Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Lickstein.
Hi Nicole, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
In preschool, I saw a guitar during show and tell, and knew that was it, it awoke a passion inside me. I know figuring out what you think you were made to do before kindergarten sounds crazy, but that really was it for me, and through after school programming like my local School of Rock, some amazing jazz band and orchestra directors, and many lessons later, I was accepted to the local middle school of the arts to study music. Growing up, I was always artsy and loved to dance, sing, perform, and quickly became a multi-instrumentalist, particularly growing to love and play strings (guitar, ukulele, and bass). I enjoyed writing poetry and my 8th grade English teacher encouraged me to submit my work to a contest, (I really only applied because the flyer mentioned Taylor Swift had participated years prior), regardless, my poem placed and was published, and with this encouragement, it occurred to me I could take my words and put them to my music, and at 13, I decided I would become a songwriter.
Soon after, I auditioned for the high school of the arts, and by this time, with the encouragement of my south Florida hometown community, Palm Beach Gardens, and push from supportive family and friends, I started to gig around town, anywhere that would have me. This led me to being discovered by the Executive Director of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International (NSAI), Bart Herbison. I have been writing under Herbison’s mentorship since I was 15. As a member of both the Nashville Songwriters Association International and The Recording Academy, I regularly participated in many of the workshops, development, and networking opportunities that these organizations had to offer. As a result, I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting, and always learning from songwriting greats such as legendary songwriter/producer Phil Galdston (Celine Dion, Beyonce, Esperanza Spaulding), writing with Lance Carpenter (Kelsea Ballerini “Love Me Like You Mean It”), and GRAMMY Award-winner and publisher, Liz Rose, perhaps best known for co-writing Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “You Belong With Me,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” and Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl.”
I worked at a local restaurant with a weekly musician residency for the Sunday brunch crowd, getting better at my craft each week. Not only did I grow my setlist of coffee house-style “covers” of pop songs, but I had to opportunity to test out new material on a regular basis, and learn how to interact with a crowd. I have always been a firm believer that the harder you work, the luckier you get. My parents are business owners and taught me that from a young age. I balanced homework with figuring out how to book my own gigs, cold call/email, place business cards in community bulletins, make flyers, and run a website.
My performances in south Florida grew, and now include a history of playing WIRK’s Rib Roundup Country Music Festival three years in a row (most recently sharing a roster with the likes of Jake Owen, Luke Combs, and Kane Brown), as well as the BandsAndBrews Craft Beer & Music Festival (sharing a stage with Ashley McBryde and Emily Brooke). As a teenager, when I launched my first original single, “Ex-Crush,” it spent 2 months at #1 on XRP Radio’s Top 40 and remained in the same Top 40 for 3 consecutive months. My first EP, Six Twenty-Six, received a standing nomination for an American Songwriters Award in the Teen Category and Second-Place title in NSAI’s Top 40 Songs competition.
My second EP, Dear Diary, (which is available on all streaming platforms :), including an original Christmas song I wrote, “And I’m Still Single”. A local country station picked it up and I got radio airplay as an independent teenage artist, which was super exciting! Inspired, I continued to write and grow and learn. After participating in summer programs at Berklee College of Music, Curtis Conservatory, NYU Steinhart, and Julliard Jazz, I graduated and started studying at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. Shortly after, my heart kept pulling me to Nashville, and at 18, I transferred to Belmont University’s Curb College to further study songwriting and music business and make the move.
Since moving to Nashville, I have learned so much about the craft and profession of songwriting. In 2020, I placed in Grammy U’s Top 8 Songwriting Showcase and as awarded both the Ben Vaughn and Brad Paisley scholarships, graduating from Belmont early this past April. Now 20, I continue to work towards my dream of making songwriting my job. When I am not teaching my students music lessons or attending grad school classes over at MTSU, you can find me playing around town in writers’ rounds at venues like Belcourt Taps, Alley Taps, and the Listening Room Cafe.
Since I have lived here, I have co-written over 150 songs, and do not plan on stopping any time soon!
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Like most, I have had struggles along the way. I have battled with mental health issues for years and so I am passionate about advocating for therapy and trying to end the stigma surrounding those who may have anxiety or depression like myself. Music has always been a creative outlet for me to cope in a healthy manner. The feeling of my guitar strings vibrating under my fingers can calm me down and give me a sense of safety and familiarity when I need it most. Writing allows me to get some of those thoughts out of my head, too. I am also very transparent about my recovery from alcoholism. I am now over two years sober and I have put in a lot of work to make it this far. I try to be an open ear for anyone in the AA community or those who may be struggling with active addiction themselves.
Another bump in the road I think we can all relate to, unfortunately, was the pandemic. Most of the end of my college schooling was spent done on my laptop, virtually, from my childhood bedroom. I lost a year of performance opportunities, but gained unique online experiences, too. Focusing on the positive while I was home during lockdown helped me stay on track to reach my professional goals. I took advantage of the time and opportunity to try to better my production skills and apply to songwriting competitions and webinars. I went from playing weekly writers rounds to hoping people would tune into my Instagram live.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I would say I am best known for my sincere and fearless approach to music. My lyrics- paired with bright, infectious melodies- are sweet, yet purposeful, and serve as a true testament to my fierce individuality. Being a multi-instrumentalist with a strong music theory background helps set me apart from others, as well. I want to be a professional songwriter,
Being a musician gives me the chance to touch others through my art and express myself at the same time. I want to make the soundtrack of people’s lives. I want to give someone their first dance song, or a melody to cry to, a tune to laugh, etc. I believe in creating my own kind of music. I love storytelling through music and words, or “verbal doodles” as I like to say. There’s nothing quite like it and I hope to make this happen one day as a staff writer at a publishing house, here in Nashville.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or blogs that help you do your best?
I like to listen to a lot of “story behind the song” series’, some via Sirus XM radio and sometimes on Facebook lives. I also had an internship with a startup in the music business here and got a lot of education than with the resources I was given. I think as a writer, reading and listening to podcasts is so important. I have about 8 hours’ worth of driving every week to commute to my master’s program and try to use that time wisely and catch myself up on what is popular right now.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.nikkilickstein.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nikki.lickstein/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NikkiLickstein
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrkOYZjdi2nRlmLrvJbC0DA
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