Nick Hissom plays a game that he made up himself. It’s called I’m Not Telling You Who I Am.
The game’s champion is Hissom. The game’s lone rule is he is not going to tell you who he is.
How it works: Let’s say you are a major figure in the recording industry, a big-name music producer or record-label executive, and you are in a meeting with Hissom. The point of this conversation is a possible collaboration with the young entertainer.
At one point, you might say, “We have an idea to do a video, something cool like Red Bull did at Wynn Las Vegas.”
And Hissom will nod and say something like, “Oh? That sounds very cool!” without telling you who he is.
Time passes, maybe a day, and suddenly you find some interesting information on the Internet about Nick Hissom: He’s the stepson of Steve Wynn.
“Usually, they find out after I leave, and then they Google me,” Hissom says during a breakfast-time interview at Tableau restaurant at — naturally — Wynn Las Vegas. “That’s when everyone figures it out.”
But by then, it’s too late. Hissom has won. That episode did actually play out, too. That Wynn-Red Bull event was referenced by a publicist with Glassnote Records, who was clearly interested in Hissom for his singing and writing acumen and his general marketability.
The Google search was after, not before, the meeting.
“You just sort of go with it,” Hissom says, grinning.
It’s a delicate dance for Hissom, who is grateful for his family’s support but yearns to make it on his own. He also happens to be a Tommy Hilfiger fashion model, world-traveled Ivy League student and a member of one of the more dynamic families on the planet.
Hissom is the son of Andrea Wynn (formerly Hissom), from her first marriage to Robert Hissom. When Andrea and Steve Wynn married two years ago, Nick became a member of Las Vegas royalty.
But as he says, “My family is obviously very supportive in every way, but in terms of using them to do certain things, I really don’t.”
Hissom is, individually, already a regal sort, which is why he’s not too eager to flash family photos during business meetings. Hissom is a highly proficient, highly motivated (read: creatively hungry) composer and recording artist who is releasing a new single today, three days before he turns 21.
The song is called “If I Die Young” and is available right now on iTunes. Hissom is planning a formal release party at Tryst at (naturally) Wynn Las Vegas on July 4. The holiday and party conveniently land on Hissom’s 21st birthday.
“It’s just very interesting timing for the song,” Hissom says. “It just so happens that I recorded the song in May and took until to July to get it done.”
The development of “If I Die Young” was boosted by the single and video Hissom recorded in May 2012, the dance track “Killin’ Tonight.” That release party also was at Tryst, and the outdoor video performance featured the DJ duo who recorded the song with Hissom, Manufactured Superstars. Kenny Ortega directed the video of Hissom cutting loose in Hilfiger gear and a pair of sneakers he designed with neon-like, flashing soles.
The new song is produced by studio wunderkind Mick Shultz, who has sold 9 million records at the wizened age of 24. The song is quick apace, the sort of dance track you’d regularly hear at a club like, well, Tryst. But Hissom takes an approach that can be appreciated by an artist twice his age.
“It’s a party anthem, but it’s also a little bit of reflection, and it’s vocals — what I think about dance music is that a lot of the vocalists get lost in all the noise,” he says. “I want to change that. The vocalists get no credit, no face time, and that I don’t like.”
The song’s title is a little unsettling, at first blush, particularly coming from a guy just shy of turning 21.
“It’s very coming of age, and I feel it’s a common theme for anyone who is coming of age and is interested in celebrating life,” Hissom says. “You get to a point where you stop and think: You go to college, grow up, share all of these experiences with these new people in a new place, and I want to write about that. … I want to be immersed in that place.”
Hissom is entering his senior year at Penn, a history major with a minor in anthropology, owing to his curiosity about varying cultures. His brain whirrs nonstop; he’s been known to send emails at 4 a.m. talking of music beats or marketing schemes.
“I am after a universal sound and a universal vibe,” he says. “Like what Black Eyed Peas did with ‘Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night,’ ” he says. “When you hear that song, no matter how old you are or where you are in your life, it’s going to be a good vibe. That’s what this song is going to be all about. ‘If I Die Young’ is to emulate that carefree vibe.”
Hissom regularly talks of quality over connections. When you are cut from such impressive lineage, it’s a noble philosophy.
“My philosophy is that you can be the most connected person on Earth, but if you can’t sing, you’re not getting a deal,” he says, leaning forward so he’s pressing against the table. “You know what I’m saying? No one wants to work with you. It really doesn’t matter how famous or wealthy you are because at the end of the day, it’s a business. If you can’t sing well enough to sell music …”
And the sentence gently fades out. Sort of like a hit single.