Nax (Xander Stok) has been a recording musician for over twenty years. Ex-lead singer/guitarist and songwriter of ‘The New Shining’, known for their radio hit ‘Can’t Make Up My Mind‘.
Starting out as a songwriter and lead guitarist in a metal band, Nax founded the heavy rock band ‘The New Shining’ in 2008. That band, which saw him successfully taking care of guitar ánd lead vocals this time, went on to achieve stellar commercial and artistic success. The band’s songs became instant radio favourites, and The New Shining embarked on an (inter)national tour, securing a three-year stint as support act for the legendary Golden Earring. Success, however, proved to have taken its toll on the lead singer/guitarist, resulting in a mental breakdown in 2010.
During the following two years, the lead singer struggled with his inner demons, of which depression and a sense of “not feeling at home” were the most prominent. This struggle eventually culminated in the double album Stripped/Full Circle, which featured twenty-five songs, fifteen of which were intimate acoustic numbers that saw the singer bare his soul with ruthlessly incisive, highly personal lyrics.
“Most beautiful song of 2012”
A rollercoaster ride ensued. Stripped, the acoustic album, became ‘Album of the Week’ at national radio stations 3FM, Radio 2 and Radio 1, and the record received nominations for three Edison and two radio awards. The single ‘Can’t Make Up My Mind’ climbed the Dutch rock charts (Mega Top 50) and stayed there for weeks. It was also voted “Most beautiful song of 2012” by Radio 2, entering that station’s all-time greatest hits Top 2000 chart in the same year. The band frequently performed live on national radio and on the Netherlands’ most popular prime-time television programme (DWDD). The New Shining also sold out two consecutive club tours and played the big festivals.
In spite of The New Shining’s success, and after more than two decades of playing in bands, Nax felt it was time to start exploring new artistic horizons.
Continues as solo-artist
In the Spring of 2014, after a period of lengthy and thorough deliberation, he decided to continue as a solo artist. In search of contemplation and tranquillity, he retreated into his own studio for three years, and – purely out of necessity – decided to not just write all the songs, but also take it upon himself to play all the instruments. He would also end up recording, mixing and producing everything.
“This may well have been the most intense and loneliest period of my life, but also the most inspiring! Many of the recordings were made at night, mainly to avoid ambient noise from a nearby highway, and more often than not I would continue until dawn, when the birds began to sing.”
“It has to be real, otherwise it’s just noise”
As if being chased by the devil, Nax wrote over two hundred songs, incorporating authentic folk and country influences and infusing those with a feverish blend of psychedelics reminiscent of The Beatles. All this would become part of Nax’s unique and unyielding style characterized by acoustic arpeggios against an epic backdrop of carefully blended sounds, always accompanied by deeply personal, honest and sometimes confronting lyrics. “It has to be real, otherwise it’s just noise.”
Heart, Fire, Home: “sing with your heart, passion and Hiraeth”
From this abundance of compositions, he selected fifteen songs – the ones that best represent the common thread and recurring themes of the album Heart, Fire and Home.
“’Heart’ represents the emotions I experience when writing the songs. Emotion is everything. Don’t think, but play and sing with your heart. ‘Fire’ stands for the passion and the – sometimes foolhardy – ‘do or die’ mentality that defines me. ‘Home’ is a recurring theme in many of my songs, or rather the search for a home. I have never really felt at home in this world and harbour a strong sense of longing for my real home – what the Welsh call ‘Hiraeth.’”
(See short documentary “Finding Home” about the writing and recording process of Heart, Fire, Home.)
Still, Heart, Fire, Home has not become just another melancholy album. There’s room for hope and the courage to dream. It is okay to dream and follow your heart, even if it goes against the grain. “Music is the most powerful medium, a magical medium. The joys of recognition and success pale in comparison to my deep desire to touch people with my songs, to give them courage and even heal them, like music has often done for me and continues to do.”