INTERVIEW: Nick Burke talks about performing with 1200, what drives him as an artist, and his upcoming debut record!

Photo by Sarah Burke

You’ve probably seen Nick Burke around town, but maybe you didn’t know who he was. He’s probably most known for playing keys on stage with 1200, and while that alone is enough to get excited about, he’s also in my mind a talented producer and songwriter. As he continues to grow artistically, Nick plans to release his debut solo album this Friday, November 13th, and to celebrate its inception he will be performing the same night at the Mercury Ballroom alongside 1200, Jalin Roze, Touch AC, and a shit ton more of quality Louisville hip hop all stars.  You can get more info here and you can hear his previous release below.

To get you hyped on the show, we reached out to Nick for an interview, and considering that he’s a nice dude, he set aside some time to answer a few questions.

Never Nervous: It’s been a while since our last interview with you and you’ve been busy. Tell me about the experience playing the 4th of July show. How many people were there and what was it like from your perspective?

Nick Burke: The 4th of July show with The Louisville Orchestra was one of those experiences that are hard to put into words. It is a day I will never forget. I’m not sure of the exact amount of people in attendance, but I’ve heard upwards of 30,000. To look out in the crowd and not really be able to see where the people end is somewhat intimidating. However, the amount of energy you receive on stage in return is powerful. The other aspect of the whole experience that was surreal was to have the city’s orchestra play arrangements of songs I wrote on a $50 midi keyboard in my dorm room a few years back. To have teachers I’ve had at the university perform my hip-hop music really opened my eyes. To cross gaps and have that many people in the audience shows you the power of music. Fusion is the future.

“The 4th of July show with The Louisville Orchestra was one of those experiences that are hard to put into words. It is a day I will never forget. I’m not sure of the exact amount of people in attendance, but I’ve heard upwards of 30,000. To look out in the crowd and not really be able to see where the people end is somewhat intimidating.”

NN: Tell me a little about your upcoming album.

NB: My new EP has two parts. The first half is all instrumental. The second part features four of Louisville’s best emcees. For the instrumental portion my vision was to create instrumental pieces that use “hip-hop” sounds, but defy the limitations that are often stigmatized with those sounds. I wanted to create instrumental works that can stand alone and tell stories on their own. My approach to writing this section of the EP was very different than past projects I’ve worked on. Most of it started at the piano. I dove deep into a lot of different harmonies and mixed meters, things you often don’t find in hip-hop. The second half of this project kind of just happened. I had these songs that I had worked on with these artists just sitting around, and felt like they all needed to properly be released.

NN: I hear a lot of different sounds spanning multiple genres in the music you’ve made, who are some of your biggest influences?

NB: One of my biggest influences is the album Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. After I first heard that album when I was in high school, my view on what music is and how to write it completely changed; I had never heard anything like it and was blown away. As far as producing hip-hop, one of my earliest influences was Pharrell. His use of seventh chords and drums always drew me in. Others producer influences include Kanye West, Just Blaze, J Dilla, and Hi-Tek. My peers are also constantly inspiring me. Surrounding yourself by talented, like-minded artists is very important.

NN: A lot of what you do with 1200 is, in a sense, more “musical” than most hip hop. Is that a goal that you set out to achieve when you’re working in that genre?

NB: The main goal is to create honest, creative music that people can relate to. I don’t ever believe our goal is to one up people and be the most musical we can be. I think that’s a common misconception people have about us. Our music may contain more arrangement, harmony, instrumentation, etc. than others, but that’s second nature to us. That’s everything we’ve studied in college. We simply try to use our classically trained backgrounds to our advantage in our approach to writing. Most hip-hop artists don’t have that privilege. It doesn’t make their music any worse or less valuable.

“I don’t ever believe our goal is to one up people and be the most musical we can be. I think that’s a common misconception people have about us. Our music may contain more arrangement, harmony, instrumentation, etc. than others, but that’s second nature to us. That’s everything we’ve studied in college. We simply try to use our classically trained backgrounds to our advantage in our approach to writing. Most hip-hop artists don’t have that privilege. It doesn’t make their music any worse or less valuable.”

NN: How would you describe your music to a new listener?

NB: It really depends on the project or where I’m at in life, because I’ve released a wide range. I’ve done everything from improvised jazz to trap. I strive to be as eclectic as I can be as a musician and producer. The limitations of genre are something I don’t consider, but rather something I aim to go outside of.

NN: Have you been working with any rappers recently? Give us the scoop!

NB: Last spring I executive produced Jordan Jetson’s debut album, Inner City Gods. I’m actually now working on a collaboration between him and one of my favorite recent discoveries, Eons D. Dude is a straight up MC and deserves much more love. I’m also releasing a single featuring 1200 and Jalin Roze that should turn some heads.

NN: Outside of all the music you’re involved in, has anything else piqued your interest lately? (tv show, movie, a show you went to, a food you ate anything you wanna talk about)

NB: I honestly don’t do much outside of music. It consumes most of my life, but I try to skateboard and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I’ve been skateboarding since I was 8, so I can’t really imagine my life without it. I recently adopted a kitten. I named him Marvin after my favorite singer of all time, Marvin Gaye. It’s fun playing with him and watching him grow. I’ve never had a cat before, so it’s been a learning experience.

“I recently adopted a kitten. I named him Marvin after my favorite singer of all time, Marvin Gaye. It’s fun playing with him and watching him grow. I’ve never had a cat before, so it’s been a learning experience.”

NN: Do you have any upcoming shows?

NB: I will be performing November 13th at Mercury Ballroom as part of DO502 and Saving Our Style’s birthday celebration along with DJ Grey, PlayCold, and Kogan Dumb. This is only my second ever solo show, and I’m really looking forward to it. My set includes all artists that I’ve had the privilege of working with: Jordan Jetson, Eons D, Touch A.C., 1200, and Jalin Roze. As far as 1200 shows, we are taking a short hiatus until next year.

NN: Would you ride in a self driving car that is programmed to kill you to save pedestrians?

NB: I would have to say no on that one. I enjoy driving, especially long distances. I don’t think the convenience of a self-driving car is worth putting my life and others in danger. Maybe if they can come up with a way in the future to reduce interactions with pedestrians, like special roads or something, I’d consider it.

NN: Before you go, tell us what you’ve been listening to lately.

NB: I’ve been listening to the Bryson Tiller project a lot lately. It’s exciting to see someone make it out of Louisville like that. I also still keep To Pimp A Butterfly on heavy rotation. I believe that album is going to have more of a socio-cultural impact than most people realize. I’ve been digging through the 2001: A Space Odyssey record recently. I acquired it a while back on sale at a record store, but haven’t spent much time with it until recently. There is some dense stuff on that record. It features some works by one of my favorite contemporary composers, Gyorgy Ligeti, that are truly frightening in the best way possible. I also listen to a lot of Gerald Clayton. He is phenomenal young jazz pianist, and one of my favorites.