Our Track by Track series gives artists a space to break down each song off of their newest release. Today, Charlie Hickey explores the tracks off of his new album, Nervous At Night.
Today (May 20th), singer-songwriter Charlie Hickey shares his debut full-length effort Nervous At Night. Out on Saddest Factory and produced by Marshall Vore, the 11-track LP follows his Count the Stars EP, also produced by Vore.
Beyond gracing the world with her own poignant indie-rock masterworks, Phoebe Bridgers’ meteoric, well-deserved success has allowed her to share the spotlight with her friends. Her albums and record label have seemingly become collaborative efforts between a close-knit group of similarly-minded, likely depressed artists. Names like Bridgers, Vore, Conor Oberst, Haley Dahl (of Sloppy Jane), MUNA, Christian Lee Houston, and more trade off helping each other find new ways to make us cry. Luckily, all of Bridgers’ friends just so happen to be incredibly talented.
Among the latest to be spotlighted by Saddest Factory is Charlie Hickey, a childhood friend of Bridgers. But his relationship with other established indie artists by no means undercuts his output, as his debut EP promised and Nervous At Night confirms, Hickey is a talent all of his own. He may share sensibilities and a pension for the existential with his labelmates, but songs like “Dandelions” showcase Hickey’s unique take on indie music.
The album’s lo-fi, emotional songs detail Hickey’s experience of being stuck between adolescence and adulthood. Ballads, folk songs, and driving indie bangers run through themes of relationships, anger, self-criticism, and love, ultimately ending on a somewhat hopeful note with the lovely, stripped-back “Planet With Water.”
“It’s a really special one to me,” Hickey tells Consequence about the track. “No matter how many vocoders I put on my records, I will always be a guy with an acoustic guitar!”
It’s a tumultuous, uncertain journey backed by an empathetic soundscape and Hickey’s friends. Sure, fans of Phoebe Bridgers will likely find a lot to love about the record, but Nervous At Night easily stands on its own as a powerful opening statement for Hickey’s songwriting career.
Listen to Nervous At Night below, followed by Hickey’s insight into each of the album’s songs.
This one started out as a little folk song, but we decided to have our 1975 moment! It was really fun in the studio to rebuild it from the bottom up. It really is just a song about every day feeling the same (which it did). The epic power ballad-y place that it goes is reflective of what I wanted, which was for something big and dramatic to happen in life.
This one is about that moment where you are like, “Shit, I’m deep into this and I might get hurt.” I wrote it during a long-distance covid relationship. It started out really melancholy but we ended up making it rock a little, which I think is reflective of the feeling of being scary but also very fun and exciting! It can be both! It’s sort of a celebration of giving into that feeling.
This song is about my little sister and how sometimes I feel like the older sibling and sometimes she does. I showed this song to my friends Christian Lee Hutson, Harrison Whitford and Mason Stoops, and they promptly went into the live room and played it all together after hearing it once and that’s what you are hearing. Two mics! Three guys! It was a really beautiful thing to witness.
This song is about someone who got bullied in middle school and isn’t over it! Couldn’t be me! Ultimately, it’s about the funny feeling of anger. I like to think that the narrator is angry and feels vindicated but deep down has love for this person and would never say it out loud.
This song is about being in a weird liminal space between childhood and adulthood where nothing is happening but you are feeling everything. I started writing it a while ago and returned to it when it was time to make the album. It feels like a time capsule but I still relate to who I was a lot and still feel that way a lot of the time.
Every Time I Think:
This is a song about being obsessed with someone after going on one date with them and knowing nothing about them and then thinking, “God I’m so stupid and crazy why am I feeling this way!!!”
Nervous At Night:
This one was us setting out to write a pop banger. I’m not sure if that’s what ended up happening? It’s a pretty simple song. It’s about having a crush but not being able to enjoy it because of your mind and thinking, “Maybe it’s best that I leave this as a nice fantasy and not taint it by making it a reality,” which is a trap that is really easy to fall into — but ultimately something I’m working really hard to resist in my life!
This is the oldest song on the album. I wrote it when I was really into fancy chords. The recording is just the original demo from like three years ago with the additions of the very talented Ethan Gruska on keyboards as well as Harrison Whitford and Mason Stoops playing dueling slide guitars. I love this one because it’s my most soulful song. I’m very ready to hold the mic in my hand and croon this one in live shows this year!
Choir Song (I Feel Dumb):
This is another one of the oldest ones. It started out as a verse that Marshall wrote and we finished it together. It feels like both of our stories blended into one epic infamous night that ends in a car crash, which is funny because I don’t know how to drive. We probably recorded like 10 different versions of this song over the last three years, but we ultimately decided that it needed to just be a piano ballad. Could’ve saved us a lot of time!
Month Of September:
I think this is kind of my song about being a musician. It’s about being on a life path with lots of highs and lows and how disorienting it is when the highs go away and then you are waiting for something else to happen. It’s a thing that all of us in this line of work are always having to navigate. I brought this song to Christian Lee Hutson who helped me finish it. I think I was gonna talk about vaping in it but he discouraged me from doing that, which I’m grateful for.
Planet With Water:
This is the tender folk song of the album; the “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” if you will. It’s a song about a blooming relationship with logistical barriers and letting your mind run away with all the things that could be. It’s a really special one to me. No matter how many vocoders I put on my records, I will always be a guy with an acoustic guitar!