Charlie Hickey is a 21-year-old indie rock singer-songwriter from California, currently touring the U.K. with his latest album Nervous at Night. When asked about his music, Hickey said that, “The way that I prefer to hear music is alone in my room and I think I make music for that setting”. Growing up in a family of “neurotic musicians” (‘Mid Air’) and signed to Phoebe Bridgers’ record label Saddest Factory Records, Charlie Hickey is well-versed in the music industry – and his performance at Night and Day Café last Monday completely demonstrated this.
Hickey came on stage with a smile and effortless confidence that was well warranted. With smooth vocals and poetic lyrics, he soon came alive and built a rapport with the audience. He cracked jokes, asking the audience questions and answering theirs in return, which created the sense that you were listening to him at home.
When interviewed, Hickey said that, “whatever the energy of the crowd is, that’s my energy”, and this was definitely the case during his Manchester performance. I asked him how he found touring in England, and he replied: “I think people like to have fun a little more over here”, which made me feel quite proud to be attending.
The songs themselves were emotional and vulnerable, with Hickey describing ‘Planet with Water’ as “earnest”, which I believe could summarise his whole album. In our interview, he said that he was currently most proud of his song ‘Mid Air’, as it was “authentic and personal”. This certainly came across in his performance on Monday as the audience swayed to the music, holding on to his every word.
Hickey said that his songs always start “with an event or person in my life”, or sometimes with “a music idea or ‘vibe’… and that will illicit a feeling or story”. But he added that “I think my proudest song is one that I haven’t released. So you’ll hear that one day.” That is certainly something for fans to look forward to!
The set was short but sweet, with a couple of older songs as well as ‘Thirteen’ and the album’s title track, ‘Nervous at Night’. This song has one of my favourite melodies, and dancing to it with other people who also loved the song was a surreal experience. The lyrics from ‘Thirteen’ are arguably Hickey’s best, though, due to their sheer rawness and power: “I grew up and you didn’t/ I guess that it’s fucked up to feel like I’m winning”. Lyrics like these add an extra layer of sophistication to the album as a whole, and separate the song from other coming-of-age tracks that often feel diaristic or – dare I say – cringe.
Night and Day Café was the perfect setting for Hickey’s concert: with the red and blue lighting and slow-moving disco balls, I felt like a main character in a movie with a cinematic track playing. If you’re looking for a body of work with authentic and powerful lyrics to provide a soundtrack to your main character moment while you walk down Oxford Road, then make sure to check out Charlie Hickey’s Nervous at Night!
Nervous at Night is out now, and you can stream it below: