Dedicated rocker, Willie Nile, is a native of New York but not the part of the Empire State that nearly everyone first thinks of when told someone is from there. However, hailing from Buffalo, NY, one would believe after hearing a single verse of Nile’s newest song, that the songwriter and guitarist is as born and raised a New York City resident as Johnny Ramone or Anthony Bourdain. Premiering today on American Songwriter, “New York at Night’” is the title track off Nile’s forthcoming full-length, his 13th album to date, that’s due for release on May 15, 2020.
Straight off the first kick drum downbeat, followed by the reliable snap from a pair of off-beat snare hits, Nile wastes no time instilling a vibrant mood to boost the music’s rhythmic momentum.
There’s a hound dog howlin’ on 53rd and Park
There’s a cop car prowlin’ in the 80s after dark
There’s a headlight blinkin’ on 42nd street
There’s a party going on you can hear the heartbeat
of New York at night
The production on the track leaves just enough natural quality and bits of human character – like letting guitar strings resonate, allowing the plentiful group background vocals to blend over each other, and incorporating human handclaps over digital 808s – that the overall sound seems to hark back to the animated, sometimes messy, but community-oriented spirit of New York City in the 1970s. Coincidentally enough, that’s also the decade when Nile moved downstate to the Big Apple.
There’s a rave goin’ down on the Upper West Side
There’s a taxi uptown that’ll take you for a ride
It’s technicolor in black in white
When you’re out on the streets of the city at night
“The title song of the album was inspired by a true story. One Friday night I was getting on a subway near Times Square and as I got closer to the car door I saw a can of whipped cream by a man’s foot. As I entered, I realized that his legs were totally covered in whipped cream, from the top of his thighs to the tip of his shoes. I didn’t see his upper body and just took a seat at the other end of the car,” says Nile.
He continues, “As I came upstairs at West 4th Street from the underground world and passed by all the strangers, wanderers, tourists, homeless people, rich, poor and everything in between, it struck me how unique and strangely beautiful a New York City night could be. The title came to me as I walked home and when I got there I picked up my guitar and wrote the song. New York is a world all it’s own and I figured it would be a fitting title for the album. The album itself is like looking at the world through the keyhole of New York City.”
The enthusiastic energy of “New York at Night” really aims to celebrate the unpredictable and exciting air of the city – both for those who have long called it home and those who think about it from afar. “New York City has always inspired me. I’ve lived in Greenwich Village for many years now and love being there. The energy, the grit, the action, and the mystery of it all fills my heart with wonder,” Nile says.
The song sounds the way a fun-filled postcard reads and, given how the burst of creativity to write the music first hit him, it’s clear Nile’s initial idea translated flawlessly from his mind to the studio, not only conveying his city experience but drawing outsiders into its bottomless well of unforgettable tales.