In Southern California, many musicians strive for that moment of honesty when the artist becomes the art, and the art lives in the artist.
Nick Shattuck, a 28-year-old Beach Cities transplant from Wisconsin, has found it.
In his debut album Chorus and Verse, the singer-songwriter offers a fresh take on the blues. His lyrics recall family struggles, heartbreak, finding love and frustration, while all recounting the last eight years of his life.
Now Shattuck, who moved to California in September, is working on his second album. He told Patch he hopes to record it in Hermosa Beach.
"It’s more like a life album, and just kind of realizing that it was my choice to move to L.A. No one else could do it for me ... It’s called Times Like These," said the Redondo Beach resident Friday, wearing a red plaid shirt and modish sunglasses while sitting outside of Java Man, his frequent hangout.
When not performing or recording music, Shattuck works for Hermosa Beach’s P.A.R.K. after-school program.
"I think I started off in the right area. (The) South Bay is really inviting," Shattuck said.
But though a dream of finding success in the City of Angels brought Shattuck to the area, he aims to hold onto his Mississippi River roots and never let go, he said.
Growing up in La Crosse, WI, which sits near the Mississippi River, Shattuck said he was surrounded by a rich music community but didn’t realize it until he was older.
"I didn’t like listen to the radio as a kid, but I was always that kid that was singing and dancing around the house and getting made fun of by my siblings," Shattuck said. "My mom bought me a Billy Joel tape, Glass Houses, and she was like 'you’re going to love him.' That was my first memory of owning music."
As a teenager, Shattuck wrote and performed music in his bedroom, alone. He found the courage to share his music on stage after his college girlfriend of four years "basically left me for another dude," he said.
That first performance was in a small blues bar during open mic night.
"I was shaking like a leaf," Shattuck remembered, adding that he performed a few songs off of Chorus and Verse, as well as other original pieces. He said he has written about 70 to 80 songs.
"I’m very autobiographical when it comes to songs ... I can’t write music without feeling it," he said. "I’ve always had a fascination with Huck Finn, the river and the blues influences that the Mississippi River have."
This influence appears in "Autumn Sunset," which Shattuck said is one of his favorite songs off of Chorus and Verse. The song features Gigi Galle on back-up vocals.
"I chased down the tail of an autumn sunset/watched it take a dip below the Mississippi's edge/the sky was left in a darkening blue and me/I was left without you," Shattuck croons in the song.
Following his first performance, local musicians in La Crosse welcomed Shattuck into their circle, he said. One of those hometown comrades, Reed Grimm, recently auditioned for the current season of American Idol and made it into the top 40 contestants, Shattuck said.
While reflecting on his smalltown upbringing in the Midwest, Shattuck said he never would have predicted he would be performing music in Southern California.
"I’ve always loved music, but I was one of those kids where I had no direction," he said. "I didn’t know what I wanted to do ... until now."