Fifteen-year-old boys can be awkward, gawky creatures. But not Nick Chatham. Sporting a graphic black T-shirt and seated outside a Lakewood café, he’s the picture of confident and cool. His peers know this M Streets neighbor for his gospel-inspired songs, like “God Was There.” Chatham’s budding career found him sharing the stage with Lou Diamond Phillips, performing at churches, and most recently staging a benefit concert at Lakewood Theater for Empower Your Future, a local youth outreach program. All that seems precocious for a kid. But Chatham says he keeps it all in perspective and is more worried about making the grade as a Woodrow freshman than making music.
How’d you get interested in music?
I started playing the piano when I was very little. I just took it right away. And I think I wrote my first song when I was about 5. The singing came in later, when I was older, like 10.
What kind of music are you into?
I like gospel, soul, R&B and funk.
That’s a pretty mature music taste. What do you attribute that to?
My dad. That’s what I was raised listening to.
A few years ago you played one of the sons in “The King and I” at the Bass Performance Hall with Lou Diamond Phillips. What was it like working with him?
I thought he might be a prima donna because he’s famous, but he’s actually a very cool guy and works really well with kids. It was a lot of fun working with him.
I understand you’ve written a few of your own songs. What inspires you to write lyrics?
I write about what goes on in my school — all the dark stuff. I feel like that’s what all the kids can relate to. But I try and make that into something positive. It might sound strange to say, but if I wasn’t in the school environment that I’m in, I don’t think my music would be the same. I think the dark stuff I see actually adds to my music.
Most 15 year-olds don’t have a fan base. What’s that like? And how do keep it from inflating your ego?
It’s pretty cool because I don’t expect other people to even listen to my music, and I especially don’t expect them to give me feedback. And as far as it going to my head, my music is more to exalt God than myself.
I hear you’re pretty popular with the ladies. Any truth to that and is it welcome attention?
Yeah, I get a lot of random phone calls and e-mails. It’s more annoying than anything.
So, what’s next?
High school — and I’d like to keep writing songs, just making music.
Find more information about Nick Chatham online or download some of his songs from iTunes.