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CMJ Interview: Nico Yaryan

Soulful songwriter Nico Yaryan’s story is anything but typical. While he was touring as a drummer for blues artist Hanni el Khatib, he fell in love with a girl in Amsterdam. Upon returning to native California, he took a job clipping weed at a pot farm to save up enough money to go back to the Netherlands to be with her.

The inherent complexity of a long distance relationship, particularly one that spans oceans, inspired much of Yaryan’s upcoming debut on Partisan Records, What A Tease (out in early 2016). Comparisons have been drawn to other songwriters like Tobias Jesso, Jr., Curtis Harding, and as NME put it, “Ryan Adams at his more snarky moments.” His bluesy, heartfelt tracks play an interesting foil to the rest of our CMJ line-up, largely comprised of punk and noise bands, adding a welcome diversity to the party’s sound. Before you see him tomorrow, see what he has to say about his first CMJ and the release of his first record.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

When I was writing this album I was listening to a lot of old soul like Al Green and Bill Withers, and solo records by John Lennon and Neil Young, later period electric Dylan, Cat Stevens. A lot of my sensibilities come from record digging in my beat making days, certain kinds of drums sounds and grooves that were on records from the early 70s, stuff people like DJ Premier might sample. Also Lou Reed and Nick Cave. T. Rex. Arthur Russell.

You’re from California, but you’ve spent a lot of time recently in Amsterdam. Do you think your time abroad has had an affect on your music?

I was more affected by the emotions of being away from my girlfriend in Amsterdam. She would visit me in LA, I would visit her there, and in between I would write songs.

Your album, What A Tease, is set to be released next year. What sort of a message or mood are we supposed to take from the title?

I know a title like that could imply a lot of different things, which is part of why I chose it, but the title track “What a Tease,” that the album is named after, was written after my girlfriend had just visited me and left, and the song is about how that feels, which came to define our relationship.

How does your latest single, “Just Tell Me,” fit into that story?

“Just Tell Me” is a moment that I felt some tension in my relationship that I felt responsible for, and the song is a plea for reassurance.



Is this your first CMJ? What artists are you trying to see next week when you’re in town?

This is our first CMJ, and I don’t even know who else is playing – I’ve just been focusing on practicing with my band since these are some of our very first shows. I played most everything on my record, along with my producer Kevin Augunas, so it’s a new awesome experience to play these songs with a new band of rad dudes!

What can we expect next from you?

I have a few more singles that will be released prior to the full length that comes out early next year, and playing as many shows as possible!

Mandy Brownholtz, Catherine Rickman

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