Quick Stats: Nick Hexum, vocalist/guitarist, 311
Daily Driver: 2018 Tesla Model 3 (Nick’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Omaha to Canada
Car he learned to drive in: 1979 Toyota Corolla
First car bought: 1969 Lincoln
As 311’s vocalist and guitarist, Nick Hexum has the means to buy any car he wants. In recent years, though, Hexum’s tastes have veered toward what’s best for the environment, so he eagerly bought a Tesla Model 3 last year.
“It’s the performance one, which is [all-wheel drive, dual motor], and it is amazing,” Hexum tells MotorTrend. “I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, of going out and getting the newest thing, almost before the bugs are worked out. I just love gadgets, and for me, I don’t like a really big car. I think a lot of people drive around in cars that are just too big for them.”
Hexum thinks the Model 3 handles as well as the Porsche 911 he used to own. But the Tesla comes with the added benefit that he can drive his whole family in it. “I’ve never heard the wheels screech … you can gun it on a corner, starting out on gravel,” Hexum says. “It’s just crazy the way it tracks.”
Hexum also enjoys being able to turn on Autopilot and Autosteer on freeways and just relax. “I think human error is the cause of accidents a lot,” he says. “So for me … the combination of me and my car paying attention is the safest and most relaxing experience you can have. “He was unsure about taking a long road trip in the Tesla since he’d only ever charged it at home, so when he had to go to Las Cruces, New Mexico, recently, he took it as an opportunity to try out the Supercharger network.
“It was really a fun and easy thing to pull up to a Supercharger, plug in, and just go and stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat and then 30 minutes later, you have 80 percent charge, and you just hop in and off you go,” he says. “I was anxious about it, but it was awesome. I made that long drive, which is basically to El Paso, Texas, a sister city there on the border, in one day with my three daughters in the car with me because we were going to see my wife’s family.”
Hexum’s only dislike about the Tesla actually has nothing to do with the car itself: It’s the company’s stock price. “Tesla’s getting hammered. I just think it’s such a great thing for the environment to get on electric cars,” he says.
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Before he was ready to take the plunge and buy a Tesla, before the Model 3 was out, Hexum had a Ford Fusion plug-in, and he found it to be a pretty slow car. He calls that his “practice car” for the Tesla.
“Now, to have all the performance I’ve ever known, and plus I have solar panels, so I have free electricity, and then to be able to charge the car with that, it feels good because the earth is a high concern to me,” he says. “I love it. I’m a big proponent. In the earlier years of my life, I was more interested in style. My first real car that I bought was a ’69 Lincoln, with suicide doors and gold paint job, and I was all about looking cool and driving a big boat.”
After the Lincoln, and in the years before his eco-friendly cars, Hexum had a slew of sports cars. “I started to understand what performance was, and for a while I was really into high-end luxury sports cars like the Mercedes E 55, Audi S6, BMW M5,” he says. “I loved those cars that were both sports and luxury, and that’s what the Tesla is. It’s better than any of those cars at those same things.”
Car He Learned to Drive in
Hexum grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and his dad bought him a manual-transmission, reddish-orange 1979 Toyota Corolla.
The family cars all had manual transmissions. “Out here in L.A. you’ve got to have automatic because you’re sitting in traffic on hills, so clutching is too much, but in Omaha, we had sticks. In my parents’ car, it was just the normal way. I’ve always been good at them, but I don’t miss it, having automatic cars now,” he says.
Photo: Brian Bowen Smith
Hexum’s dad taught him to drive. “I remember him saying, ‘You’ve got to let up on the clutch slowly, lots of gas.’ Of course, when you’re first driving a stick, you always have that thing where you let out the clutch too fast and don’t get enough gas and it just kills the car, but once you get the feel down, it’s second nature,” he says.
“I was so excited to drive. On my 15th birthday, we went and got my learner’s permit,” Hexum says. “I insisted on driving absolutely everywhere. And then on my 16th birthday, I got my driver’s license and loved my freedom. I would love to go out on the country roads outside of Omaha and drive out to the lake and take my friends. I’ve never really got into any bad accidents or anything.”
His utilitarian Corolla had a rusted-out floorboard with a hole in it, which came in handy in a pinch. “If there was somebody behind us and we had something in our pockets we shouldn’t have, we could drop it through a hole in the floorboard,” Hexum says with a laugh. “You know, a little baggy of something. But I was always very lucky, never got in trouble and came away unscathed.”
First Car Bought
When he got his first record contract at 23, Hexum took his portion and bought the 1969 Lincoln from an older man after seeing it in an ad.
“The Recycler was the Craigslist of its time, the analog version of want ads back then. That’s how I found this guy, and I think I paid $1,500 for this car,” he says. “I always loved the suicide doors and I mentioned that in a few different songs on our early albums. At that time, it was always about having huge subwoofers and driving slow and looking cool.”
Right after he bought the Lincoln, he took it to Circuit City and bought a big subwoofer and 10-disc CD player and put all his hip-hop albums in there. “You could hear me coming a mile away, with the bass thumping. Now I think that’s really annoying, and I wouldn’t disturb the neighbors with my bass anymore,” he says.
But the car needed some work. Although it was already gold, he had it repainted. “But with lots of gold flakes in there, lots of metallic flakes, almost like a lowrider paint job,” he says.
The Lincoln was the band car for a while, because Hexum could fit a lot of gear in the trunk. When he first got the car, they had to go to Denver for a show, and he drove three of his bandmates there, along with some equipment.
“All four tires became flat and had to be replaced, so it was a fairly stressful ride, because I didn’t get new tires,” he says. “I was more interested in making the car look good, so I didn’t get new tires on it when I got the paint job. And then trying to drive it that much, it just got too hot and it blew. So one after another, having to pull over and get a spare and go to the next place, it was pretty stressful.”
But the Lincoln was a source of inspiration in his songs back then. “I would just drop it in there. Just talk about how cool I feel when I’m driving around in my car,” he says.
Hexum had the Lincoln for a few years until it developed an oil leak and the engine caught fire. “I pulled it over and called a tow truck, and I said, ‘This is going to cost too much to fix.’ It was towed for scrap, I pulled out the stereo and let it go, and that’s when I decided to modernize because it was a pain in the butt to keep that thing running.”
Hexum then got a 1997 Infiniti Q45t, but he missed the style of the Lincoln. “Now, out here where I live, there’s just tons of Teslas, and it was nice to have a very unique car that they would wave and give me thumbs up,” he says.
Hexum has also had some classic car moments, recently. “I had a cool experience: For my dad’s 60th birthday, I found an absolutely cherry 1955 Ford Thunderbird. It needed a little bit of work,” he says. “It was very emotional and really cool. He’s taken really good care of it, and he tells me that he’s going to bequeath that back to me one day. My dad is my hero and he loved ’50s style, and my first love of music was Chuck Berry and Elvis, ’50s music.”
When he was a kid, Hexum’s dad taught him the differences between a Chevy, Ford, and other cars. “I could identify them by year because ‘these fins are bigger,’ and so it was always something we talked about. I knew he would never get that for himself, so I got him that Ford T-Bird, and he still has it now, about 15 years later. He added an extra garage space,” Hexum says, laughing. “He can’t keep it outside, in harsh winters.”
Hexum’s birthday gift keeps on giving, as his dad gets noticed in it. “He’s gone to some of the car clubs, and he loves driving it. He put “FROMSON” on the license plate, so it’s just really cute,” Hexum says.
Favorite Road Trip
Hexum and his dad used to go camping every summer. His dad would take his Volkswagen Rabbit with a trailer for their camping gear, with a tent and the camp stove, and go all the way to Banff in Canada, as well as Yosemite and Yellowstone.
“Those are some really dear memories, and of course listening to ’50s music all the way,” Hexum says. “Two, three weeks every summer, me and Dad on the road. We listened to a lot of Beach Boys. He would tell me stories of his youth and talk about what it was like growing up in Wisconsin where he’s from, ’50s culture and dating. It was just a really great bonding time.”
They would also drive to Wyoming and Washington, always in a northwesterly direction. But Hexum doesn’t have the time to do that now, with three kids of his own. “He comes out in the winter to be close to us,” he says. “He gets a place in Palm Springs and I’m in L.A., so we get to get together a lot.”
311 Tour and Voyager Album
Hexum and the band are on a 34-date amphitheater tour celebrating their new album Voyager, which came out last week.
“It’s our 13th album, and it contains 13 songs, and we’re going to be doing what we love the most, [which] is playing the amphitheater—as we call them, ‘sheds’—co-headlining with Dirty Heads going to all the major cities around America,” Hexum says.
Hexum enjoys being on the road in the summer for work. “We’re a touring band first, and that’s what we do every summer. We’ve done this 21 years in a row, touring in the summer. So it’s about time to go out to what I call both ‘work and play.’ We create a fun summer barbecue vibe and our co-headliner Dirty Heads is just perfect for that. It’s just good vibes, reggae music and rock and hip-hop, and everything that we love. And we’re looking forward to it.”
For more information, visit 311.com
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