Nick Hexum Is A Rad Dad: 311 Singer Talks Producing His Daughters, Band’s Next Album & Jamming With A Legend - Part 2

The platinum-selling singer and former platinum blonde opened up about touring with the Offspring, his band's longevity and the joy of recording his daughters performing.

Nick Hexum, 311
Jeff Daly / Invision/AP Images

The platinum-selling singer and former platinum blonde opened up about touring with the Offspring, his band's longevity and the joy of recording his daughters performing.

KT: Switching gears for a second, I hear you’re actually working with a young and talented, all-girl group these days. You apparently produced their demo ‘We Be Lookin’ Like Yeah!’ What was the name of that group…. the …. Hexum Sisters?

NH: Yeah, I think you’re pronouncing it right…

KT: How did you come to work with them?

NH: Oh, there were just so many producers in line, I just got lucky to get the gig.

KT: But seriously, what was it like for you, as a father, to work with your three girls?

NH: It really just started from ‘Daddy, can we come to the studio with you?’ And they would come and just start playing with the instruments. So I’ve always just encouraged that, because my dad encouraged my… well, both of my parents encouraged my music so much, but my father even more so by getting me the musical instruments that I dreamed of, so I just keep that going because it’s something that we can do together.

And then, one day, me and Maxine were…. It started out that I was wearing a shirt, this weird, orange workout shirt that I got for when I ran up the Empire State Building, and I had another one and she put it on and it’s, like, as big as a dress on her. And she goes ‘People are gonna look at us like ‘Whaaat?” and I was like, ‘And we’ll be lookin’ like ‘Yeaaaaah.” So the chorus of the song just kinda came out of this little exchange me and Maxine had, and I was like, ‘Max, that could be a song! ‘We be lookin’ like yeah. They be lookin’ like what? We be lookin’ like yeah.”

And we just started saying it, I was like, ‘We gotta record that.’ So I sang it into my phone, we did it together and then, on Sunday funday, just a family day, I was like, ‘Let’s go record that song, what do you say?’ They were so excited. It started out with just a quick little verse that we wrote together, and just a 50-second version, was just a verse and chorus. And then after we had that for a while, they were like ‘Can we please make it into a complete song?’ I was like, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’ And the song was born.

They’re so into watching kids on YouTube and stuff. We limit the amount of time they do that, but they see other kids rap and sing on YouTube and they wanted to do that so I figured that would be something I’d be asking for at their age, and my parents encouraged me, so I might as well facilitate that for them. It turned out to be a lot of fun.

KT: These days, careers are launched on YouTube.

NH: Yeah, y’know, when 311 started out in the early ’90s, going viral took a heck of a lot longer because it was just people passing cassettes around, but that was still what we did. And I’m sure, if YouTube had existed at the time, we would have been using that as a medium.

So it’s all just part of the evolution of technology and music. I think it’s great that there’s so much democratization of culture, whereas, before, you really had to get a major label deal and for certain outsiders…

We got passed up on by various labels in the early days and then we just took a grassroots approach. ‘We’re like, We’re gonna sell our cassettes at shows, we’re going to peddle them to the record stores on consignment and our fans will go in there and look for them.’ So we took matters into our own hands, because this kind-of hybrid music band out of Omaha was not, you know… there were no bidding wars going on for us.

It wasn’t until we proved that we could have sales on our own, through our own hard work, that a record label was like ‘Wow, you guys are doing all this on your own.’

When they signed us, it maybe wasn’t because they loved our music, maybe it was because of the business we had already achieved on our own. So it’s great to see that, now, anybody can… there are no more gatekeepers like there once were, so that’s one of the big pluses of technology. Of course there’s piracy, but I would say there are more pros than cons surrounding the technology.

KT: Did that have something to do with the endurance of your lineup? These five guys, sweating it out, grinding away, doing all the hard work before this YouTube/online career jump was ever possible?

NH: I think so. And also, just a couple pivotal moments. We decided to load up our meager possessions and move to Los Angeles together in 1992 and that was just that, sort of, big test of everybody’s commitment.

And then, a year later when we were on our first tour, we had an RV fire and we lost all of our possessions, our instruments, our clothes — everything — and had to completely start over, that was another [moment]; ‘You know what? All we really need is the songs in our head and each other and we can make it through anything.’

So those were, kind of, those ultimate bonding moments that may have led to our longevity.

KT: Another comment on the differing eras is that if a young band went through that now, they could just go on GoFundMe and probably have everything back within the next couple of hours.

NH: Probably.

nick hexum, 311, Reggae on the Rocks, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Nick Hexum performs with 311 at Reggae on the Rocks on August 27, 2016. Rick Scuteri / Invision/AP Images

NH: As far as studio work, you served as a producer on a couple of Seal albums and the ’50 First Dates’ soundtrack. Contrast that with working with your girls. Do they play?

NH: My oldest daughter, Echo, is just a prodigy on a bunch of instruments. Her main thing is piano and she does recitals and takes it seriously. But she also can play a pretty mean drumbeat and plays in the school rock band program, which, that’s so cool that there’s a school rock band program and they’re out there playing songs from Imagine Dragons. Actually they just won a battle of the bands where they performed an original song and now they get to go record the song — like, this coming weekend — at the Village Recording Studio, which is a very famous old-school studio in West L.A. And then Maxine, my middle daughter, is more of the hip-hop culture. She has just such a gift — the gift of gab — and just says the craziest things and has that kind-of rapper delivery, even though she’s 7-years-old. And then there’s Harlow, the baby of the bunch. She’s 3 and just ridiculously cute.

I don’t know if they’re interested in music as a career, or whatever, because I think I was pretty well set on it, my parents tell me by the time of the first grade, I was always set on what I was going to do. I just always try to put no pressure and just keep it fun, and just kinda say yes to what they want to do. But, at the same time, if they don’t feel like it, then that’s cool too.

Y’know, this morning, somebody had commented on one of the ‘making of’ the song I did with my daughters, and that’s been… getting to do this, do a song with them, it wasn’t just the output of it, it was the process of it, and getting home videos of it.

My favorite thing is watching the ‘making of’ thing that we did, where I just set up my phone and recorded me recording them doing the vocals. The way Harlow is just so excited being there, it’s very heartwarming. That was one of the funnest, most pleasurable things out of it, me getting those home videos to always be able to look back on

KT: That’s something you’ll have forever. It’ll be interesting to see if they decide to take that same journey in the industry, and that’ll be something you can show off at award shows and embarrass them in the way that only a really good dad can do.

NH: Exactly, we’ll see.

Nick talks about jamming with a legendary performer on the next page.