In Nick Engber’s life, something is missing.
He’s a talented musician in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who can deliver a soulful performance with deep, dark and beautiful songs, and can stand on a stage with a presence that will move you.
He’s an emotional singer with a fervent passion for making music, and that work means a lot to him.
But this love is only part of his life, something he makes time for every now and then. A song here, a performance there.
And it’s simply not enough.
Over the past couple years, Nick has grown — in his talent and in knowing what’s best for him.
And he knows it’s time to take an impassioned leap for a love he truly knows best.
It’s time to make music all of his life, all the time.
“I was born to write and play music,” Nick says. “That’s what I’m best at. It kills me a little bit that it’s not my focus right now.
“But I’m in the process of making it work.”
He begins today.
Everyone starts somewhere
Nick grew up in Rock Valley, Iowa, and graduated in 2009 from Dordt College.
“Then I moved away for a little bit,” he says. He explored music in Chicago then explored seminary in Philadelphia, but neither fit. His family had moved to Sioux Falls by then, and it was calling him, too.
In 2010, he begin working and playing music for First Christian Reformed Church, and he stayed with them for four years.
During this time, he began playing with a band called Amos Slade as well.
“I would play with the band on Saturday nights, and at church on Sunday mornings,” Nick says. “It was two totally different worlds.”
But he worked hard, for the music. The band even released a record in 2013.
“I put a lot of money and a lot of work into that,” Nick says. “It didn’t sell well, but even today, I’m most proud of the Amos Slade record.”
It was a big year for him, because in 2013, Nick also participated in both “American Idol” and on “The Voice.” On “Idol,” he made it to the Hollywood Rounds, and on “The Voice,” he made it to the blind auditions.
He was putting in all the work to fulfill a musical career, but he was never fulfilled. He even tried stepping away from music to pursue other paths, to no avail.
“I’ve tried to do a bunch of things over the past two years that is not music,” Nick says, “but it hasn’t worked.”
Today, Nick performs solo gigs and plays every Sunday morning at Embrace Church. He also plays with a band called Kinfolk Music, a group that rewrites old hymns and hosts hymn sings for the community.
“To me, hymns are the definition of folk songs,” Nick says. “They are common songs to the common people who together and sing together. It’s cool to sing songs that people have been singing for 300 years.”
And he’s been writing a lot, too.
“I love the process of writing,” Nick says. “It blows my mind that you can sit down and work through your thoughts and create something. For me, when I’m writing, I know there is an answer. I know, all the sudden, something will come, and it will be exactly what it needed to be.
“Music is the language of the soul.”
And he’s really beginning to listen.
‘The point is never to arrive’
Of course, Nick knows he could move to Nashville or to a bigger city to pursue a full-time career in music. It’s been suggested to him.
“But I don’t want to.”
Those bigger cities aren’t home, where Nick finds the most inspiration.
“As a songwriter, I think place plays one of the most important roles,” he says. “It’s the weather and the people. The plains are a place to be creative. It feels like you can have bigger ideas here.
“Why would I leave?”
There’s an openness here, an honesty, that influences him. And, in the end, it’s not the bigger cities or the bright lights or the “fame” that music lends itself to that he’s after.
“To me, success in music is just being a musician,” he explains. “It’s not about selling this many records or having this many fans. It’s literally about being able to make music for a living.”
Exactly what he longs for today.
“I have a song I recently wrote that says:
‘The more I seek
The more I find
The point is never to arrive
Just to know we’re headed the right way.’
“And that’s the point. That’s what I’m made to do.”
He’s grown a lot in the past couple years, and he’s grateful to a community that has supported local music and the arts.
“When I was in Amos Slade, the music scene was pretty competitive,” Nick says. “But people are so much more into helping others now. We don’t care what you go see or what you buy, just support local music!”
He’s seen a positive shift in perspective, too.
“It just takes people being positive about Sioux Falls — about the music, about the art, about anything here — and just declaring it good. That goes a long way!”
Ideas for Sioux Falls
Nick is a big part of that optimism — he embraces everything about his little city — but he would love to see more within the music community.
Like a new music venue, perhaps? He would call it The Quarry Club.
To fulfill that ideal of “all music, all the time,” Nick is pursuing the idea of opening a 400 cap music venue in downtown Sioux Falls.
“It’s an opportunity to create a network and a community that we need in Sioux Falls,” he says.
This music venue would bring in national acts that could connect with local acts, but it would also be a home for our local musicians — a place for them to perform as they build a fan base, and then a place to come to after they’ve been on the road.
Nick praises the music venues that currently bring shows to Sioux Falls, but the 400-cap size is significant.
“400 is the perfect size to have a full house but remain intimate,” Nick says. “It’s a venue where you feel like the artist came for you.”
And it needs to be downtown.
“We have one of the coolest downtowns, and it’s only getting started! There’s room for growth.”
He doesn’t have the space yet, but his vision of what The Quarry Club looks like is complete.
The logo would be pink and green, to represent Sioux Falls quartzite and the plains. “And I would love to have quartzite along the bottom of the stage,” Nick says. “I want it to be a place of hometown pride.”
And he wants others to feel the same way. When he talks about this idea, people in the community are definitely supportive, but merely wishing him well in his quest.
“I keep hearing, ‘You should do that! It sounds great!’ And I would really like to inspire, ‘We should do that! How can we do this together?’ ”
He needs a team of support, a group to believe in music as much as he does and to help build the kind of appreciation he knows exists in Sioux Falls.
“I have a vision, I have an idea, and I really believe that this is something we need!”
It’s something Nick needs, too.
It took awhile, but today, his arms are open, and he’s ready to embrace the role that music surely needs to play in his life.
He doesn’t know what that looks like yet, but he’s trying and he’s talking about vulnerable ideas, he’s being patient. And he’s finally listening to his heart.
“I’m going to find a way to have time every day to work on my music,” Nick says.
And he begins today.
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