Chelsey Forbes, Class of 2017
The city of Forty Fort, Penn. is quiet. Soundless, if you will. With deep American Revolution roots, it’s population of approximately 4,500 enjoy The Beer Deli, a popular, greasy lunch spot where the average age of their customer is 55, and The Strange and Unusual, an oddities parlor that carries an array of items including taxidermy and porcelain busts. Forty Fort is conservative, hard-working, friendly and blue-collar. According to the latest census by suburbanstats.org, 96% of its population is Caucasian. It is white America at its best.
Nick McGuiness is from Forty Fort. He is a reserved and gentle man, driven and compassionate. Although these are fairly generic qualities, his friends and family describe him as such with firm conviction, and have stories about Nick that make you feel as if you have known him for years, or at least wish you did, so that you could personally share knowing someone like him with others. Nick’s path is a cross between the small town, good-natured boy hero of Matt Damon, and will subsequently lead to the equally if not more calm, cool, and collected success of Jimmy Buffet.
As a child, Nick had a creative and vivid imagination. His mother still keeps his early work, collections of stories, poems, and drawings, including a comic book series about a family of aliens living in the suburbs. At a young age, Nick attended the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show in New York City with his parents and grandmother. It was at this show that he realized the energy and hope in dreams of the city were what he wanted to feel for the rest of his life. At 12, Nick learned how to play the guitar after receiving a long-awaited Fender Stratocaster for Christmas. Rob McGuiness, Nick’s younger brother, describes this Christmas as one to remember.
“The story is a perfect example of the kind of person that Nick was and still is to this day. My parents had given my brother and I bicycles and other large presents that Christmas. Nick was opening box after box of socks and underwear, every kid’s dream present.
Nick opened each gift with absolute gratitude and was happy that he was receiving anything at all. When my parents left a note in his stocking saying that they ‘hoped all of his dreams would come true,’ you could see the spark in his eyes. It was then that my dad walked out with the guitar that Nick had long been asking for and it was at that moment that Nick truly knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.”
Nick’s cousin, JC Blewitt, agrees with this sentiment.
“After he got the guitar [and started writing songs], Nick came out of his shell. He became a risk taker and the life of the party, never feared rejection, and took the road less traveled. At a certain point, I had to ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my cousin Nick?”
Longtime friend Dominick Paraschak says that music was constantly on Nick’s mind. “Ever since I first met Nick back in our freshman year of high-school, music talk was always going on. Whether it was a suggestion to check out a new album, setting up a weekend concert trip, or him having to defend the lyrics and artistry of his beloved John Lennon and The Beatles to my ‘most overrated bands of all time’ list- it was always music.”
Then, at 16, Nick began to feel down and out, as most teenagers occasionally do.
“I felt that my sadness was worse, because it never went away,” says Nick. Music helped me tap into a side of myself that I couldn’t express in any other way. I could write songs about feeling empty and it helped me cope with the world.”
At 18, Nick was clinically diagnosed as depressed, and began therapy and medication. He went to college, first persevering through two years of community schooling, then attending a Pennsylvania state school.
“He played water polo, but was most passionate about the midnight hour sets he and his bands would play at local hot spots on campus. The music fueled his desire to attain his degree and get to the next step in his life,” says Blewitt.
11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18, and 30% of college students have reported feeling depressed, which disrupted their ability to function in school, according to a recent article published by the Huffington Post.
After graduating in 2009, McGuiness moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he knew he would be able to put his marketing degree to good use, just 15 minutes outside of New York. While his corporate career began to takeoff, the real reason for Nick’s big move was to advance his music career, and his friends and family all knew it.
“He juggled both acts for many years, building himself up on both professional fronts. He was promoted multiple times, given travel opportunities, and climbed the corporate ladder. However, when he realized that his day job was interfering with his true dream in music, he quit, says Blewitt.
Considered a crucial move seen as both courageous and risky by his friends and family, Nick credits his depression as a factor in choosing to leave his 9 to 5.
“After I started to get better with the help of therapy and new medication, I realized that I needed to make a change or I wouldn’t be able to grow and move on. I was terrified that would lead me back to being hospitalized from my depression, which was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. I made the decision to quit my lucrative job and start fresh. I was going to pursue my dreams, because acting and performing my songs was what made me happiest. I got a job serving tables to make ends meet, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Rob shares, “When he quit his job a few years back and said that he wanted to pursue his career in music and acting, my parents nearly had strokes. We could not understand why he wanted to leave a good paying job with great benefits to pursue the very difficult career of acting and music.”
Last winter, Nick debuted a sold out show of a play that he wrote, directed, and starred in called ‘Will of Man.’ It was at this show that a moment of clarity was established by both Nick’s friends and family, as well as himself. At this show, his dreams became a reality. “I wasn’t a millionaire, or on the cover of some big magazine, but I had followed through in pursuing my dreams, and was making it work. There’s something freeing about knowing where you want to end up, but it comes with its own, unique obstacles,” he says.
“I have come off of my meds only once, only to find myself in a hospital bed staring at a blank ceiling being asked by a specialist if I thought I’d ‘be of danger to myself’, which is when I knew what I had wasn’t something that was going to pass, I’d have to live with it and make do. Depression has helped me with putting things into perspective. When I’m at my worst, the idea of getting through the day seems like an achievement. The obstacles of my day to day life that seemed like 50-foot high walls, start to look like seven inch speed bumps when I start to get better, and I think that’s helped me along. Escaping my thoughts through creativity has been my saving grace,” says Nick.
Jim Kivlen, college pal, says that without the music, there would be no Nick. “If Nick isn’t somehow trying to connect artistically, in the same way that he felt connected to music all his life, I don’t know if he can survive. And that’s a beautiful fucking thing.”
Nick is a Bloomsburg University graduate, a Hoboken resident, a traveler, an ex-corporate salesman, a server in a few restaurants, an actor, and a musician. In less than a month, he will give a speech as best man at his cousin, JC’s wedding. He also suffers from depression. He is a jack of all trades.
Nick McGuiness’s music is available under ‘Nick McGuiness’ on Spotify, as well as iTunes. His full-length album will be out this summer.
Huffington Post article cited: