On the surface, the change Tom Nichols made a year and a half ago in his career might not seem like such a departure from the work he was doing before. He’s still serving charitable organizations, this time devoting his efforts to the Choice Hotels music benefit initiative instead of environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. But instead of crunching numbers as a finance officer, as he had for the past 25 years, Nichols is using his musical talents to make a difference.
Nichols has been producing music for Choice Hotels, collaborating with musicians like Aynsley Dunbar of Journey and Randall Hall of Lynyrd Skynyrd to record songs for charity. When a song is downloaded from their website, Choice Hotels makes a donation to a given charity. Those who have benefited from the program in the past include Operation Smile and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
Nichols, a singer-songwriter in his own right, is the featured artist on the website currently, and from now until Nov. 13, when listeners download the title track off of his upcoming debut album “Trust,” a dollar will be donated to the It Gets Better Project. The organization seeks to prevent suicide amongst LGBT youth.
Nichols was inspired to partner with the organization after the death of his nephew two years ago after a long struggle with drug addiction.
“Even though my nephew was not a gay youth and didn’t die directly from being bullied, I do know that part of his path was that he couldn’t see a future, and that is exactly what the It Gets Better Project is all about,” Nichols said. “It’s that it gets better, and that there is a future for them.”
Not only will downloads of Nichols’ song benefit the organization, but proceeds from his concert will also go to the charity.
On Nov. 1, Nichols will be the headlining act of a star-studded evening of song featuring about 20 different musicians and singers – including, as a special guest, the Potomac Fever group from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., after a 6:30 p.m. VIP reception, at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, 1611 N. Kent St., Arlington.
The concert will also serve as a record release for the long-time performer and first-time recording artist. The 10-song collection is the product of years spent writing and performing as a hobby. His style, an acoustic and pop-infused folk/country blend, bolsters the three simple, universal themes he hopes to convey with his lyrically focused songs: Hopes, dreams and love. He also gets a little help from some fellow Washington, D.C. area musicians on the album like Dan Chadburn, Holly Montgomery and Peter Fox (all of whom he has also worked for as a producer).
“Going through this project as my own producer of my own songs, I’ve learned so much about what artists go through and I think that it is going to benefit me so much working with other artists going forward,” Nichols said. “Until you’ve walked their path, you don’t feel the depth of how they feel about their music and how it is expressed.”
Though writing and performing music has been a part of his life for quite some time, Nichols says it feels different now that he has committed himself full-time to a musical career.
“It felt like it was what I was called to do,” Nichols said, reflecting upon a live videotaped performance of “Every Now and Then,” a song written for his 30th high school reunion. It was his first official performance after deciding to become a career musician. “There have been many performances over the years, but that was the moment that I said this is what I am supposed to be doing for as long as I can. That one felt special.”
• For more information about Tom Nichols, visit tomnicholsmusic.com.