Nick Hissom on the UPenn campus, 50 years after his stepfather, Steve Wynn, graduated from the university.
Studying at an Ivy League institution like the University of Pennsylvania is challenging even for the brightest of students. Now imagine balancing classes with your other full-time gig: walking the runways at New York Fashion Week. Such was Nick Hissom’s auspicious introduction to adulthood four years ago.
Now 21, the former Tommy Hilfiger model has since traded turns on the runway for turntables. His first single, “If I Die Young,” is an upbeat dance track that’s already receiving heavy airplay at nightclubs around the world. “I want to make songs that make people feel good,” Hissom says. “A mom and daughter could listen to them in the car on the way to school. Or you hear them at a rave with all of your friends. They’re totally versatile and always uplifting and edgy.”
Recorded with the expert guiding hand of producer Mick Schultz, the song may mark Hissom’s first solo foray into the world of dance music, but he’s certainly no industry neophyte. In May, he partnered with the lauded DJ/production duo Manufactured Superstars to sing vocals on the track “Killin’ Tonight.” The music video was studded with cameos from marquee dance-music names like Tiësto and Afrojack.
Adding to the stress of recording the song and shooting the video, however, was a problem with which every college student is familiar: finals. “I had to get special permission not to take my exams at Penn,” Hissom says with a laugh. “I flew to Denver, recorded the song, then flew to Vegas and kept doing exams that week.”
But multitasking is a specialty of the handsome, dark-haired Hissom. He was first scouted as a model at age 17 on Facebook, and only months later he was commuting back and forth between Penn and the catwalks of New York. “It was crazy being at school and having my first week coincide with my first-ever Fashion Week,” he says. Hissom isn’t one to shy away from pressure, however. Even with his burgeoning music career, the senior—majoring in history with a minor in anthropology—is still carrying a full course load.
“Penn has a very good history department,” he says about what attracted him to the university. “It was the last school I looked at but the first school I really fell in love with.” Hissom’s stepfather, hotel magnate Steve Wynn, is an alumnus and was very supportive of his stepson following in his footsteps.
But when Hissom graduates this spring, he’ll put the books away to focus fully on being a musician. For now, he’s hoping to release an album early in 2014. And after that? “In five years I want to be on at least my fourth or fifth album,” he says. “I could make music forever. I would never get tired of doing that.”