After 23 years and 10 studio albums with Omaha, Nebraska-born reggae-rap-rock quintet 311, singer Nick Hexum is gearing up for the October 1 release of his first solo album, My Shadow Pages. Fuse has the exclusive world premiere of LP track "Sideways"—listen above!
"It started with the title," Hexum, 43, tells Fuse of the jazzy track. "I always had that title kicking around. It's like, We can't go forward, we can't go backwards, we can only go sideways. It was a title with a lot of possibilities."
Like all songs on My Shadow Pages, "Sideways" was written with a collaborator, in this case longtime pal Tim Pagnotta of Cali rockers Sugarcult. "We started brainstorming a story about one of these girls you see in Los Angeles who come out here to pursue excitement and get caught up in craziness," Hexum explains.
Billed as the Nick Hexum Quintet, the album was recorded in just eight days in L.A. with producer Jim Scott, who has worked with Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Wilco and Red Hot Chili Peppers—he won a Grammy for his work on their 1999 album Californication. Scott helped Hexum and his band, also featuring his brother Zach Hexum, reach a chilled-out, jazz-funk sound that's long been a big influence on Hexum's songwriting. "Sideways" is a prime example.
"Musicially, it's one of the jazzier tracks on the record," Hexum says of the track, featuring a rare Moog keyboard with a dissonant scale. "It's a keyboard-oriented song. There's also piano, Wurlitzer, and a killer solo that's breathy and in a tenor sax style."
This jazz-funk sound "was something I've always had a big interest in," says Hexum. "In high school I'd switch the cassette from Bad Brains to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. Those crooning vocals were just as big of an influence on me. And I played in jazz band in high school."
Clocking in at over five minutes, "Sideways" is a "long song," he says. "That was the nice thing about this project—I'm not in any hurry, so let's just let it vamp."