Interview: Nick Santino
November 22, 2014
About a year and half since parting ways with his band, A Rocket To The Moon, singer-songwriter, Nick Santino has released two EPs, a full-length album, and has toured around the world with a new, stripped-down sound. Heading out on his first headliner tour titled “The Long & Winding Roadshow”, Nick was joined by friends Austin Gibbs, Brian Marquis, Brennan Smiley of The Technicolors, Joel Kanitz and Sean Silverman of This Century. USD Radio caught up with Nick at the last show of this fun, acoustic tour at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA and asked what’s coming up for him in this next coming year.
Question: So this is the last night of the tour, what’s been the biggest highlight for you?
Nick Santino: Chicago was a really fun show. We had a good time. Boston was also fun; it was a hometown show for me. Overall, the highlight has been hanging out with all these weirdoes because we’ve been friends for like, eight years. It doesn’t even feel like we’re on tour. It feels like we’re just traveling in a van, playing shows.
Q: And how has it been headlining your own tour, and basically touring with your best friends?
NS: It’s weird headlining because everybody else is more talented than I am, and so when I have to play at the end of the night, I’m like, “How do I go after all these people?” But it’s been a blast! We all just hop up randomly and we’ll play each other’s songs, so it’s really cool. I think it’s a different experience for kids that come to the show. I think they’re used to seeing a headlining band come out and sing a chorus with one of the opening bands, and then you never seen them until their set. We’re out there you know, the first song, and we’ll come out and play with Brennan [of The Technicolors], then we’ll disappear. People just kind of come and go as they please. It’s really cool.
Q: That’s awesome. Back in May, you released your first solo album. How do you think you’ve changed over the years from A Rocket To The Moon up until even now when the album’s been out for several months?
NS: Musically, I’ve changed because I’ve grown up. When you’re older, you’re not into the same things you were into even five years ago, you know? For me, I just think that was a natural, gradual growth process. As I grew up, I ended up going back and listening to older stuff, rather than getting into new music. So it was new for me, but it was stuff that was put out in the 70’s through the 80’s and 90’s. I think that’s what kind of helped influence or spark Big Skies and the records I’ve put out solo. Rocket was Rocket, and I wrote songs with the three guys in the band, and now I write them by myself. The sound is obviously going to change for those reasons, you know? But a lot of it is just musical inspiration and influence that help kind of curve wherever I’m going.
Q: And your new music has a lot of, you know, heart and soul in it. Does it feel different playing these songs every night – do they have the same meaning to them or do they change?
NS: Yeah they do have the same meaning, and sometimes they take on new meanings as I experience different things. Like there are songs like “Goddamn” – when I first wrote it, I sort of based it loosely off some stuff, and as I played it on tour, I realized more “Oh wait, this song is actually about this,” you know? And I think that’s just from playing the same thing over and over again. You’re like, “I wrote this song about this without really meaning to and now it has a whole different meaning.” That happens all the time, and it’s pretty awesome. It just shows you just how crazy music is. Anybody can take a different perception on the same song. Even if a song is a Tom Petty song that has like, five lyrics in it total, a hundred people can think completely different meanings on that – it’s cool.
Q: Definitely. What are things you miss most from home when you’re on tour?
NS: Girlfriend, dog, family, nephew…
NS: Yeah, I’m excited to get back to all of my critters – my cat, my dog, my nephew. [Laughs.] I just miss doing nothing, to be honest. Like, my girlfriend’s at work all day, and I sit and watch Netflix or design on my computer or sit up in my studio and try to make music. I love that so much. Not that I like it more than touring, but I could live in the studio and record all day long. I don’t know if I could live in a van for the rest of my life and tour, but I could live in a studio and just record music.
Q: What artists have been influencing your style lately?
NS: I mean always Tom Petty; he’s always been a big influence for me. Ryan Adams, too. Lately, I’ve been into these bands, one’s called The War on Drugs, and one we just started listening to on this tour is called Future Islands. It’s a very ambient, washed-out, kind of 80’s music – like, it’s a lot of beats and it’s really cool echoey, reverb vocals. I’ve been kind of writing songs that are similar to that stuff just because it’s what I listen to now. But I think a lot of it, for my sake, I listen to Ryan Adams, Tom Petty, the singer-songwriter guys.
Q: Nice. And so who’s someone that you’d like to tour with in the future?
NS: Those two guys! [Laughs.] Honestly, anybody. I’d love to go back out with The Maine because they’re always fun and we always have a good time. I’d tour with all of these guys again in a second. I think there’s the question that would probably have less answers if you were to say, “Who would you not want to tour with?” You know what I mean? Because I really want to tour with everybody that I can.
Q: What album or artist do you have on repeat right now?
NS: That would be The War on Drugs and Future Islands. They’re really similar, if you ever listen to them. Probably The War of Drugs more so, just because it’s a great “all the time” record. You can put it on when you’re driving, you can put it on when you’re trying to sleep, or you can put it on when you’re designing something, when you’re just hanging out, it’s amazing. Like, it’s background music, but it’s also very in-depth, very cool stuff.
Q: What was your very first concert?
NS: Mine was N’SYNC with my sister. My second concert was also N’SYNC with my sister. [Laughs.] We were at it twice, to two different dates. The first one that I thought was badass was Blink-182 and Green Day at the Pop Disaster Tour in 2001. It was at the Comcast Center in Massachusetts – it’s like an outdoor amphitheater. It was a blast; I was in like, eighth grade.
Q: What dream country would you like to tour in?
NS: I’ve been to a lot, which is cool. I really want to go to Italy. I’ve never been there before so that’d be really cool.
Q: What’s your favorite city to play in?
NS: There’s so many for so many different reasons. Anaheim is always really awesome, and I’m not saying that because we’re here. Every time we play Anaheim, whether it’s the House of Blues or Chain Reaction, it’s always such a fun show, and it’s a great turn-out. Kids are always so excited. And then you go a couple minutes north to like L.A. and it’s completely different. It’s like no one cares, they’re all cool. It’s kind of like playing a show in Nashville too. Everyone’s really cool when it comes to playing there, and everyone stands there with their arms folded. It’s like, “You’re in L.A., shut up. Don’t even come to the show, listen to it on your headphones, go home.” [Laughs.] But not that all the shows are like that, they’re always fun. I love playing L.A. shows. They’re always a good time because so many people come out, and friends come out. But the vibe… it’s just crazy how a half-hour difference in location can make such a crazy difference in crowd response. I don’t know what it actually is. I doubt it’s because L.A. people are cooler [laughs]. I think it’s just the way I look at it. It’s like “They’re cooler because they live in L.A. So they don’t want to be embarrassed by dancing to a band.” But Anaheim’s awesome. Chicago’s really fun, hometown Boston shows are great, and Orlando’s always really fun. I have fun times in like, random markets – even in like, Detroit, it’s really fun. Even Ohio shows are cool and Toronto as well.
Q: Think of an iPhone emoji. Which one describes your life right now?
NS: That’s funny that you ask because just like, two hours ago, I was talking to a friend and I said, “Life is one big this.” She’s like, a waiter. I saw the actual readings behind the emojis, and she’s a server, or receptionist. I don’t know how, I think it’s a sassy little bitch. [Laughs.]
Q: What’s your proudest moment as an artist so far?
NS: Being able to play internationally, I think – well, being able to play nationally across the country is unreal because I would just be sitting in my house, recording music and no one could ever hear it. So it’s cool that people do. But being able to play like, Southeast Asia regularly, like going twice a year to play shows is unreal. I never would have thought that I’d play Pittsburgh, never mind the Philippines, which is really crazy.
Q: That’s awesome. And finally, what’s coming up for you in this next coming year?
NS: I’m putting out some new tunes, like a little acoustic EP. And then I’m going to put together a backing band to kind of start playing a bit more rock and roll, and playing out with a band because I kind of miss doing that. It’s going to be cool. So I’m going to hopefully aim for a lot of touring and always writing, always putting stuff out.