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Label: Independent Release from Mission Mountain Recording Co.
Genre: Folk / Americana
Hometown: Portland, Oregon, USA
Influences: Townes Van Zandt, Bert Jansch, Van Morrison
Sounds like: Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, M. Ward
“Just being in motion and seeing the scenery is stirring… it quickens certain emotions and brings things to light that maybe you weren’t thinking about in your day to day. It’s like hearing your own heartbeat.”
For Portland songwriter J. Nicolás, the open road isn’t the fast-paced, monotonous tapestry seen so often in the road-weary artist. Instead, it is a quiet place, a deliberate place, one that offers Nicolás the space to understand himself and his world around him with clarity. Wild Oak, which he wrote largely while behind the steering wheel, feels like late night driving: an effortless Folk-Americana soundtrack for the final hours of a day. Laden with rich harmonies and a band that carries along the intuitive lyrics with ease, the record holds a sense of peace even while navigating the memory of heartbreak, echoing Nicolás’ own healing process.
“There’s a lot of healing in movement. Not running away from, but moving through the world, seeing other places and things and getting a better perspective on yourself.”
Indeed, Nicolás doesn’t use the road solely as backdrop for his emotional reflection, but instead weaves memory with topography until they become a part of one another, and exhales them in the same breath. Wild Oak serves as a faithful portrait of this process.
In the wistful Americana ballad, Montana Luv, he sings of a journey home from Flathead County, Montana, and of the little moments of solo traveling that become tender in the presence of memory: “Tearing off the cellophane from a packet of cigarettes / I don’t really smoke but one’s alright I guess.” The song unfolds like a classic, with warm harmonies from fellow Portland artist Ezza Rose and a natural pedal steel (Steely Pete) surfacing between the words. “Oh, the night / Nothing’s ever easy in the dark / The toughest part of leaving is the start,” Nicolás sings in an affecting chorus that explores the nature of leaving a person as much as it does a place. “The hardest part of leaving a relationship is starting to leave. It's just getting to having that conversation.”
Nicolás spent much of the last two decades playing in bands in Portland, OR, and touring across the country with various projects before recording his debut full-length Wild Oak in the early part of 2021. The record was tracked to one inch tape at Singing Sands in Portland and Capricorn Studios in San Diego, CA, and features Sydney Nash on piano and keys, Allen Hunter (The Eels) on bass, Joe Mengis (The Eels) on drums, Steely Pete on pedal steel, and Ezza Rose on harmonies. It was engineered and mixed by Tobias Berblinger and mastered by Amy Dragon at Telegraph Mastering.