Nathan Sykes

by Phillippe Mange

It’s a complicated thing, a pop song. Like the building of a great city, one must spread the beauty out evenly, keep surprises around some corners, but also maintain a sense of balance. Just as there is no perfect cityscape, there is no perfectly written pop song.

First you need a base, something to build upon. Many cities are built upon even older cities, ancient ones. Such as it goes, pop songs are built upon previous melodies and harmonies.

Nathan Sykes—previously known for his work with the young British pop group, The Wanted—has his own base: a rich history of musical influences. The 22-year-old grew up playing and listening to music with his mom, a music teacher. Through that experience he uses a dozen separate-but-related building blocks, and genres, and blends them together into sugary pop gems.

“[Growing up] I listened to a lot of older music like Frank Sinatra, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles,” says Sykes, a fine base to build upon.

“I always wanted to find a way of mixing elements of jazz, soul, R&B and pop. I’ve always wanted to bring that all together and make music, like, happy and have those elements from those styles of music. So I don’t think there is any I’ve missed out on because I’ve taken elements into my style of music.”

Sykes—who joined The Wanted at 16, becoming the youngest band member by a few years—is used to being the baby of the group.

“I couldn’t really hang out with the lads and couldn’t really go out to pubs and stuff. But be that as it were I got to spend a lot of time studying. I got to finish my studies, so when they all went out to the pubs and the clubs I’d stay at home and I’d be doing schoolwork still.”

That hard work has paid off. Having just launched his solo career, tickets for Sykes’ first U.S. show sold out in less than ten minutes, and the buzz is already deafening around his debut album, which he just finished recording.

It seems that, if a solid foundation is the bellwether of a sky-scraping career, we must create a few laws to maintain order, so what laws would Sykes put in his newly formed pop city?

“I’d make it a law that everyone has to be happy all the time. [Laughs]”

And what would the punishment be if they weren’t?

“They’d have to sit and watch endless videos of puppies. If that doesn’t make you happy I don’t know what will."

Photographer: Olivia Malone for brudgesmackinney.com.

Stylist: Sean Knight for Jedroot.com.

Groomer: Natalia Bruschi for Thewallgroup.com.

Photography Assistant: Thomas Slack and Taylor Rainbolt.