It’s hard to know what to expect musically from an artist with a name as ambiguous as Young & Sick, and a lot of times that makes it easy to overlook an act. Lucki Eck$ once told me he was always drawn to listen to any song put out by an artist with a dollar sign in their name. Luckily, I have a similar affinity for ampersands. Back in 2013, I exercised that innate interest by clicking play on Young & Sick’s track “Continuum” before knowing anything about the one man act. The track paired mesmerizing production with intriguing vocals and songwriting that really managed to strike an emotional chord between pained and optimistic. It was that type of combination that would make Young & Sick a critical darling of myself and many others covering music in the two years since.
The man behind the Y&S moniker, Nick Van Hofwegen, was born in The Netherlands, but has spent the last decade living everywhere but. After a few year stints in London and Los Angeles, Nick now lives New York. As impressive as the music of Young & Sick is, Van Hofwegen also uses the outlet for his illustration work. In fact, it was the art aspect that created the launching pad for his musical endeavors. While in school for design, Nick created a concept vinyl packaging for an album by The Velvet Teen and after some encouragement, he sent it to the band. Impressed by the work, the band reached out and began to build a relationship with Nick that would lead to him being introduced to Mark Foster - who would eventually start the band Foster the People. From there, he’d go on to create artwork for Andy Dick, Mikey Ekko, Robin Thicke, and Maroon 5, as well as numerous big brands. While it may seem natural to categorize the illustrative portion of Young & Sick as secondary, the project as a whole really relies on both of these mediums, and Nick nurtures them each equally.
In April 2014, Young & Sick released his self-titled debut album. It took all the admirable qualities of Y&S’s initial offerings - a golden falsetto, ability to totter between emotions, addicting melodies - and built them out to be bigger and more beautiful without ever going overboard. It was polished and poppy in the best ways possible. The project received strong reviews from music critics, and opened the door to months of touring ahead - including an opening slot on Chance The Rapper’s 2014 fall tour. Understanding the importance of also making an impression in person, Young & Sick’s live performance is crafted to do justice to the studio sounds but also to give himself (and his backing band) the freedom to make each set its own performance.
Currently, Nick is working on wrapping up his sophomore album. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to drop by his Brooklyn studio, and everything he shared was fantastic. Get excited for that one, but until then, get familiar with the "essential listens" playlist above and the self-titled album on iTunes.