INTERVIEW: Shye.’s musical persona is a real look at who he is

Photo Credit:  Patrick Capriglione

Nick Harrison isn’t here to be overshadowed by an ‘artist filter’. Instead of his solo work under the name of Shye. being a “persona” of Nick, Shye. is Nick. There are no smoke and mirrors when it comes to this artist’s works, as he puts everything that makes Shye. into his music with the utmost transparency and raw outlook on his surroundings. It isn’t a bad thing to have such translucency, rather it makes Shye. more interesting as he makes his way through the industry with a smart and realistic attitude. Thus we are able to understand the artist that he is, rather than to decipher the character we expect him to portray based on industry standards. There is no image, no gimmick and no second level persona to Shye. There is only the man who writes for the art of expressionism rather than succumbing to the false ideologies of an artist on a pedestal.

 

Harrison always had a love for the aesthetics since elementary school, as he sang and performed in the school theater up until high school, where it became evident that this was the path he was always meant for. His musician father and writer mother noticed their son’s incredible ability and encouraged him to walk in his own creative footsteps. Like any young musician, he joined a band with a few friends, but it came to an end in the natural cycle of younger bands. After they had stopped touring, he dabbled in production managing for a venue in Poughkeepsie, NY. From here, he transitioned into the position of a tour manager for 3-4 years, working with notable acts like Against the Current and James Hersey and short runs with We Are the In Crowd. After his stint with tour managing, Nick sat down to write his own works but instead of rushing in head first, he took his time to feel out what exactly was dormant within himself.

 

“It became a dual transition that ran pretty smoothly, because I took my time how to learn everything. I was writing songs with my buddy Brendan [Williams], who mixes, produces and engineers all my stuff. When we first started writing together it wasn’t immediately like, “I’m going to put something out as a solo artist!” it was just us writing together and practicing to be better as songwriters. We did that for a while very quietly and it was 2 years before we even released anything. Really it was me learning as much about anything as possible. I was trying to make sure that my first impression was a good one.”

 

With his writing coming into both its methodical and organic maturity, Nick was able to explore what it meant to write per his own tastes. Working with pop rock artists, he was able to quickly pick up the distinction of what made a song radio friendly and how to mold it into a live setting. Without a band to bounce ideas off of, he wasn’t afraid to step outside on his own. Rather, he found it refreshing and noticed that no matter what project one works on, there is always a sense of community.

… I still collaborate with people and with friends I have made over the years with other musicians, whether through touring or writing songs with them, or meeting them through other people. I think the biggest difference is the final say is mine and not something I have to share with someone else. I have people that I rely to trust their opinions, so if they tell me that they don’t think it is a good idea, then I will go back and work on it. It is different in that sense, but it is nice to have that control over my music and my career in that aspect.”

As mentioned before, Nick’s parents were always supportive and encouraging of their son to explore his emotions, including giving him his first guitar. Unfortunately, Nick had a lot of turmoil bubbling within and at the age of 10 he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Coming to terms with a disorder can be daunting for any person, but for a kid to experience such news was hard to grasp since 10 years old is still in the very early transition from child to early adolescence. Adolescence in itself is a very confusing time and to add Bipolar Disorder on top of that added time for Nick to feel balanced and most importantly to discover who he was as a person.

 

“After that diagnosis [of Bipolar Disorder] it is a bit of a rocky road in the sense of trying to figure out the best way to handle it. The chemical imbalance in the brain isn’t like a broken leg, you can’t just put a cast on it and expect it to heal properly. It is a matter of, let’s try this medication and then this medication if that doesn’t work. Let’s put you with this psychiatrist instead and maybe try out this psychologist and it is a long, long road. It took  me probably 3 to 4 years to finally figure myself out and go through some very, very low points in order to make it to that point.”

Instead of wallowing in the murky waters of such news, Nick’s mother saw this as an opportunity for him to take both negative and positive thoughts and emotions and to canvas them in a notebook. She pressed a pen to his hand and told him to let go of whatever he was feeling and soon the whirlwind within transferred to paper. As a writer herself, she cleverly saw this as a healthy way for him to understand himself while still remaining expressive and creative; therefore becoming a useful tool into creating the man that he is today.

 

“My mom is a brilliant writer and she is an audiologist. She is a brilliant, brilliant writer. When I was a kid I was so upset and angry all the time and I carried a lot of emotion with me and I had nowhere to put it. My mom bought me a notebook and a pen and told me to write and I never stopped. That has been my only way for me to get it out and to handle the things that I am going through and it helps me to work through it. Everything that I do comes from my mom. She is the best, honestly.”

 

It is within this unconditional love, that gave him the inspiration to brand himself as “Shye.” Rather than creating some false persona or a mask to charade behind, Harrison took it upon himself to reintroduce himself into the music scene as his own person.

 

My mom hasn’t called me Nick in probably 15 to 20 years. :laughs: I have a neighbor who has known me practically my whole life that was calling me “Nikolai Shyecovsky” as a joke. It just turned into “Shye Shye” or simply “Shye” and she has called me that my whole life. As I started to become a solo artist, I released a song under a different name. Then while  I was re-branding and finding myself as an artist, I was like “why am I going by anything else?” Everybody who knows me, knows that name. It just made sense for me to go with it!”

Writing can be a powerful form of therapy and it shines within Nick’s work. Instead of racking his brain as to what kind of subject he should write about, he focuses on everyday realities. It is with this perception that he can focus on important stories to tell, such as mental health. For the past few years, the stigma of mental health has slowly been uplifted where people can share their stories and form a community. Media throughout the years shed negative light on mental health issues, but it wasn’t until recently where it made the stigma start to dissolve. The video opens with Nick visiting a support group and establishes how it is okay to lean on support and to get help. No one should ever feel ashamed for reaching out for support and it is imperative for people to understand that your idols are also included in the world as normal human beings who deal with everyday stresses. 

 

“I remember when I was growing up, I always felt like it was me against the world. I always wanted to look up to someone who was going through what I was going through and I always felt like I never had that growing up. My big thing for me as a songwriter is to be as transparent as possible. I use songwriting as a tool to get through things. This is my lifestyle and how I deal with things. It has always been a goal of mine where if I get to the point where I have a platform to help people, then that is what I want. I think it is very important for artists to get to that point and I’m very happy that each day we are getting closer to it. I always think that there is more room for discussion as well.  I grew up in the 90s so I had icons like Backstreet Boys and N*Sync who had larger than life personalities and you never expect them to deal with anything, because that is how the media portrays them. It is so important for kids to have a role model who knows how they are feeling. It is almost the same thing as a young girl looking at a model and believing that this is how women are supposed to look when it isn’t true. That is something that I think again is supposed to be more transparent and I really hope that it continues to progress. The vision of what you should be in regards to mental health shouldn’t be this shining light of a person where everything is picture perfect. Instead we should be showcasing how people really feel and that it is ok to feel the way they do. “

Harrison took it upon himself to follow his mother’s footsteps by smartly using literary devices to expand his works. In each music video, starting with “Iconic,” there is a sweeping camera pan at roses, their color in startling contrast against each background. As we all know, roses are in intimate display of admiration and affection, but Harrison uses them to spell a much deeper meaning. As beautiful as roses are, they are equipped with thorns to protect their delicate and fragile allure. They are the first thing you see in the video for “Wither”, their color somewhat faded but hinting at the passion that comes to fade. This is made more evident when the roses show up again in the library, leading him looking as though they could crumble just with Nick’s pained realization that the past has withered away. Most impressive within all of this is the use of  environmental colors to paint a better picture of the tone that is set. Nick–with director  Mitch Francis and cinematographer Gian Mancini–place the video in a setting that both sets a cold and warm tone. The house that Nick follows the ghost around in Jamestown, Rhode Island was a perfect setting to convey the story of loss and heartbreak. Dressed for mourning, “Shye.” follows a woman in a white dress, symbolizing the hunt to hold onto the pure thoughts of who this woman used to be. The hallways are warm with the brighter lighting, but each room, particularly the bedroom is cold, blue and empty. Just as Nick wanders around in pursuit with the heat of the chase, his quest turns up cold as he returns the rooms that hold the whispers of the past.

 

My favorite component is when Nick pointed out to me that the girl in white lingers around and not just in plain sight. “When we got up the library, I don’t know if you saw it there is an Easter Egg where she is standing somewhere where you don’t’ notice at first. She is in the library. Only one person has pointed it out so far, it is very very subtle. It was a really stressful shot to get, but once we did it was totally worth it. My director is going to love that you asked it. I saw a few episodes of it and I came up with this idea for the treatment and he called me and was like, “I’ve been watching nothing but [The Haunting of] Hill House and I want the video to look like that. You see her initially like in the rocking chair and by the stairs, but there are a couple of other places she is hiding in the video that’s really subtle and you have to look for it.”

 

It isn’t a secret that Nick has a lot of talent, in which some of it has still yet to come to the surface. What I mean by this is that he is intelligent and is honing the mastery of his craft. His works that were released in 2018 are bold pieces that just scratch the surface of the artist that he is. As mentioned before, Nick doesn’t masquerade as something that he isn’t and with quite a number of years under his belt with experience within the industry and as a songwriter, he has a lot of melodic dexterity simmering under the surface waiting to burst into fruition. His honest outlook and ability to take a song by its bare bones and breathe life into both the ballads and the crisp visual aesthetics is what will spring him forward into the music scene. Lucky for us, Nick writes frequently; always keeping the wheels in his creative mind running. We should be expecting to see more from Shye. this year and we are eagerly anticipating for what he does next.