Renowned songwriter Gary Nicholson isn't based in Austin, but it often seems like he is, given how often he turns up around town at classic local venues such as Antone's and the Saxon Pub. He's also worked with many of our city's most prominent artists. (That great song about Merle Haggard on a recent Willie Nelson album? Nicholson wrote it.)
A native Texan who was raised in the Dallas area and attended the University of North Texas before joining Delbert McClinton's band, Nicholson moved to Nashville in 1980 and played guitar with Guy Clark and Bobby Bare before becoming established as a premier songwriter himself. Chart-toppers for the likes of Don Williams and Vince Gill led to work with an amazing array of artists, from Ringo Starr to B.B. King to Waylon Jennings to Buddy Guy to Bonnie Raitt.
» RELATED: Ringo Starr talks about working with Gary Nicholson
His recent Austin appearances often have been in the form of his alter ego, Whitey Johnson, a persona Nicholson created many years ago to dig deeper into the blues/R&B side of his music. Houston label Blue Corn Records is taking the unusual step of simultaneously releasing Nicholson's "The Great Divide" and Johnson's "More Days Like This" on June 7.
"The Great Divide" is more country-folk in style and substance, notable largely for the sociopolitical themes of songs such as "Immigrant Nation," "Trickle Down" and "The Troubles." The bluesier "More Days Like This" includes Nicholson's own versions of songs he co-wrote for other artists, including Buddy Guy's "Skin Deep" and the legendary Arthur Alexander's "If It's Really Gotta Be This Way."
We're premiering a song from each album on Austin360 today. First, here's the title track to "The Great Divide":
And here's "Soulshine" from Whitey Johnson's "More Days Like This":
Nicholson's next Austin appearances — both as Whitey Johnson — are June 22 at C-Boy's and June 24 at Antone's.