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Nigel Williams

Episode 149

Island Boy Learns Art & Music

Nigel Williams’ artistic journey began at the age of nine, selling his watercolors to tourists on the island of St. Maarten where he grew up. With a passion for both art and music, Nigel pursued a degree in Music Education at Berklee College of Music in 1992. During his time at Berklee, his pastel work was showcased in an exhibition featuring musician-artists. Upon returning to St. Maarten in 1997, he studied under prominent local artist Ruby Bute, learning the importance of color in storytelling.

Later, he ventured to Los Angeles to pursue his music career, collaborating with artists like Chris Brown and Heather Headley. For over ten years Nigel and his reggae band performed on stage at Kings Row Gastropub in Old Pasadena.

Throughout his musical endeavors, Nigel continued painting, and the pandemic prompted him to focus more on his visual art. Drawing from his Caribbean upbringing and guided by artist Patti Mollica’s teachings on acrylics, Nigel creates bold and vibrant pieces that capture the essence of paradise. Nigel’s goal is to transport viewers to the beauty of St. Maarten, evoking memories for those who have visited and inspiring wanderlust for those who haven’t.

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Nigel Williams Takeaways

  • Nigel is a talented musician
  • Nigel went to Berkeley College of Music
  • Nigel Williams and his band often play Kings Row Gastropub in Old Pasadena
  • Originally Nigel wanted to play saxophone and to be able to drum while singing
  • In addition to music, Nigel loves painting and drawing

“Your perception of things is totally different when you come from a small island. This is LA. This is where there are a lot of people, and when you start, you learn that you need to have friends in positions that can build you up. Right? So one of my friends was playing with an artist. They needed a guitar player. He’s like, hey. There’s an audition. You should come out.”

“You can turn it into any style. You can take a Beatles tune and turn it to Bossa Nova. You can turn it into a reggae. You can turn it into whatever. It’s it’s just good music. You know, you have to figure out, like, tempo wise, you know, certain things you need to adjust.”

“Then imagine you’re singing. Like you’re singing. A different rhythm from Your left hand’s playing a different rhythm from your right hand, your left foot, right foot. I respect drummers. I live vicariously through drummers. I see them play and I’m like, man, I wish I could do that.”

“I would turn on a TV, and I would see my friends playing with, you know, big artists. I came to the realization. I was like, man, but we went to school together. We were in the same music class. What am I doing? I’m playing for drunk tourists at the beach.”

What is Nigel Williams’ connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Nigel performed at Kings Row for 12 years, which is a local Gastropub. He also played at a wine bar called We Olive, before COVID-19 hit and shut everything down.


What did Nigel Play?

Nigel played the guitar, and he would also sing. His band was a pop trio with sort of a reggae twist since Nigel is from Saint Martin. He loves 1980s pop songs.


What are some of Nigel Williams’ top songs and groups from the 1980s?

Tears for Fears is one of Nigel’s absolute favorites. He also loves Madonna from that time period. Michael Jackson and Prince are also great. Billy Idol is also an artist they love to cover in their band. 


What does Nigel find inspiring about the Beatles?

Nigel Williams loves the Beatles approach to Harmony. The Beatles took simple 4 chord doo-wop style and made it into sort of a jazz harmony. 


Where did Nigel Williams go to school?

Nigel went to Berkeley College of Music. 


What are some of the previous rules in music?

According to Nigel, you couldn’t have certain intervals because they were considered demonic. For instance, 2 minor thirds was the devil’s trot, similar to 666.


What is Nigel’s education?

Nigel earned a very formal music education. He has a Bachelor’s degree in music education, and he actually started off as a drummer before playing guitar. He struggled with the independence in his left hand, right hand, left foot, and right foot that is required to be a successful drummer. 


What instrument did Nigel originally want to play?

Before the guitar or even drumming, Nigel Williams wanted to play the saxophone, but it never worked out for him. Instead, he saw a guy play the drums and sing and he pivoted to wanting that skill set.

Nigel Williams

Do bass and rhythm guitar do different things?

Yes, they accomplish different tasks. If you can play guitar well, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can immediately pick up a bass. It is a different discipline. 


Where did Nigel Williams come to the SGV?

Nigel left the East Coast in 2001. He realized he would turn the TV on and see people he graduated with playing with big-time artists. And Nigel, on the other hand, was entertaining drunk tourists on the beach. He decided he needed to come out to the West Coast and start building a new type of career.


Has Nigel been on tour before?

Yes, Nigel has toured the country. He believes the only states he hasn’t visited would be North and South Dakota.


Do people ask for requests?

At Kings Row, Nigel would have audience members request songs. He would Google the lyrics and chords and they would attempt to play the song. Sometimes it would be an amazing experience and they’d keep the song in their repertoire, and other times it would crash and burn. Essentially, it was all done in the name of entertainment. 


Does Nigel Williams write music?

Nigel has written music in the past, but he realized for many that is not the way to live as a profitable musician. Sure, you can get a song to play on TV or on a commercial and make money. But for many, it’s hours and hours of work and streams for a $25 monthly check from Spotify. In Nigel’s opinion, it all comes down to connections. 


What other creative pursuits does Nigel have?

Nigel is talented at drawing and painting. At a hotel on Saint Martin where Nigel’s father was a head electrician, there was a lady who would get Nigel watercolors. He was young at the time and thought it was a really cool experience. At 9 years old, he put up a bunch of paintings of his outside a casino. He was selling each painting for $15, but his father’s friend and the manager of the hotel came by and told him to lower his price until he developed a reputation. Begrudgingly, Nigel lowered the price from $15 to $1, and he immediately made $20, which for a nine-year-old kid, was great money. 


Where has Nigel traveled and lived?

Nigel was originally a great student, but once he got into music, he stopped caring for school. In fact, he failed his first year of high school. Eventually, get focused and finished high school before moving to Boston for five years and then to Europe.


Music Credits

Like it Loud, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Scarlet Fire (Sting), Otis McDonald, YouTube Audio Library

Indecision, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Picture of Nigel Williams

Nigel Williams

Kings Row in Old Pasadena

Various locations I performed at.

Blick Art Materials in Pasadena