by ALEX RENDON
It was just over four years ago that 29-year-old aspiring musician Nicholas Williams moved from Chicago to the Jacksonville area to take a job as a summer lacrosse coach. Luckily for the River City, Williams’ temporary move became a permanent one. After spending some time waiting tables, Williams kick-started his music career on our shores and in a relatively short time has become one of North Florida’s most promising acts. Under the pseudonym Whetherman, Williams has released five albums–his most recent, Streams and Pastures (released this past Spring), is a perfectly concocted slice of sunny disposition Americana.
Whetherman was a featured artist at November’s edition of the first Wednesday Art Walk, where he entertained a robust crowd at 1904 music hall with his earnest, tender vocals and a lush backing band. Williams says Art Walk is one of his favorite events in Jacksonville. “It seems to get bigger and better every year as far as new venues, musical diversity and creativity goes,” says Williams in an interview with EU Jacksonville.
Williams does not always perform with a backing unit; the talented artist tells us that almost 90-percent of his gigs are solo. Therefore, catching the full-on six-piece edition of Whetherman is a particularly rare treat. With warm mandolin and fiddle strokes (done by Drew Matulich), subtle upright bass picks (Adam Mantovani), and sweeping female harmonies (sung by Rachel Murray), the group produces masterfully engaging and endearing mountain folk. With hints of Southern rock and just enough raw emotion, it’s as verdant as an Appalachian mountainside.
The amiable, good-natured folk singer-songwriter played lacrosse on scholarship at Ohio State University, where a serious knee injury sidelined him. The talented performer turned lemons into lemonade however, using the subsequent couch time to fine-tune his guitar playing skills. Self-releasing five albums and touring the nation relentlessly, Williams is starting to make his mark in the folk community. He has performed at various festivals, including the Harvest and Suwannee Festivals, and has made special appearances on radio stations from Knoxville to New Orleans. In November, Whetherman premiered its own station on personalized internet radio application, Pandora. Williams hasn’t yet heard the Whetherman channel, but has heard word that his songs have been popping up on Dave Matthews Band’s station.
Concerning Jacksonville’s musical community, Williams says it not like anything he has ever seen. “Usually there’s a survival of the fittest, clique-oriented approach, but here everyone supports each other.” Williams is an ardent supporter of the area’s growing music scene, especially in the downtown area. His favorite places to perform around town are the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, 1904, and Fly’s Tie.
Whetherman will be enjoying some downtime in December, playing the least amount of shows he has in years, according to Williams. He is currently preparing songs for his sixth album, which he hopes to fund with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Come 2014, Whetherman will be embarking on a third nationwide tour and has sights on a few overseas gigs. The odds are certainly in Whetherman’s favor; Jacksonville may have to share its skilled songsmith with the nation and quite possibly the world.
by ALEX RENDON