“We basically made drawings of each other and exchanged them. It was great to create a unique experience.”
Nick Shea doesn’t just make hip-hop music. He incorporates all aspects of his vast artistic repertoire into every project, including on his new EP You Get The Picture that comes out this Friday.
As he explains it, the visuals for the EP will “feature 80 drawings of myself, made by people when I asked them to draw me” on Boston Common.
The stylings came from a role reversal; on most days with warm weather, Shea can be found on the Common drawing people for a dollar. He says, “Some of my music reflects my experience with these drawings, some of my music reflects on my hardships I’ve faced in my past, and much of my music represents where I will be going in my future.”
We asked him about the portraits and more …
You seem to always have a trick or two up your sleeve with new releases, or at least something interesting going on. How do you describe your approach to art and music for those who may not be familiar with you?
I am always trying to get better as a musician and excite myself when creating. This year I didn’t hold on to songs for too long. When I made them, I was eager to put them out. It made me feel like the music reflected me in the present moment. I have been a little more personal with my songwriting. I wrote a song about my own family estrangement, and that was difficult to release. But I am happy I did because already it has resonated with people, and makes me feel more in control of my narrative. I try to document my life, possibly try to help someone, and I rap to be the best rapper.
Tell us about this idea of people drawing pics of you. Where did it come from?
In the summer of 2021, I started going back outside with a sign that says “$1 Drawing of YOU” to meet new people, share my art, tell people about my music, and see what they have going on. I met so many awesome people from around the world each day, many I still keep in touch with. This year, May 18, 2022, marked one full year of going out in the Commons to draw people, so I wanted to do something different. I wanted to see what would happen if I made the sign say “$1 Drawing of ME” instead.
What’s the reaction when you ask people to draw you? Any particularly funny stories that came from this?
Many of the people said they don’t draw, or have never drawn in their life, so this was going to be a new experience for them. I loved that. We basically made drawings of each other and exchanged them. It was great to create a unique experience. I really appreciated being able to take home drawings of myself because I am usually the sole drawer. Some people brought me gifts to congratulate me on one full year in the park. I felt like I had done something truly special.
And how did you go about incorporating these into your music?
A lot of times, the conversations I have with people will bring up interesting topics. Hot takes, jokes, emotional stories. I do try to keep the conversations between me and who I am drawing, though sometimes the themes or ideas of what we talk about make their way into my songs. On this new EP, a line from the track “Toothache” says “I get an idea and you tattoo it” and that’s because someone tattooed one of my ideas on their body after getting a drawing from me in the park. I thought that was cool. My most streamed song this year, “This Life Is True,” is basically a thank you to all of the support people have given me and how appreciative I am of being able to have these experiences.
What’s up with the new EP?
You Get The Picture is five songs all produced by myself. “Oldies 103.3” is an ode to the classic Boston radio station I grew up listening to. “Drip Drop” is a more melancholic song about walking in the rain. “No Drama Please” is about spending less time on my cell phone. It’s a small collection of songs I’m happy with, and the physical CD has three bonus tracks. The visualizer on YouTube has all 80 of the drawings people made of me in a slideshow over the music.
Any shows coming up? Where might we see you in the wild? Are you still out on the Common as it gets cold?
As the weather is getting colder, I have been in the Commons a little less. But people can still expect to see me. I am planning to perform shows in the new year, as well as go on a “$1 Drawing of YOU” tour. So come out and see me.