Nik Clovsky is an ordinary guy. The Marysville resident coaches children at Everett High School and works at the Washington State Bureau of Juvenile Justice. He is well known in his community and not so much elsewhere.
But as a young bassist in Seattle’s grunge scene in the ’90s, Clovsky had no idea he wasn’t famous.
His band, Vain Mistress, made as much noise as they could and played wherever they could. Wearing long hair and sleeveless flannel shirts over band t-shirts, Clovsky and his bandmates went from hall to hall, amps and drums dangling from the windows of their combine cars, carrying their gear on stage. They electrified crowds with relentless beats and power chords that could blow out windows.
Vain Mistress was part of a movement that galvanized the Seattle music scene, where famous artists like Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder got their start. The bands often dissolved as quickly as they formed.
Seattle concert halls were filled every night with a sea of slam-dancing bodies, ripped jeans, unwashed hair and dizzying dives.
Vain Mistress performed at local haunts like The Crocodile Cafe, where Clovsky once attempted an impromptu backflip into a packed crowd. As if choreographed, the crowd dissipated just as Clovsky jumped up and crashed to the ground, causing a concussion.
“Hey, this had worked many times before,” Clovsky said, like a kid doing it again.
He stood up from his failed stage jump, laughed it off, and ended the show. The rush to transfer electricity between his group and the crowd was worth more than money could buy.
But after six years, Vain Mistress disbanded due to tension between the members, and Clovsky found himself with the reality that countless musicians ultimately face: he had to find a better-paying job and with that, quit. his dream of becoming a full-time rocker. .
He spent the next decades raising a family and helping people in the community. He has coached and worked with paroled teenagers in Everett for the past 22 years.
“Those club days were fun, but they’re long gone,” Clovsky said. “I’m excited about what I’m doing now.”
Clovsky has always played guitar, but time has changed what music has given him.
“Today it’s about musicality over fame and connection over intensity,” he said.
Music now brings him comfort. He can find the most effective therapy by spending hours with a guitar.
Clovsky started performing live again, for fun.
For a time, Clovsky performed for the creative release it gave him, then moved on to writing original music. He still loves rock, but the blues giants are what inspired him to continue his journey of producing authentic, stripped down music. Early influences like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath gave way to Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
He wrote five songs and recorded them with what he had: nothing expensive or technical. He played blues with an acoustic guitar and sang raw vocals. Clovsky had no intention of recording an album.
Then he attended a jam session under a gazebo at his aunt Nancy Miller’s house in Marysville, where he met Tony N, a local producer who owns a recording studio in Arlington. The pair instantly bonded over songwriting.
“It happened so fast,” Clovsky recalled. “The next thing I knew was we hopped into the studio.”
He worked nights and weekends to create a full album. Produced by Tony N, Clovsky’s 11-song disc, Wooden Music, was released online in January. The acoustic album has its roots in the blues, with elements of rock and Americana. A variety of upbeat and slower, more thoughtful songs help ground the album.
Wooden Music was a transition to Clovsky’s more melodic approach to music, as well as his journey from a young rocker to singing the blues.
His new album is “like a road trip from the Mississippi Delta to Jacksonville. Bluesy with southern rock and outlaw country,” said former Clovsky bandmate Jack Rothwell.
He’s playing his new music in local venues this summer.
“If you’re an artistically creative person and you feel like you’re not creating what you want at work, you should create something with the time you have,” Clovsky said. “You just have to take the time to do it.”
Wooden Music is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. For more information, visit nikclovsky.com.
Kel Wilson is a freelance writer living in Everett and a juvenile counselor for Washington State.
North Shore Washington Magazine
This article is featured in the summer issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement to the Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue costs $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or visit www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.