Author: jae won hur | op-ed editor
Jae interviews student and musician Madison Nicol
With the beginning of the second semester, students everywhere are returning to classes in accordance to the dreams, sense of purpose, and calling students are pursuing – or are searching for.
For University of Regina student Madison Nicol, the aforementioned notion of purpose has been clear to him for a very long time.
“Without getting too heavy, music is really ‘it’ for me,” states Nicol, who started his musical journey at the age of five with piano lessons, which eventually branched into an extensive toolkit of instruments such as the guitar, bass, banjo, organ, harmonica, and vocals.
“I don’t have very many memories from when I was younger, but one that I do have is sitting in front of my family’s stereo, listening to Elton John’s This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore for what was likely a few hours,” states Nicol. “Music is the only thing in my life that can make me spontaneously burst into a fit of laughter, or crack the biggest smile I’m capable of. It’s also the only thing that is guaranteed to make me cry.”
With this passion, music has taken Nicol to great heights, such as the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and the prestigious Berklee along with the likes of John Mayer, Steven Tyler, Quincy Jones and countless other Grammy Award winners and industry leaders.
Nicol recalls his experiences at Berklee and Musicians Institute as two of the best years of his life. As part of his Bachelor of Music program at Berklee, he learned how to improve his song writing and lyricism while experiencing private lessons for finger-style guitar, student bluegrass student ensembles and a stage performance class taught by the brother of Nicol’s inspiration, James Taylor.
“Those classes taught me a great deal about writing, everything from the stressing of syllables to the psychological effects of different rhyme types and patterns that is covered in lyric writing. And song writing explored topics like the emotional quality of certain chord progressions and crafting an interesting melody,” states Nicol.
In accordance, at Musicians Institute, he furthered his craft in guitar: learning about chords, chord voicing, scales, modes, and improvisation while furthering his musical aptitude by taking ear training, harmony and recording classes.
“There was so much to take in, I think I’m still digesting the information… (At Berklee), we even touched on the neurotransmitters that are released when you sing in a group with people, which reinforced the fact that you want people to be able to sing along with you.”
With his education and experiences from Boston and Los Angeles under his belt, Nicol is working on getting people to sing along with him. He recently released a self-titled EP that he has been working on a few months. He plans to follow that EP with another, sometime in the spring. All the while, he has been taking pre-med classes at the University and playing gigs such as the Trifecta Music Festival and the Hill JDC West Hope’s Home Benefit at The Owl. In the summer, he hopes to go on a western tour.
From his demeanour, it is evident that Nicol understands that talent alone is not the link connecting dreams to reality. Nicol lives by a quote given to him by Liv Taylor, the brother of his inspiration, James Taylor, who stated, “It is sad to be ready and not be called. It is tragic to be called and not be ready.”
“That quote encourages me to always have a few songs in working order, so that if a last-minute gig comes up, I’m able to do it,” Nicol says.
Nicol carries high aspirations for his craft.
“Eventually, I would love to be a successful singer-songwriter in the vein of James Taylor,” states Nicol, who states Taylor is one of his main inspirations along the likes of Elton John, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Carole King, Randy Newman, and John Mayer. Although he carries ambitious aspirations, he believes in his art, preparation, and perseverance.
“As impossible as my dreams may seem, there is part of me that believes if you love something enough and are willing to put in the work, then things will start to fall into place,” states Nicol, humbly, who adds, “Maybe some good luck is needed, though. To paraphrase Seneca, luck is where preparation and opportunity meet.”
Check out Nicol’s recordings at https://madisonnicol.bandcamp.com/