We pick the hottest new acts so you can tell your friends you heard them first. Meet Sydney songwriter and producer Nick Ward on his new EP 'Brand New You'.
Sydney songwriter and producer Nick Ward has us both crying and smiling on his latest release Brand New You, and it kinda seems like that’s exactly what he wants.
From loneliness to clarity, inadequacy to acceptance, vulnerability to confidence, across its 26 minutes, Brand New You is as much about deep, self-reflection as it is about optimism, hope, and joy. All that balanced with brilliant production. What more could we ask for?
At its very core, you could describe Ward as a ‘bedroom pop’ artist – because, quite simply, he makes music in his bedroom. But, when listening to the layers and intricacies of his sound, it’s clear that Ward is pushing well beyond that label.
Not only is Ward one of this country’s most exciting up and coming songwriters, he is also an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist – he can play the drums, guitar, piano, double bass, and he’s also his own producer. He started learning classical piano at around the age of 5, before he began producing when he was 11, making haphazard GarageBand tracks on his Mum’s computer.
Growing up his favourite artists were The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, ABBA and Bob Dylan, but now his wide range of musical influences stretch from hip-hop, pop, punk, and everything in between, making his own music an interesting kaleidoscope of genre and sound.
Ward has always been focussed on dissecting and interrogating the threads of identity – it is a theme present throughout his catalogue – but where earlier material, like 2019 single ‘Skin’ (the track that earned him a spot as a finalist in triple j’s Unearthed High that year), might have poked and prodded out of curiosity, across Brand New You, Ward is deep diving confidently. Not only is he asking the big questions, he’s also battling with the complexities of, and finding solace in, the answers.
It boldly follows on from his debut EP, last February’s Everything I Wish I Told You. As Ward described before this record’s release, if his debut project asked the question “do you know who you are?” by exploring the internal discussions Ward had about his own identity, Brand New You explores those same questions, but this time looking outwards towards his relationships with the people and the world around him.
While it is clear that Ward has full control of his creative identity across Brand New You, the collaborations and input added by artists like Cub Sport’s Tim Nelson, E^ST, and Zion Garcia as well as co-writing/co-production from the likes of Lucianblomkamp, Lonelyspeck, and Golden Vessel only add to the world Ward has crafted.
BRAND NEW YOU is about the fluidity of identity, and the balance of ego-driven, self-serving things (like music), and devoting yourself to a relationship or something bigger than yourself. The record, in my eyes, is split into two halves, with ‘FUNERAL’ serving as a transitional moment, or ‘rebirth’. The way I see it – my first EP was about sexuality and identity and asking myself the question “Who am I?”, whereas BRAND NEW YOU is interrogating “Who could I be? Who am I to someone else?”Nick Ward on his new EP Brand New You
To celebrate the release, Nick Ward is sharing the songs that inspired Brand New You.
Check out Brand New You by Nick Ward:
Nick Ward shares the music that inspired Brand New You:
Perfume Genius – Dark Parts
“This is one of my favourite songs by Mike. It’s so moving and powerful, but incredibly simple – like every song on ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’. BRAND NEW YOU is written from a similar place of devotion, love and care for someone close to you. Much like my project, Mike’s song is about trauma and love in the face of it. ‘I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart’ is one of the best lines ever written. What’s interesting about this album is the use of repetition and very simple, unsophisticated chord progressions – they just let the lyrics and the performance speak for themself. I rinsed this whole album over and over, while writing BRAND NEW YOU.”
Dido – See You When You’re 40
“I first heard Dido in Xavier Dolan’s Mommy when I was 15 and always really loved that song. It was only last year, when I was writing the project, that I took a deep dive into her music. This album is so great, and I think it balances hip-hop/trip-hop production and straightforward acoustic balladry so well. Sonically, BRAND NEW YOU is covers a lot of ground, so absorbing as many different types of music as possible was so crucial. Cosmic gumbo, if you will.”
Kanye West – Hold My Liquor
“Yeezus is an all-time top 5 album for me. It’s easily his most experimental record, and by far the one that’s aged the best. This could be released today and still feel relevant – and it’s almost 10 years old. I think this album is probably the biggest and most obvious influence on BRAND NEW YOU, in the way that it blends hip-hop and electronic music so closely that it essentially becomes its own genre. This is one of my favourite songs from Yeezus.“
Cub Sport – Confessions
“Tim is such a beautiful songwriter, and has been so influential on my life. In Australia, we have few artists on that level of success who continue to push boundaries. A lot of bands that came up with Cub Sport moved towards poppier/trendier sounds, and I think Tim and Co. stand out because they’re so uncompromising with their vision. This album is so psychedelic, dark and ethereal. Confessions is the best song Tim has ever written, in my opinion. Getting the opportunity to write ALIEN with him was a trip, and I think we created something really special together.”
Jean Dawson – Shiner
“Pixel Bath was my favourite album of 2020, which was a really turbulent, depressing, crazy year – but with some amazing music. This album is so much fun and so bold. It was so instrumental in me figuring out the sound of BRAND NEW YOU – because it’s essentially a mix of all of Jean’s favourite music. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but Pixel Bath becomes bigger than that, because of how he blends those influences together. Realising that I could just throw all my favourite sounds together was huge. Hearing this song was such a lightbulb moment for me. It means that I’m constantly inspired, and always digging for music to obsess over. Being a huge fan of music and music culture is the first step in becoming a great artist.”
Roy Blair – You Weren’t Enough
“I’m so excited for Roy’s album – it’s been way too long since GRAFFITI came out. This project is so inspiring because of how it instantly redefined Roy as an artist. He was frustrated with being boxed in as a ‘bedroom pop’ artist, and dropped a project so dense, colourful and bold that it was a complete reset for him. I’ve had similar feelings, so seeing someone actually do it was mad inspiring – hence, BRAND NEW YOU. I love this project so much and it somehow feels like a whole album across three songs.”
Lonelyspeck – Warmth of the Earth
“Sione is one of the best producers in the country, and a huge driving force in the PC Music/hyperpop movement in Australia. Those labels feel so reductive though, because their music kinda defies any single genre or tag. I think their proximity to certain artists is the reason I use those labels, but I’ve heard them work on hip-hop, dance and so many other genres. This EP, Abyssal Body, came out in 2019 – which is fucking insane, when you think about it. It was so ahead of its time, and now that the landscape has evolved – I think that this next batch of Lonelyspeck music is in a prime position to really take off.”
Alex G – Change
“Alex G is one of my favourite songwriters and producers. He was a huge inspiration on BRAND NEW YOU. It’s really funny, because he definitely inspired the project, but anytime a journalist has told me that I sound like Alex G it feels really out of place and reductive? I guess just because something is an inspiration doesn’t mean it is the single inspiration. Bla bla I love this song.”
LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great
“I chucked this in because James Murphy was the biggest initial influence on BRAND NEW YOU when it was in its infancy. I wanted the project to be really groove-heavy and feel like a jam, but it eventually evolved from that. Every LCD song sounds like James alone in a basement, flicking switches and standing in front of a large modular synth – and I really wanted to channel that energy somewhere on the project. I think you can feel it in HEAVEN, the final track. Also, side note – this is my favourite song of all time.”
The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
“Much like the LCD song above, The Postal Service was a huge influence on the initial experiments that became BRAND NEW YOU. I had done a few jam sessions with my friend Ross James (AKA upsidedownhead) on his drum machines and bitcrush pedal. A lot of those jams really felt like Postal Service tracks, and I really fell in love with that sound and process. I think that BRAND NEW YOU is the product of falling in love with so many different processes and styles of music, and channeling them into the same project. A huge part of my writing is just listening, researching and reading. It’s like what they say about authors – you need to read well, to write well. You are what you eat.”
M.I.A – Sunshowers
“M.I.A has been such a hero ever since I saw the documentary at Sydney Film Festival a few years back. I knew the big songs, but never understood the context around her music or heard any of the deep cuts. This song isn’t from Kala, but Kala was such a huge influence on the punk spirit and energy of BRAND NEW YOU. I just think this song (from Arular) is really pretty.”
Check out the full playlist:
Keep up to date on the latest Ticketmaster New Music right here.