needed a choir on it and one of my friends in California used to be in a church choir so she had her old church choir and her choir teacher to basically arrange these melodies for these choir members to sing. Having someone with that much experience, such as Mr. Sawbur who is probably in his 60s. He’s listened to so many songs and he’s brilliant, and I respect him so much, to hear him break down what I’ve written and hearing him break down what I’ve written as he tells the choir how to, kind of fit in the melody which I’ve created is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I teared up so many times in that session. It wasn’t my session to sing, I was there just to sit and listen, I was breaking up the entire time. It was really, really special.
All my songs mean something to me, they’re all candid and honest little diary entries. I find it hard to sing slash write songs that don’t fans something to me in that way. That song’s just about my childhood, hearing someone like that break down song that’s about me and my parents and my family and how I grew up, in a way like that was really, really touching.
Who are your biggest influences, who are you currently listening to?
I’ve always loved the same kind of chill-pop that I love to write, it all aligns into a group of songs which is easy listening. Right now, it’s people like Quinn XCII, Jeremy Zucker and Lauv. And the more electronic spectrum. I also love people like Lewis Capaldi, where every time he sings that song, it’s the first time he’s sung it. Like every word in the song means so much. Songs that mean something, they blow my mind. Music is something that’s meant to be enjoyed. If you can transcend that, to make it something that people can cry to or laugh to, it’s a massive talent. If I could choose to go on tour with anyone, it’d be him.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I use it as therapy, in a massive way, I think a lot of songwriters do. But I think that my favourite part is, because I’ve been an actor for so long, you go on set. Any film set or TV set and you’re there to remember your lines that someone else wrote and read them to a camera that someone else is holding. You use someone else’s direction to direct how you act and at the end of the day, the performance is yours but it’s not yours. You don’t get to edit it how you want to edit it. It’s still special when you see that final product but it’s nothing compared to writing a song from the first note and from the first word, all the way through the recording and the production to having it be released.
I’ve talked to a few of the directors I’ve worked with in the past about the music and I’ve asked “is this how it feels when you release something?”. Because they’ve sat with movies and TV shows upwards of 2 years and then they finally release it and then its done. You can’t do anything to it after it’s released. You kind of have no control over it and that’s how it feels with music. Having that creative control is something I’ve missed so much in the other portion of my career for so long. Being able to sort of, have my own stuff that’s mine, about me, my stories which I’ve put to a melody to which I wrote, out into the world which people can listen to. That’s the most special part.
Outside of music, what are some of your other hobbies? Is there anything you like to do to keep the song writing creativity flowing?
I’ll be honest, I’m lucky enough to have two careers which are both hobbies. Two of my biggest hobbies. The fact that going to the movies is tax deductible for me, like that’s an acting dream. If I have any free time, very small things, like, I play video games and I love any kind of sport and any type of competitive gaming. If I’m not doing any of that, I’m sitting as my piano crying. I love it, I love doing it. Music is so new for me now, acting is still a phenomenal feeling to be on-set. I don’t think anything has compared to that, yet in my career.
But music is so new as a career to me now and has been a hobby for so long that it still feels like that. Now there’s an extra little part of it where publicising on social media and stuff like that and telling my fans to listen to it. Trying to get the business aspect of it is another aspect of that hobby. I love all of it. I love being busy, if being busy is my hobby then I dunno if that’s an issue that I have to work out or not.
Has Covid had an impact on what you do?
One hundred percent. In multiple ways. Before Covid, the last job I worked was a very small job in March of 2020. Then, I didn’t work a second on a set for the rest of 2020. My most recent job was March of this year, so it was a full year between my last job and my most recent job. As an actor living in LA, not only is that a struggle sanity-wise or financially, it’s kind of everything.
But at the same time, I was debating at the start of 2019 when I moved to the States I was debating starting to record the stuff that I’d written. Up to that point I’d only been writing for about 6 months. Life just got away and I was too busy over there and I couldn’t do it. I think back at that, I know what songs I’d written up until that point, it’s a massive thank God thing that I couldn’t record at that point. Because what I wrote back then, what I’d written, is nothing compared to what I’ve written now. Which is really, cool.
Being able to have that period of a year, where I didn’t work on a set at all. And hardly auditioned because no one was really casting at all. Through the latter end of last year. Being able to go into song writing sessions and write songs and be able to put money into recording the songs and producing them how I want to produce them. It put all of my time and effort into that. There’s so many pros and cons about Covid, more cons than pros. But being able to take that opportunity and being able to turn it into something like music, which I now count as an equal part of my career as acting is. It was really special and I’m glad I’ve had that opportunity.
What’s coming up next for you over the year?
One of the massive things about coming over here is being able to do shows. Australia is a much smaller market than even Los Angeles county is, Byron’s still massive there’s a lot of musicians in Byron. Being able to use that established fanbase that I have and the recognition that I have from the previous film roles and stuff that I’ve done. Being able to use that to get people to come to shows. Being able to use that to get people to come to shows and see me as the musician that I am, and as the person that I am rather than the characters that I’ve played is something that’s really important to me.
Over the next 6 months, I’m releasing another single and an EP and hopefully doing some live shows and maybe getting some reps over here to lead me in the right direction. Everything is so up in the air now, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next week and I kind of like that. I know what I’m gonna be doing tomorrow and if what I do tomorrow can make the day after that better, then that’s good in my opinion.
Check out the clip for “In Line” below:
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