INTERVIEW: Nick Santino

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How would you define your music? Who is Nick Santino?

A weird kid from Braintree, Massachusetts that makes weird sad songs (laughs). No, urm.. I just write songs that I like, that I like the feel of, I mean I don’t really set out to try to sound like anything but I guess I have influences from Tom Petty to Ryan Adams, people like that. So I think if you had to say what I sound like it would be singer songwriter and cliché stuff like that.

Pat Kirch from The Maine produced your debut album but how did you first meet him?

Well, Tim their manager, managed me back when I first started rocket (A Rocket To The Moon) and when I was solo and so I flew to Arizona, met Tim and obviously met The Maine so we always played shows together and kinda got our start together and that’s basically how I met Pat, through his brother Tim.

So you’ve known him for a really long time now?

Yeah, probably like eight years or something.

Woah! That’s quite a while, sodo you know if he has he been producing records for a while now?

No, ‘Big Skies’ was his first one I think and he did a really really good job and I think he’s gonna keep doing it so, he’s just got a knack for it man. He’s just a natural with that stuff.

Was it scary putting all your trust in someone’s hands?

Not really because we both had the same mindset going into it. We were both just like let’s not really have any rules and just kinda you know, make what we want to make and that’s what we did and it came out great I think.

No limitations!

Yeah, exactly.

What did Pat bring to the table as a producer?

Well the thing that is cool is that I’ve always gone in with producers that you know, think that they’re songwriters so they always try to over step their boundaries. Whereas he doesn’t really write songs and lyrics but he knows a song and that’s the cool part about it. He’s not trying to change what I already had, he’s just fixing like structures and instrument stuff.

Whereas in the past with producers it’s always like, and it’s their job, but they always want to put a little bit too much into it, when it gets to like, it’s almost too close and it’s like “No man those are my lyrics don’t change that stuff” and Pat isn’t really a songwriter but you know he’s a musician and that’s what’s cool about it. So taking him as a drummer who knows structure and time really well, we bounced off each other, me being the writer and him being the musician, it’s really cool.

So what is your favourite track off the album and why?

Man, that’s hard to say. ‘Keep On Going’ was a really cool one cause I think that’s one that changed the most from the original demo. The original idea of that song was a really slow, sad, 6 minute, piano ballad and I ended up like… I was thinking about it, I woke up in the middle of the night and I was thinking about that song and I started kinda like singing it through my head and I started singing it faster than normal and I was like maybe I should make that an upbeat one.

I took it to Pat and he liked it and actually John O’Callaghan was in the studio with us the day that we recorded it, so he had this whole idea of in the chorus to do this crazy weird chord turn around, you’d have to hear what I’m talking about to get what im talking about but he was like let’s make it something like Jackson Browne or one of those classic guys like The Eagles would do and has this crazy minor e turn around and that was all John’s idea and so that one changed the most from the demos and it became one of my favourites off the record.

Do you still remember the first ever record you purchased?

Yeah, I think it was ‘Bad Hair Day’ from Weird Al Yankovic. Do you guys know Weird Al over here? I think it was hilarious to a seven year old kid or ten year old or however old I was, I thought that stuff was funny so yeah, I bought that.

So you’re from Braintree?

Yeah, not in the UK, the US. The second Braintree, I think you guys were the OG (original) Braintree.

What’s the music scene like there?

There really isn’t one, my area is all sports guys and sports dads and you know being in high school there wasn’t really a music scene. I guess Boston music scene is a lot of hardcore so it still didn’t fit in with what I was doing. I spent a lot of time when I first started being a touring musician in Arizona with guys like The Maine so I guess that was my scene that I grew with, so coming back home it was like playing with bands that were really heavy and I would play with my auto tune, electronic laptop stuff so it never really fit.

But at the same time I really don’t think you need to be from Nashville to play folky Americana stuff, you know what I mean? I don’t think you need to be from a certain area to play certain music and I think that’s what a lot of people think… “You live in Nashville, you must play country music” and it’s like a lot of people in Nashville don’t play country music and so it doesn’t really matter where you’re from. But Braintree, there’s nothing there apart from sports dads and kids playing football.

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photo credit: Chris Martin

Did you ever feel like you just wanted to leave and escape your home town then?

Yes, I mean for a while I did and as I was in my last band I did. I thought like, you know maybe I’ll go and spend too much time in LA and be cool and hangout with cool people out there and now growing up and realising, that was a couple of years ago and now I’m like fuck that guy, you know what I mean? Like I don’t want to be that guy. So I’m like happy with where I’m from, I don’t hangout with the sports dads, I don’t go to the local bars that they’re at but it’s just I’m doing what I love without changing who I am and you know you’ve got to stick around, you’ve got to remember where you came from.

I think a lot of people move to those places like Hollywood and they become this new person that they want to be but they’re not ever really happy. I think as unhappy as you are in your home town I think that’s always where you’re from so it’s always where you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground as much as you hate it or not.

So, what makes you happy?

Playing music and writing music and having the ability to create music whenever I want now and that what is great about 8123 we can, we can do that, they can put out records whenever they want, I can put out records whenever I want, so I think that makes everyone happy.

Do you have any ambitions?

I mean I don’t know, goals and all that stuff. I tried setting goals in rocket but we never really met any of those because they were always so farfetched. I just want to be happy and make music and I know that sounds cliché but I never really plan for the future and maybe that’s a fault in me but if I plan I’m like “By this time next year I’m going to play Madison square garden in New York city” it’s like not realistic, so I think for me I like to have little small things.

It’s like if I’m playing in a club this size next year and like 200 people come, that’s amazing. If I’m playing infront of 50 people, I’m still playing infront of 50 people so that’s awesome.  I guess I let myself down too many times in the past by setting big goals so now I’m kind of like thinking more realistically and more of like what a mature adult would think like “Yeah I’ll play to 5 kids and be happy” where before I’d play to 5 kids and I was like “This is stupid, I want to give up, this is dumb” and you can’t have that mentality, in this business especially.

So this is your first solo tour in the UK? Are you nervous?

A little bit. I don’t know how they’ll take me over here, you know what I mean? I fit in well with these guys we’re all different styles of music but we all have the same fans so I think they’ll appreciate it for that. But I don’t know, we’ll see, it’s the first show in the UK for this tour, we did Amsterdam but that doesn’t count, so yeah we’ll see.

Do you have any pre-gig rituals?

I don’t, I know they have their big party thing but I don’t do anything crazy. I just kinda walk to stage, waddle on there and pick up my guitar and do it, that’s what I do.

What would you say has been the scariest moment of your life?

I think when you trust your career in someone elses hands it gets scary. When we were with our label in the last band, it was great at the beginning and things changed at the end and then at that point I was like “Wait, this dream that I had its slowly not exactly what I envisioned”. Things were changing and they weren’t paying attention to us in the way that we’d like to and they were holding our record and there were all these negative things going on and I think it was just that bit of reality rushing in and it scared the hell out of me. I think I’ve come past that, I think we all have, everyone in the band, we’re all doing stuff now that makes us happy but I think at the time before that you feel invincible and something like that happens and you’re like oh wait, this is real life, you know bad stuff happens it’s not perfect all the time.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen on the internet?

Oh no, especially around these guys, Jared is an internet guy, he pulls up the weirdest things, I can’t even think, everday there’s something. We have a group text with all of us and Eric from rocket, the bass player, is always in the text and the other day he sent a picture of this naked guy he found on the internet but I guess it kind of looked like Garrett’s dad, but it wasn’t, so he made up this big story and sent it to us. There’s weird stuff, the internet is a scary place (laughs).

Talking about the internet I stalked you a bit and read a few of your latest tweets on your Twitter profile. You own cat’s pyjamas?

Oh, no that was a quote from Bob’s Burgers, have you ever seen that show?

Nope.

It’s a TV show and it’s just a quote from the show. It’s an old saying, people used to say that’s the cat’s pyjamas, like that’s cool and it was really dumb. It was a 70’s thing, from that show. But nobody got it, it flew over everyone’s heads (laughs).

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Ah okay! Right, this is a random one. If you joined the circus what type of performer would you be?

I don’t know, that’s a good one. Maybe the guy who rides the elephants, or I guess that’s a lady that does that, oh no (laughs) but still I’ll be the guy on the elephant that does all the tricks until I get squashed by it. Murdered by an elephant, that’d by kinda cool. I can’t think of anything else, I wouldn’t wanna be with a lion that would be scary, even though elephant is probably more dangerous cause I think they take the teeth out of the lions in the circus so that they don’t bite and the claws. A circus is a very gross place (laughs) they do some morbid stuff. I’ve been to one, it was weird, very uncomfortable.

Okay, so if your house was on fire and you only had time to save one item what would it be?

That’s not like a living thing like a dog is it? Cause that just has to be saved automatically.

Yeah it could be anything. Well, let’s assume your dog has already ran out of the house.

Urm, I don’t know. I feel like it’s all material things that I could probably live without. I mean I could be like guitars but I can get new ones, you know? It’s probably the cliché things like old photos like when you’re with your parents as a kid, we have a bunch of that around my house. I’d probably take that kind of stuff, stuff you can’t really replace.

Do you still watch TV?

I watch Netflix more than I watch regular TV.

Same! What are you watching at the moment?

I’m all about Criminal Minds. I don’t know if you’ve watched that show?

Nope.

It’s like, I don’t know if it’s over here but it’s one of those crime shows. Yeah, it’s awesome and then Bob’s Burgers. It’s a cartoon, kind of like a family guy show, it’s hilarious

Oh, it’s still going?

Yeah it’s on Fox (TV channel), I think. The saying is an old saying but it’s a current show, it’s on right now.

Okay, my last question is probably the deepest one. What is your opinion on the concept of perfection?

Oh wow, urm honestly I think there’s not really anything that is perfect, I think that everything that is perfect has imperfections you know, so it makes it not perfect. But I think it’s whatever you think is perfect, whether it’s homemade pizza and you’re like it’s perfect. As long as it’s something you admire deeply in your eyes I think that’s what perfection is. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think that kinda goes along the lines of it you know, cause your perfection might be completely different than mine, we might see this actor and you’re probably like “He’s a total babe” and I’m like “That guy’s weird looking” you know what I mean? So I think it’s kinda just up to your own opinion, there’s no such thing as perfection, I think it’s just an easy word to put on things.

That’s it. Is there anything else you want to say?

Urm, I don’t know I mean this UK run is just starting, so I’ll let you know if I survive in two weeks (laughs) I guess just keep an eye out on stuff. I’m gonna be trying to keep busy with new music and touring and all of that stuff.

Are you going back to America?

Going back to the states, doing a headliner next month, so yeah just keeping busy.

Who’s supporting you on that tour?

This Century, Brian Marquis, Austin Gibbs and William Beckett is on it a couple of dates so it’s a cool little run. It’ll be a bunch of friends doing it.

Did you choose the supports then?

Yeah yeah it’s like my little headliner thing, so its all an acoustic run, everybody’s playing acoustic its gonna be really fun, it’s intimate and cool.

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Nick Santino’s debut album ‘Big Skies’ is available to purchase here.

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Interview by Kaori Manz.