The transition from the punk rock days of his youth to his indie focus of today didn’t happen overnight for artist Nick Sherman. Growing up in the depths of the Northern Ontario forest surrounded by his grandfather’s guitar strumming was instrumental in molding him into the musician he is today. Moving between the small First Nation community of Weagamow Lake and his family’s trapline on North Caribou Lake gave him a unique perspective on the land and his community that he shares through his music.
The young Sherman’s interest in playing guitar manifested itself in his teenage years when he learned how to duplicate his favorite punk songs. After saving up and buying an electric guitar at age 14, Sherman began the arduous task of teaching himself how to play. His foundation skills came from an unexpected place.
“To juxtapose [playing punk music], I learned all my chords from the back of a gospel book,” he said. “My first bands were punk bands, then hardcore bands. There was a lot of energy put into making my songs as aggressive as they could be.”
The singer-songwriter’s style has transitioned in recent years to what he would consider more stylistically indie or folk. Though singing didn’t have as much appeal initially, he did eventually develop the vocal skills that have been described as “gentle” and “rich with honesty,” yet “tempered with world-weariness.” Famous lyricists like William Elliott Whitmore, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Costello are continued sources of inspiration for his songwriting focus.
Sharing his music happens at gigs and through his recorded music. In the summer of 2016, Sherman played at the Bella Coola Music Festival in British Columbia, the Trout Forest Music Festival in Northwest Ontario, and various other urban coffee houses and cultural centers. Though he is grateful for the chance to play anywhere, different venues are enjoyable for different reasons.
“I really enjoy the festival vibe and getting to see good friends that are also driving all over the country playing music too. I’m really into the small, intimate shows for the day-to-day shows though,” he said.
Pulling notes from distant memories is a theme for Sherman, and the mix between past and present day is evident in his music. As with most artists, his surroundings play a large role in his musical creations.
“I grew up in the North around lakes and in the bush. I don’t think I could write music anywhere else so being on the North Shore is a major influence. The summers close to a lake, the leaves turning as soon as the air starts to cool off and the bitter, sometimes brutal, winters are all part of that and make it into the music,” explained Sherman.
His list of talents also includes audio engineering; he has worked professionally at the Wawatay Radio in Sioux Lookout and at CBC-Radio in Thunder Bay. It was during his time with the latter station that he helped to operate for The Great Northwest (now Superior Morning).
Sherman released his first full-length album, “Drag Your Words Through,” in January 2012 and his second full-length record, “Knives and Wildrice,” in May 2015. More information about Nick Sherman, samples of his boreal forest blues music, and tour dates can be found on his Facebook page or at www.nicksherman.ca.