I've heard of renaissance men before, and I'm pretty sure I've even seen one or two on TV. After chatting via email with Davey "Vid" Nelson, a Provo-based rocker with an old soul, I can now confidently say I've actually met one. While many people choose to become musicians, Nelson is the kind of guy who was born to be one.
When he isn't making mischief and smooth rhymes with Salt Lake City funk/rock/hip-hop band Rumble Gums, he's hard at work recording and producing his own material. In July, Nelson released Taste Test Pity City, a genre-defying blend of funk, rock and hip-hop. It's the kind of music you might find on the B-side of a Tarantino movie soundtrack—smooth as a midnight drive and sharp as a straight razor. Oh, and the cover features the artist thoughtfully posing in his birthday suit. "The first album was like the birth of Vid Nelson—hence the nude album cover," he says. "It was very experimental, almost childlike in nature."
This year, he's celebrating the release of Millennials, his second solo album. While his well-crafted guitar hooks and funky rhythmic bass lines remain the same, Nelson shows a bit of vulnerable introspection on Millennials. It's an optimistic album that feels a bit more exposed than the material on his first foray. While it retains the smooth arrangements he pioneered in Taste Test Pity City, it reflects his growth as a songwriter, packing a lyrical punch that signifies some serious soul-searching on his part. "The second record has gone back to a lot of my roots of blues and rock 'n' roll," he says. "It has more of a humble and meaningful expression to it."
The musical roots of which Nelson speaks took hold early on in his life. "I come from a singing family," he says. "My mom and my sisters played a lot of piano and sang around the house. I would stay up late singing underneath my covers at full volume—my mom had to come tell me to keep it down quite a bit." From here, he developed an interest in skateboarding, which helps keep him inspired. "I think music and skateboarding go hand-in-hand," he muses.
Nelson met Rumble Gums compatriot Chase Cee in high school, where their shared musical interests formed the bedrock for their collaborative partnership. Nelson and Cee recorded Pool Party Paradise, the band's most recent release, in Cee's home studio. It's gleefully chaotic, mostly due to the cosmic resonance that comes from Nelson's rock and blues influences crashing into Cee's fixation on funk and synthesizers.
Like all musicians, the creative process varies when Nelson is working on solo material. "I really enjoy collaborating with others," he says. "It pulls out other creative sides of me that I may not have found on my own." When he's flying solo, Nelson is a bit of a workaholic. "Writing and recording solo is good because I can work for as long as I want," he says. "I will go a couple days without sleep, finishing a song."
When our conversation turns to discussing Nelson's upcoming show and album release, he takes on a more somber tone as he mentions Damon Dixon, a close friend who recently passed away. "He was a dear friend who was very supportive of me and my passion," he says. "He had one of the biggest, juiciest hearts that I have ever met and was a fabulous musician himself—I don't think he saw how beautiful he was. I never got to show him this album before he passed, so this is my way of trying to sing it to him and hope he can hear it in spirit."
Formal dress is required for the Feb. 11 event, which also features Nelson's longtime collaborators Shane Romrell on brush drums and John De La Torre on acoustic bass. "It's going to be a beautiful evening of humble energy," Nelson says.
With 2017 still in its infancy, he's moving full-speed ahead. "I plan on having album three done by the end of the summer," he says. "I'm calling it Hearing Intercourse, and I'm shooting for 10 to 12 tracks." In addition to his solo material, the musician will reprise his role in Rumble Gums for a few more shows before moving to Nashville in early summer to pursue his career. Wherever he ends up, it's certain that he'll do something memorable and unique for those who are compelled to listen.