Nick Shaheen

Nick Shaheen

 Chicago, Illinois, USA
BandAmericanaSinger/Songwriter

Singer/songwriter Nick Shaheen’s new album, "Sauvignon" is a brilliant interpretation of Americana that incorporates everything from Horns to a Wurlitzer for a distinctive sound rich in varied traditions. With exceptionally sharp lyrics, these are inventive, yet subtle songs from a vivid imagination. Opening with the hook-filled "State Song" and the boogie-woogie "Big Hippo," the album is an instant classic that will have you doing multiple repeats. It's definitely worth your time.

Biography

Though titled Sauvignon, Nick Shaheen's second album relates less to the delicate imagery that fine wine may bring to mind, and far more to the French derivation of the word, loosely meaning "wild" or "untamed." Sure, there are breathtaking acoustics and brilliant uses of space here, but one thing Shaheen's brand of modern Americana and roots-influenced soul-searching brings to the table is activity.

Take the lively "Big Hippo" for instance - created in the tour van as the group drove through a monsoon, and performed that very same night - where soulful, boogie-woogie keys from legendary pianist Johnny Iguana (who has played with the likes of Junior Wells, Van Morrison, and Koko Taylor) assist the tune, chugging along with the power of a freight train thanks to friend and long-time band member Russ Gillespie’s crunchy guitar up-strokes. All the while, the band's riding a brash blues vibe and the eventual crazed shouts from Shaheen command your ears as well as your already-dancing feet.

On the flip side, the seemingly endless emptiness between notes on "Long Way Down" is almost its own instrument entirely. Penned about finding love in a bustling city with an array of options and distractions, each instrument - wurlitzer, acoustic guitar, the warm hum of the bass, the heartbeat of a  kickdrum - is given ample breathing room to provide the focus on Shaheen alone, for arguably his best vocal to date. Also at play here is the artist's much-appreciated specification: He's not just in an apartment, he's “inside a little bedroom on the third floor of a red-brick, green-doored flat.” Yet, after making specific points about his location and his company, he admits not knowing "a thing about where I'm at." It's an honest admission that points out Shaheen's inarguable strengths as a songwriter and lyricist. He's soaking up his surroundings and, maybe too often, putting himself on the back-burner.

Shaheen's journeys throughout the album aren't just by foot or automobile, but deep within the recesses of the mind. In the fever-dream chaos of   "Flashbulbs," one of the album's many lively highlights, he struggles with being framed and eventually exonerated for murder, a scenario that developed from a real-life panic: "I was in the kitchen cooking dinner,” prefaces Shaheen. “I remember I was chopping up potatoes when this violent vision     completely overtook me. Everything was so vivid. I had a full-on panic attack right there.” Even two weeks later, he was actively dealing with guilt he had no control over. “I couldn’t hold a knife for weeks. ‘What the hell was that? How could you even think that? You’re going crazy.’ I read all about it online, like I'm a psychiatrist trying to diagnose myself and find the cure all at once. I found these message boards where people were dealing with stuff like this for years. It made me more nervous, but at the same time gave me hope. After I had some time to reflect, I started to write down the scene as it came to me and a song started to take shape. The idea was to lay it all out and triumph over it.” 

Listening to Sauvignon all the way through, one takes these trips with Shaheen and the band, and comes out the other end like they've actually traveled some distance, despite camping out in front of their stereo. Just as the album's opening cut "State Song" begins the journey (with landmarks and names of locations adding to the personal nature of the track), Sauvignon wraps up with "Younger Years," where Shaheen suggests his sweetheart fetch a bottle of wine while he slips an LP on the turntable. It's a fitting final chapter to an album full of carnal instincts, wild dreams and a sense of adventure for the ears, eyes and soul.

Within those final few minutes, Shaheen admits he's "having trouble realizing that I'm not that important / It's a good lesson, I suppose." And while he's reflecting about the loss of those days within "Younger Years," there's a sense that we should all be thankful for that id inside all of us; that mythical sense of self that drives us to create, dream, drive or scream. Without it, we don't have much to remember or look forward to, and game-changing albums like Sauvignon - and the experiences that shape them - wouldn't exist.

Lyrics

I Could Love

Written By: Nick Shaheen

She’s way up high, but knows where it’s at
Tightrope walking or she falls down flat
Perfect balance, she’s got it down pat
I could love an acrobat

Digging through the past checking off her list
History accounted for and not dismissed
Learning how differences can coexist
I could love an anthropologist

And in a day these roles we play

To the best for all man she tries to cater
Seen so many wrongs it’s just the way it’s made her
Talks about it now so it don’t blow up later
I could love a hostage negotiator

Graceful, she moves and her white dress fans her
When she gets on stage all eyes do transfer
Dancing just because she don’t need no answer
I could love a ballerina dancer

And in a day these roles we play

I put you on a pedestal, you fell down hard
I got a good look watching from my car
Now everywhere I look, well there you are
No, I can’t love a movie star

Fishin'

Written By: Nick Shaheen

I heard a story 'bout a walking whale
And in a million years he learned how to sail
Led an expedition out into the deep blue
He was lookin' to kill something just like him
But this one was big and white and still had fins
He said, "You owe me a leg and I'ma see I get it back from you!"

Sailed through the water, high and low
Shootin' harpoons at the beast below
Captain pressed on despite the company's groans
And wouldn't you know? Up came the whale
The boat and crew sucked down to jail
Now that sailor, he belongs to Davey Jones

Another story 'bout a hummingbird
Who sung just to sing, not to be heard
So happened it was captured and thrown in a cage one day
By a woman who loved the sound of its tune
She'd listen everyday from dawn til noon
But the bird wanted out and it just had to find a way

Beat on the cage givin' everything
Back to his perch with a broken wing
Knew right then that it was never gonna break out the door
And so it goes, the bird sung a song
So loud that the lady's ears went wrong
And now that lady, well, she can't hear no more

You can pick what you like and go set sail
Whether it be a hummingbird or a big white whale
And chase it all around like you've met your match
But you'll see what happens when you try
To cage a bird that's meant to fly
Or when you go fishin' for something that you just can't catch

When you go fishin' for something that you just can't catch

So Long

Written By: Nick Shaheen

There’s something going on and we need to talk
I’m hittin' it head on every way I walk
And it’s ringin' in my ears like an old time tune
Hangin' on my head like the sun at noon
I’ve got some pennies in my pocket for every time you’d say
We’ll figure it out along the way
But for everything you said, you never told me how
Well, I bought a train ticket and I’m leaving now

So Long.

The sun shined bright on me from the start
My shadow and I, you couldn’t tell apart
Don’t say I’m not who you first met
I’ve just been filling in that silhouette
And I won’t change into what you want me to be
I am who I am, just how you fell for me
Yeah, I could stick around and try to see it through
But that’s not the type of man that fell for you

So Long.

I wish you well, I wish you the best
Health and happiness and all the rest
But most of all I wish you’d say
That I never should have gone away
It wasn’t like I chose to go
You left no choice, but you didn’t know
So here’s to you finding out one day
The one that left ain’t always the one walking away

So Long.

Coming Home

Written By: Nick Shaheen

Well it’s time for me to leave
Don’t know where I’m gonna go
Slowing down with the last turn of the wheel
I was born into a light
And it’s been a grand ol’ ride
But going back is all part of the deal

I don’t know what is in store
I don’t care about before
I've got one more open door
Life, I’m coming home

I got my kicks for free
As I was walkin’ to your door
I tried knockin', but you wouldn’t let me in
Now I’m standing on your porch
And though I’ve been here once before
I’m ready now to try it once again

I don’t know what is in store
I don’t care about before, anymore
I've got one more open door
Life, I’m coming home

I’m becoming what I’m running from
I’m coming home

Hard Times

Written By: Nick Shaheen

He set off for sea when he joined the corps
Thinking life needs something more
Now he’s fighting for whatever, he ain’t sure what for
It’s hard times coming from a single shore

Reading from a letter signed with his name
Screaming at his picture that he’s all to blame
But she keeps on crying just the same
It’s hard times coming from a single frame

Crying in her pillow, Ma can hardly bear
Bible in hand, sends a plea up in the air
With a million other mothers, does he even care?
It’s hard times coming from a single prayer

And he's out after two years for drunken assault
Pa bursts in the door, comes to a halt
Sees an empty room, his eyes turn to salt
It’s hard times coming from a single malt

Girl’s eyes are red, Ma’s not doing well
Pa’s out of prison now his son’s in hell
And he don’t know where to go or who to tell
It’s hard times coming from a single cell

Staring back at the shore, he heads west
Pa’s back in prison on his third arrest
Ma’s losing hope, but he’ll pass her test
And that girl got married, it’s probably for the best

He never found it in a bottle, couldn’t see it in the sky
It wasn’t in somebody else or the shot wound in his thigh
But he’ll keep on looking, never asking why
It’s hard times coming, but they’ll pass him by

Hard times but they’re gonna pass him by

State Song

Written By: Nick Shaheen

Hanging in Chicago, Illinois
She's my little girl, I'm her favorite boy
I know, because she said

Skinny dippin' in a lake in Michigan
I'm her #1, she's a perfect 10
And you...you can count on that

Driving down the coast of California
I drove into a ditch, she said "I tried to warn ya
About lookin' west."

Then she wanted to get married in Idaho
I said, "Baby, I don't know you're just my whole life
Sure, let's get hitched."

'Cause I've been here and there
And she don't seem to care
We're just dancing in and out of bars
Seeing 50 ways under 50 stars

Yeah, I've been here and there
And she don't seem to care
We're just dancing in and out of bars
Seeing 50 ways under 50 stars

Discography

SAUVIGNON - released Feb 2015
State Song / Big Hippo / Crazybird / Against The Wall / Long Way Down / TN / Flashbulbs / On My Mind / Like Diamonds / Younger Years

DON'T GIVE UP ON ME - released Mar 2012
Don't Give Up On Me / Fishin' / Hard Times / Quite Uncommon / I Could Love / So Long / Coming Home / Inside My Shoes

Set List

Varies. Have sets available from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Sets typically include 1-2 covers to compliment original music.