Tonight, January 25, Nicole Atkins and the Sea headline the Bowery Ballroom. It is already sold out.
Bigger version after the jump
Possibly 4th Street
Episode Nine, Part One
Nicole Atkins and the Sea
Text and photos by Rob Trucks
No matter how much we’re tempted to romanticize, the major-label musician’s road is not all champagne, rosebuds and chatting up Slash backstage at Letterman. No, sometimes along the way there are obstacles like multiple moves (including nights on nasty mattresses) and trying to hold down a job without losing sight of your dream. And sometimes you get by with a little help from your friends. So while Nicole Atkins has danced with Lenny Kaye and downed tequila shots with Bruce Springsteen, if her music career has a guardian angel it’s very likely an Upper West Side entrepreneur by the name of Gustavo Szulansky.
On the last Thursday in November (not Thanksgiving, but the week after) we’re in Gustavo’s neighborhood. And though we’ve been in dog runs and back alleys, this is our strangest location yet. On the Upper West Side, on the second floor of a building, with fake Astro-Turf below and some glaringly harsh florescent lights above, we’re surrounded by a swarm of orange-shirted preschoolers, boys and girls, the tallest just about belt-high, and they’re chasing silver soccer balls. That is, when they’re not wondering what we're doing in the middle of their indoor field.
We’re here because of Gustavo, of course. I don’t know who’s doing who a favor – Gustavo for Nicole (again), or Nicole for Gustavo - but this is his all-ages, year-round, indoor soccer camp that started in his basement almost eight years ago.
“I met Gustavo at one of my shows,” says Nicole. “He came out to Piano’s during our residency, and after the show he gives me his card and he’s like, If you ever need anything, just call me. And I look at the card and I’m like, 'Super Soccer Stars?' Yeah, I’ll call you if I need soccer lessons.”
But Gustavo and his wife didn’t lose touch with the aspiring singer-songwriter. They took Nicole to lunch, for example, decided she needed a website and had one created for her.
And when Nicole found herself working long hours as a graphic designer for the smaller salary of a receptionist, Gustavo and his wife gave her a job.
“They were like, If you need work, you can work here. And since you’re getting courted by labels you can work here one day a week or you can work here seven, whatever you need.
“It was like really at a time when I really needed it. Like when I was super broke and getting fired from pretty much every restaurant in Manhattan. It really happened at the right time.”
And though Nicole has since moved back to New Jersey (Asbury Park, to be specific) and no longer puts in hours at Super Soccer Stars, that doesn’t mean the end of a relationship. Not at all. As she and three-fourths of the Sea stand in the middle of an indoor soccer field within a traffic circle of confused five-year-olds, at the end of the floor, behind some impressive netting, Gustavo Szulansky beams.
photo by Rob Trucks