How Travelling the World Helped Nic Cester Rediscover His Music Mojo
2 Sep 2019
Right now, Nic Cester is a man rejuvenated. He’s living in Milan, working on a film score, playing live shows with Jet again, and writing his second solo album. “I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone and doing things differently,” he says down the phone. “And I couldn’t be happier with the places this attitude has taken me.”
But it wasn’t all plain sailing to get here. Back in 2012, he found himself worn out and uninspired. As the singer, songwriter and guitarist in the colossal rock band Jet, they’d sold more than 6 million records and played some of the biggest stages on the planet. And all of that success had taken its toll.
“I’d started thinking about music in too much of a cerebral way,” explains Cester. “I was too aware of my contemporaries, and feeling too much pressure from myself, my bandmates and my label. All these things had polluted the waters. I needed to start again, rediscover my love for music and bring back some of that naivety that made me do it all in the first place.”
Jet went on hiatus, and within a few months, Cester had absconded to the Jordanian desert with his now-wife, Pia McGeoch. With just a drive and a local guide, they wandered the mountains, rock bridges and sandy highways, staying in tents, hotels and even camping with Bedouins.
“One time we found ourselves at the border, with signs to Iraq and a military checkpoint full of heavily armed dudes. I remember thinking: these guys could just make us disappear if they wanted. It was pretty eye opening stuff… But the desert was also a great place to clear my mind and rebuild.”
Travel became a remedy. After returning to Australia, Cester decided to move his entire life to Berlin, Germany – a place where he knew absolutely nobody and couldn’t speak the language. “It was a fresh start where I had no history and could create my own future,” he says. “I went from touring the world and playing with some of the biggest bands in the world – of which Jet were one for a period – to learning German in a classroom with a bunch of teenagers. It was a humbling experience, and one I relished at the time.”
With its never-ending nightlife and notorious subcultures, Berlin has a reputation as a city for lost souls. But for Cester, it was where he found himself. “[Berlin] helped me answer of a lot of the questions I was asking myself,” he says, “I became happy doing music again.” The period-inspired his debut solo album, Sugar Rush, which dropped in 2018. It was a brave and addictive rock record, that experimented with blues, psychedelia, trip-hop and even a dose of funk.
Cester still hasn’t stopped travelling. As mentioned before, Milan is his latest base, where he has immersed himself in the culture and creative communities. Earlier this year he was asked to write a musical score for a forthcoming film that will explore the dark yet glorious era of Italy in the 50s and 60s – otherwise known as the ‘Dolce Vita’ years. Cester has Italian heritage through his grandparents and says he’s relished the opportunity. “It's a step into the dark,” he says, “but doing all the research and pulling on these threads has been mindblowing.”
And yet despite the dip into cinema and the announcement of Jet live shows across Australia through October, his eye is still firmly fixed on solo album number two. He promises that it will take the ideas of Sugar Rush and push them even further. “There's one song I've been working on which starts off like classic R&B, then gets a bit Sly and the Family Stone, before a chorus that is quite 90s,” he explains. “In essence, I want this next album to stitch whole different worlds together.