Nick Hakim has made it, or at least he is on his way to making it. The 26-year-old musician and songwriter has had a unique path to get to where he is now. The Berklee graduate has reached millions of SoundCloud and Spotify users and is now signed to ATO records, which is home to the Alabama Shakes, Emily King and David Grey, to name a few. Nick’s success, however, is not by just luck. His upbringing and the struggles he faced as a teen directly lead to his raw talent and a strong drive to succeed.
Hakim’s parents emigrated from Lima, Peru, to New York City in the early ’80s after his father received a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at the New School in Manhattan. His family moved to Washington D.C. shortly after, where Hakim was born and raised. “He was surrounded by a diverse array of sounds at home,” said an interviewer from Pitchfork. “There was the Nueva cancion—political folk music—of his mother’s native Chile; ’60s and ’70s touchstones like the Beatles and Al Green; D.C. hardcore bands like Fugazi that were beloved by Hakim’s older brother—though Nick preferred the reggae-infused Bad Brains, especially since one of his teachers performed regularly with the band’s vocalist, HR; and Latino rappers like Big Pun and Fat Joe”(Moreland, assistant editor of Pitchfork).
When Nick was younger, he was placed into special education classes and often found himself ostracized in school. He stated in a recent interview that when he was in sixth grade, he couldn’t tell time and didn’t know the months in order. However, when he was 17, one of his friends invited him to sing with her church choir, and he began teaching himself to play the piano. After that, a lot changed for Nick. He was no longer just the kid with a low GPA, but was a musician accepted to Berklee College of Music.
At Berklee, Hakim studied production, composition, and advanced harmony. His self-released, two-part EP titled Where Will We Go, came out in 2014. The EPs were an unexpected success for Nick at the time. While living in Boston, he started volunteering at a juvenile detention center for a year, working with music therapy students. Nick mentions his love of working with young people, which has long been a passion of his and something he was able to connect with well. He expresses that he can “genuinely relate to feeling rejected and stupid as a young person—feeling like you’re not capable and then feeling depressed because of that and projecting that in a way that is negative and violent” (Moreland, assistant editor of Pitchfork). This is where his love of helping troubled youth stemmed from.
Nick’s debut album, 2017’s Green Twins, has a psychedelic vibe, which is encapsulated in the artwork of the album. It shows a lone eyeball peering into a mirror in the midst of a hazy fog.“There’s a lot of songs on this record that have to do with the things that live inside my subconscious but that I can’t really access until I am asleep,” Hakim stated. While making Green Twins, he learned to write down his dreams, and the mysteries that came from that are apparent immediately on the title-track opener, “Green Twins.” The second track on the album, “Bet She Looks Like You,” was recorded mostly in his bedroom at home, and was one of the first songs that began the motivation to explore this theme. Hakim speaks of how sometimes he has trouble articulating himself, however, music is a place he can be himself and be creative.
Nick will be playing The Red Room at Cafe 939 along with singer-songwriter Danielle Ponder on Friday, April 19 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale here! Admission is $20, $15 with a Berklee student ID. Get your tickets before this show sells out!