Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Nick Africano
is fusing soul music with his love for Spanish culture and literature in his new album, The Butterfly Bull
, which drops today [May 1]. Initially sparked by Francisco de Goya's drawing of the winged creature, the album took shape based on the idea of contradiction, and was fueled by Africano's own undergraduate thesis paper. "Bring Me Water", the album's first single, holds some surprising contradictions of its own, but will have you enamored more with its blues-meets-soul instrumentation and Africano's own rugged vocals. Grab it as a free download for a limited time, and check out our PV Q&A, where Africano talks knack for poetics, love for contradictions, and why he was so taken by Goya's drawing.
PureVolume: This album has been seven years in the making, which is incredible! Can you take us through that process?
Nick Africano: You're right. The ideas and themes behind this album started before I knew it would turn into an album, in 2005 when I wrote my final thesis paper in undergraduate school for an independent project on Federico García Lorca called, "The Poetics of Contradiction." I used the idea of contradiction as a lens through which to read and interpret some of his poetry. In 2009, a dear friend brought me a small journal back as a gift from Spain with a drawing by Francisco de Goya on the cover -- "el toro mariposa," or "the butterfly bull". The drawing gave me chills. I've never felt so close to an image before. To me, it was a metaphor and symbol of so many different things I'd experienced in my life, and of things I had explored in literature -- but so much more immediate. An embodiment of contradiction.
I started writing one word at a time on each page, a single word on a single page. And that's where the album truly was born -- out of those words in the notebook. The first two I wrote were "cowboy" and "bowtie" and those are the first two words one hears on the record. After that, it took me two years to write the rest of the songs, record them, re-record them, and get it to where it is now.
PV: When you began work on the album itself, did you intend for it to take the time it did? Or did you just start out with the idea you’d allow your creativity to dictate its course and time frame?
NA: When I set out to work on the album after having the initial idea, I let the songs dictate its course and time frame. In a time where things are so fast, I wanted to be patient. That was one of the hardest parts. But there can be a sense of liberty in limitation. Limiting oneself to a framework. It gave me direction.
PV: You’ve mentioned you’re very inspired by poetry. When you sit down to write lyrics, do you find yourself shifting into prose and then having to adjust to lyric?
NA: I often start with prose, or just series of words, and then shift to lyric, or sometimes it will happen naturally in lyric.
PV: What does the Butterfly Bell symbolize in both this album and for you personally?
NA: This image to me is my champion of possibility and the notion of contradiction in an image. I remember feeling that the impossible had happened when my mother passed away. That's a scary thought -- that the impossible can happen. But it can also be incredibly liberating and beautiful. That anything is possible.
PV: Were you heavily influenced by soul music growing up? Your music has such a soulful feel to it.
NA: My mom listened to a lot of old R&B and blues, and my dad gave me a Sam Cooke CD at a young age. I still listen to Sam Cooke all the time. Then, in college, I really immersed myself in everything Stax Records
. That was a good time.
PV: You’ve mentioned the album is “an exploration of contradictions”. Does “Bring Me Water” explore any in particular?
NA: Thievery! Just kidding. I stole many of the lyrics from my now fiancee, Misty Boyce. She left me alone in her apartment and some of these words were on her piano, and I added my own, added music, and made a song. I thought it fit. It explores how we really sometimes want help, but still let ourselves hurt ourselves. How we let something get to the point of fire before asking for water.
PV: What do you most hope people will take away from this album?
NA: I hope it inspires people to feel a sense of joy and hope alongside what can be painful or sad. And I hope it's an album people will want to return to and listen again.
PV: What’s next for you?
NA: In July I'm beginning to record the first of a series of three albums, an EP called Silver
. All of the songs on Silver
are resonator guitar driven.Purchase The Butterfly Bull on iTunes