Lead Singer of Common Sense
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Common Sense is the first of Nick’s bands to go really big. It’s still going strong, but in its most prolific years the band sold more than 50,000 albums, with “Psychedelic Surf Groove”, and 10,000 with “State of the Nation, Now and Then”. A couple of his songs have made it to Hollywood. “Never Give Up” is a big song that made it into the movie, Speed Two, and “In Your Eyes” was in the Kingpin movie, which Nick says has got a cult following.
Recently Nick recorded music with Wyland as a benefit following the Gulf oil spill disaster, a trio of albums called Blues Planet I-III. And this past winter he played with noted Hawaiian musician, Willie K in his Maui music festival along with the likes of Steven Tyler, Mick Fleetwood, and Taj Mahal.
Altogether with his bands Common Sense, Nick-I, and The 133 Band, he’s made 12 albums. “I like it, but I don’t do enough recording,” Nick said. “I’m mostly a live artist.”
There’s always a crowd on Fridays at Mozambique catching Nick live with his band, Nick-I & A.D.D., and other live gigs at places such as the Coach House, the Belly Up, and the OC Fair as well as special events and corporate gigs. “You always have a dream as an artist,” he muses. “Now my dream is that The 133 Band will do the film festival circuit.” Sound like a lot of balls to juggle in the air? Toss in Nick’s co-passion for surfing, and add to that his participation in Surfers Healing and you’ve got one busy dude.
Surfers Healing is an outreach program designed to foster joy and promote surf culture in the lives of autistic youth. Nick has served on the board of directors for 17 years. The idea is to get the kids out on the waves with the assistance of able surfers. “We want to give them one nice beautiful day at the beach, and just feel normal,” says Nick. Surfers Healing was founded by the Paskowitz family because their son, Isaiah, struggled with “meltdowns and sensory overload”. Riding the waves with his father calmed him like nothing else. Now Surfers Healing provides wave rides for more than 4,500 participants in their surf camps every year. Their motto is, “One child. One family. One day at the beach.”
“Now we’ve got enough sponsorship, we’re not sleeping on the floor – we all get our own beds now!” said Nick. “It started out, ‘I’m gonna do this ‘cause it’s the right thing to do’, and then I loved it. We’re helping these kids and it feels really good.”
Nick’s just back from a Surfers Healing trip to Australia, where he really hit it off with one of the surf stars who happens to be on the autism spectrum himself; Clay Marzo. “[Surf champion] Kelly Slater said Clay is the best surfer in the world,” Nick said. “But he’s intimidated by people.”
Nick can relate. “I understand him, ‘cause I’m a little out-there too,” he said. “Things bug me, like loud noises.” Playing music with a loud band is not bothersome, however, it’s more the sound of people “yammering” and dogs barking. “I’ve just always been kind of special,” he admits.
Joining forces with Surfers Healing changed Nick’s life. At the time he was busy and on the road with his band, but something had to give. “I told my band, I’m gonna do this now,” he said. “I took time off to make Surfers Healing a top priority.”
That fulfilled one aspect of life according to Nick. “I do whatever I want, no matter what,” he says. “I don’t need money so much. If I had a lot of money my dreams wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t be as creative.” A dream come true? “I’d want to surf and fish and write songs.”
Nick grew up in Laguna Beach, and learned to love music at the footsteps of his dad, Nick Sr. His dad was in a blues band, and put his son in classes for classical guitar and violin. “I hated it,” Nick remembers. “I didn’t like the style. You want to play what’s on the radio! But, if you can play classical or jazz or blues, you can play any pop.” In those days, the roots of inspiration came thanks to reggae music. “Our heroes were the Rebel Rockers, and Eric Morton, pioneer of surf reggae,” Nick said. “My band, Common Sense, Sublime, and Slightly Stoopid spawned a culture of surf reggae, and that influenced fashion too. Laguna Beach is the center of the fashion of surf culture.” And just as surf fashion brands began by sponsoring competitive surfers, Nick brought them along to music. For example, there was a two-page spread in Rolling Stone for his music that O’Neill surfwear brand paid for. There is a natural tie-in between the fashion, philosophy, and music of the surf culture. T-shirt, trunks, and the backward trucker hat are de rigueur for the lifestyle of Nick-I. The rest of the world seems to have caught on. Nick likes it, “You can wear T-shirts and trunks anywhere now!”
There is still something Nick needs to check off his list. “It’s the eight unit monkey sitting on my back!” he says. When he was a rising rock star he had to make the ultimate choice: grow the band and take it on the road, or finish school at UC Santa Barbara. Tough choice, as he had only eight units left to finish his degree. “No one believes my story,” he bemoans. “But I’ve got to get it done.” It’s been weighing on his mind, so he went ahead and straightened years worth of records out with the registrar, and he found out he could take the required classes at Saddleback, and get that monkey off his back. “They wouldn’t just give me the credits for all the albums I’ve put out,” he laughs. “I’m going to take some ethno-musicology, or history of some type.”Getting the eight units accomplished and giving his vocal chords a couple months of much-needed rest are in the near future. And the 25-foot wave he caught in Mexico last year is calling him.
“Maybe I’ll go to Cabo to rest up,” he says. “I could brush up on my Spanish too. And go surfing. And fish a lot.”
After 20-plus years of rocking out multiple nights every week, maybe he deserves a little vacation. But then get back here and light up the stage!
To find out more about Nick Hernandez please visit:
YouTube: Common Sense Reggae