THE BLOG
11/03/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Nick Africano: Music as an Art of Inclusion

It's no secret that music has a unique way of unifying people across cultures, geographies and communities. It takes exceptional artists and performers to build those stories to which many can relate. Nick Africano, whose music blends folk, soul, storytelling and rock, does just that -- his soulful storytelling performance style is built upon a philosophy of music as an 'art of inclusion.'

During a conversation about his recently released album, The Butterfly Bull, Africano classified his sound as living "between the soulful, passionate, poetic space of rock and roll."
A tireless performer, he shared his key defining moments as a musician, shaped by a commitment to incessant improvement.

Laura Cococcia: What motivated you to create a career as a musician?

Nick Africano: I grew up around art, and I grew up performing on the baseball field first. I've always loved performing. My mother was an artist, and my father, Nicolas Africano, is a painter and sculptor whose work is in many museums in NYC. They were my first heroes, and always encouraged me.

Later, my interest in poetry inspired my first songs in high school. What finally motivated me to commit to a career in music was my mother's death when I was 22. Her loss moved me into action, into belief that anything was possible, and created the desire inside my heart to honor life by choosing every day to do what I love most. My mother's friends also collected $500 for me as a gift to go make my first recording and presented that gift to me after her funeral.

LC: What makes you (or inspires you to) write?

NA: These days, stepping out into the world, walking in New York City, stepping further into myself. I write every morning now, and I get excited by the thought of losing myself momentarily in my work. I make small watercolors also that often inspire lyrics.

LC: What established artist made you want to perform (make music, write songs, etc.) and why?

NA: Reading Federico Garcia Lorca made me want to write poems. I feel connected to the intensity of his imagery and to his search for what is mysterious and contradictory. My father's work gave me hope that it was possible to have a career. Hearing Bob Dylan in high school gave me courage to begin to sing what I was writing. And these days, watching old concerts of Bruce Springsteen give me courage to perform with more abandon.

LC: Do you have a personal example of how you've seen music impact communities in positive ways?

NA: I love performing alone and with a band, but in college I was lucky to have the experience of performing with an African music ensemble. We rarely performed anything solo. Eventually, we learned traditional funeral songs from Ghana, and performed these songs at one of our member's funeral. I have never had as cathartic or unifying an experience. We were laughing with joy and sadness. Music brought us closer to each other's grief and helped us feel not so alone. It lifted our hearts. Music is an art of inclusion. It is an exchange with an audience. It helps us relate and empathize. It helps teach us to give and to receive and to give back.

LC: What advice do you have for anyone looking to start in today's music industry?

NA: Keep writing songs. Your work is your true home. Keep believing. Embrace your doubt and keep believing. Ask for help. Do what you can for yourself always, but ask for help. And then write more songs.

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.