Solo endeavours, the 8123 family and Target? Here’s what Nick Santino had to say about all of that ahead of his London show in support of The Maine.
How has the tour been so far?
It’s good! It’s a blast, it’s always great to be out with these guys [The Maine]. It’s my first UK tour as a solo artist so I didn’t know how the crowds would be like, but it’s been good!
Do you find it easier that, for your first UK shows as a solo artist, you’ve got the support of bands like The Maine who you’ve been touring with for years?
Yeah – it’s easy, because you know, we have really similar fanbases. Especially back home too, it’s easy to get out and do something as intimate as playing an acoustic set. Being with guys like this, my friends, it definitely helps.
Your debut solo album [Big Skies] was released earlier this year, how have you found the reception from both fans who have been following your endeavours for years, and those newer fans who have only just discovered you?
I’ve noticed that it’s been kind of a slow turnaround, but I mean, I think Big Skies definitely helped win over the Rocket [A Rocket To The Moon] fans, to come over and listen to my solo stuff, and I’ve been getting a lot of new fans too which has been really cool. It’s definitely been doing what I’d kind of hoped it would do, so that’s really good.
How do you find being a solo artist differs from being in a band?
It’s a lot more intimate and honest, I think, which I prefer. I miss playing with a band, but I don’t really miss being in a band. Every time we were on tour I’d be the one going off by myself to get food or whatever, I’ve just always kind of been that guy, like my own homebody kind of thing. I think it’s different in that way, but that’s what I like about it. I like being the only guy making the decisions. I like running the ship myself.
What are your pros and cons of going solo?
I guess cons would be not having people on the stage with me, but pros… not having people on stage with me! I enjoy being by myself – but I guess playing full band shows are nice when you’re playing with bands like The Maine or things like that when everybody else is full band, but at the same time, the other side of that is it’s what sets it apart. If you can carry the show by yourself, which I’m trying to do, I think that’s almost like a cool thing on its own. It’s basically just as good as if I was another person in a band just playing live rock music or whatever.
So you can do your own thing, but you’ve got support of bands like The Maine who you can chill out with if you do need the company when you’re on tour?
Exactly, and I’m always jamming with those guys whenever I’m in Phoenix, it’s always fun when we’re together!
Your performance tonight is highly anticipated by the 8123 family, do you have any techniques you put in to place when on stage to try and engage the crowd more?
Back in the day I used to be the broken record, just being all, “get off your feet, put your hands in the air!” and I hate that so much now, but back then that’s what everyone did, I guess! There’s millions of bands that do that still, but I think my technique is I like to show them who I am by just being myself on stage and being just me with an acoustic guitar I have the advantage and the power to do that. They can see, “oh, that’s a real person up there, that’s not a guy in a band that I’ll never ever be able to talk to”, it’s like, “oh I feel like I can go down and have a cup of coffee with him”, so I think that’s kind of how I play my set. I joke around, I mess up the lyrics a lot, I want them to kind of see that I’m just a real human.
If you had to describe your new music in three words, what words would you pick?
Oh man… real, honest and… I guess, sincere? I guess that’s all kind of the same thing, but it’s definitely what my music is all about.
Do you have any sort of pre-show rituals that help you deliver your great performances?
I don’t, actually. The Maine parties and does the whole jumping around thing, and I just walk on stage… I don’t know, I don’t have anything, really. I’m just standing outside the door, and then I’ve got two minutes… and then I’ve got ten seconds, “oh, I’ll go on now,” and then I just walk on stage.
Well, you’ve still got a great set!
Thank you, thank you very much!
Your home state of Massachusetts has many different kinds of successful artists coming from its soil, what it’s like coming from such a competitive market, and do you think it’s beneficial for your career?
Massachusetts is definitely different with music. It’s like, we have a lot of hardcore bands and heavy bands, and then we’ve got a lot of classic rock bands – Aerosmith, that came out of Massachusetts! I got my start in Arizona, definitely, with bands like The Maine and that was like the sound in Phoenix, where at the time Boston was all hardcore bands so I didn’t really fit in with that. So it’s cool, it’s definitely different playing the music that I play now; that folk-y Americana sort of singer-songwriter stuff coming out of Boston because people are all, “oh, you’re from Boston… not Nashville?” They’re surprised I’m not from down south where that music is popular, but at the same time it gives me the advantage. John [O’Callaghan, The Maine] actually calls me, “the only cowboy from Massachusetts,” even when they’re on stage. It’s kind of funny – I play cowboy music, I guess!
What would you consider your favourite song from Big Skies and why?
Oh wow, that’s difficult to pick. They’re all so different, but ‘Have A Little Faith In Me’ is a really cool one. That one I wrote a couple of years ago, and it’s finally got some life by going on this record. It’s really honest and you can tell how real it is by just listening to it. Even the demo that I had before was just me and a piano, so it’s really cool. I’ve been playing it for the last couple of nights but just on acoustic and it’s been sounding really great.
So being a solo artist now, the songs you’ve written over the years that didn’t really fit in with your band’s vibe can now get to see the light of day because you’re calling the shots?
Yeah, a couple of weeks ago I found a demo from like five years ago, and I was all, “oh, wow, that’s a cool song,” so I went in my little studio that I have and I reworked the song and I made it kind of different, but I kept the basic idea of it. It’s really amazing that I can take those old ones that I forgot about; find them on my computer and then like, reinvent them!
Lately you’ve been pretty focused on playing shows, is there anything you like to do to unwind when you get some time off?
I literally don’t do anything when I get home and I think that’s the best part! I have a very, very simple life. I chill out… I don’t work. My girlfriend works all the time, she has three jobs and I’m just the bum on the couch with my dog on my lap watching Netflix, you know? Eating cereal at noon… I think that’s awesome, I love it. I go to Target like four times a day… do you guys have Target over here?
Target’s the best. So yeah, I go there like four times a day, I go to the mall… I’m just a very boring person when I’m back home. It’s a good boring, it’s definitely a good boring because when I’m not home I’m obviously busy touring and trying not to lose my voice, trying to get enough sleep and all that stuff so.
Are you looking forward to your upcoming US tour, The Long & Winding Roadshow?
It’s gonna be fun… it’s my first kind of proper headlining tour, so hopefully it’s good. Hopefully people come!
You’re touring with great people as well!
Yep, it’s just one van full of friends. We’re all sharing one van so it’s gonna be cool. It’s like seven of us… it’s me, Joel and Sean from This Century, Brian Marquis who was on Warped Tour with me, Austin Gibbs, our friend Brennan who is in a band called The Technicolors from Phoenix, and then on some of the days William [Beckett] will be with us… and then Andrew, he plays piano with The Maine, he’s gonna be tour managing all of us so it’s gonna be cool, definitely. I don’t think anyone is going to be able to take each other seriously… we’re all gonna hop in and be joking all the way across the country! Being out with The Maine here in the UK is the same… bunch of clowns!