Wow is the word I came away with after spending a half hour with the incredible Nik West.
The Phoenix native is at once beautiful and gracious. She exudes positive energy and maintains a sense of humor, which is often expressed by a charming laugh.
At the tender age of 25 her credits include work with artists such as, Prince, Dave Stewart, John Mayer, and recently two appearances on American Idol.
Hearing her play bass puts one in mind of legends like Larry Graham, Marcus or Louis Johnson. Her versatility as a singer allows her to range between jazz, funk, R&B, and to truly rock out on Rock and Roll. If that wasn’t enough you can’t miss the Mohawk signature bass clef that crowns her head.
I caught up with Nik at a Homebase spoken word event at Stand Up Live where her producer Paris Toon arranged to have us meet in the Green Room.
I asked her what motivated her to play the bass guitar, an instrument most girls shy away form. She said: “I was the type of child that needed a challenge. One day when I was about 15 or 16 my dad was picking me up from school and he was playing Michael Jackson’s ‘You want to be Starting Something’ I’d heard this song a million times but for some reason this time I listened to the song and that bass line in it just amazed me. I said Daddy what is that because the bass player was playing the grove the whole time but it drove the whole song. I was playing the guitar at the time and I said I don’t want to play the guitar anymore; I want to play the bass. He told me that it was a heavy instrument and girls normally don’t play it but we’ll get one tomorrow and see how you do. I stuck to it because he told me I couldn’t do it.”
West is the founder of the band “Queen of Strings.” When asked how difficult it is to sing lead vocals and lead the band while playing a background instrument she replied: “For me I’m all about sharing so I let everybody kind of have their shine on stage.” She went on to say, “I started out singing and playing the bass out in front doing my thing. The most difficult thing for most instrumentalists is getting the groove, being the one that stays back in the cut, and play the groove and drive the song. That was difficult at first because I was always in front. So I went back to my ABC’s and learned how to just play grooves for hours at a time. Now I can balance both.”
I asked her where the creative look and style of her band came from and she said, “It’s all me but I did get nuggets along the way. Prince told me that he needed to distinguish himself from other top bands when he started out back in the day. That’s why I developed the crazy Mohawk, to distinguish myself, to be different from everyone else.”
Regarding her legacy, I asked her what the ultimate mark of success would be for her. Her answer, “Sting, yes Sting the bass player from the Police. He is a bass player and a front guy. I was told by record labels that they wouldn’t sign me because I played bass. They asked what person do you know that has made it from the bass, you need to switch to playing the guitar or put the bass down altogether and just sing you do that and we’ll sign you. I told them Sting, that proves it can be done. I’m striving for that level of success.”
You can easily find Nik West on YouTube, and all the music download spots. She currently works with local producer Paris Toon who has produced music for Ce Ce Peniston, Morris Alen, Tanya Tiet, and Vaugh Willis.
Once you experience her performances I’m sure you’ll agree that best word to describe Nik West is Wow!