The quickest answer is that my first band was called “Influence 13” and it stuck from there. Of course there are deeper meanings and I’ve long been fascinated by the history of the number and the luck (both good and bad) it’s symbolized in different countries throughout the centuries.
There is theme that I have noticed in quite a few musicians/artists. They have a successful band and end up at some point in their career, making a solo record with a big country/Americana/roots vibe to it. Can you touch on when you realized you wanted to make this record and why you decided to make it?
The song “Outlaw Heart” from the first Tiger Army record in ’99 planted the seed. It was inspired by the idea of a Western ballad and it let to my meeting Greg Leisz, who tracked pedal steel on the song at that time and eventually wound up co-producing the first solo album along with James Intveld. His playing had such an incredible effect on the song for me; it wound up being a song that resonated deeply with the audience as well as myself. I carried the idea around of doing a recording in that vein for at least a decade, but it took on a life of it’s own – far from a “side project”. I became serious about realizing the idea in early ’08. Touring and songwriting, including a move to Nashville, meant that it wouldn’t be until 2010 that we began tracking the album, which was released last year.
I read somewhere that you when you first started listening to punk rock, I am similar myself, but where down the road did it evolve into the music you listen to now and on the same page the music you write?
You could say that I was drawn to punk that was “rootsy” – bands like Ramones, X, Sex Pistols, Cramps, Gun Club have plenty of direct links to earlier eras and sounds. Rockabilly was my first exposure to hillbilly music. I picked up a Charlie Feathers record to hear wild rockabilly as a teen, but I heard “I’ve Been Deceived” and something clicked. Similar things with Jerry Lee Lewis, Warren Smith, Carl Perkins. Soon I was listening to Bill Monroe, Hank Williams and learning about the roots of rock’n’roll – true country music.
Is your process of song-writing different now from your time in Tiger Army?
The songwriting is similar in that it’s generally all me, with the exception of one song on the album, “Gambler’s Life”, which was co-written with Alain Whyte. I lived in Nashville for a time, changing locales is not something I’d ever done writingwise for Tiger Army, other than tour that is. The recording was quite different – arrangements changed with producer input and the incredibly talented session players created a sense of spontaneity. The mental blueprints of what I want to build with Tiger Army are more detailed.
How much experience/knowledge of your time in Tiger Army do you put into this project?
This is the only serious thing I’ve ever done musically outside of Tiger Army, so things like my knowledge of recording were definitely informed by that. At the same time, I learned an incredible amount. There was a vast amount of collective knowledge to absorb from the producers, the players…
When you started this solo project, did you have a vision for it? Did you just want to be heard?
I did have a vision when I started, but it evolved quite a bit to reflect the scope of what I learned – it’s still evolving in some ways. I thought I knew a fair amount about roots music when I started the journey, but it’s a deeper field of knowledge that I realized. It’s DECADES of music. You can keep listening and listening, reading, watching, discovering – that process hasn’t stopped to this day. Hearing some of the oral histories in places like Nashville, or learning about the almost forgotten history of country music in Southern California from people who were there was very inspiring. The way country music is played, recorded, it’s all different than everything I knew when I started out.
You have two shows coming up at the El Rey in Los Angeles, how do you go about arranging a set-list for back to back nights at the same venue?
For the fan who’s excited enough to come both nights I’ll strive to make that feel “worth it”. With one record, the core of the set will have to be similar, but I’ll look for as many ways as I can find to make each night unique with covers, musicians, and so on.
Triple Chicken Foot and The Far West are both local bands and each will be opening for you on different nights at The El Rey, do you find when you are touring that the local acts often “WOW” you? Is there a common theme of opening bands you play with, or does every city have it’s own unique “sound” to it?
The touring I did to support album last year had three main “legs” that stretched out over eight weeks. The first leg used all local openers. I wasn’t able to get a snapshot of how representative these acts were of their cities necessarily, but I can say that there’s a lot of fresh roots-inspired music that is bubbling below the surface of people’s general awareness. I do feel that this is going to continue to manifest itself into some sort of movement over the next decade. People who are big fans of Americana know this, but I think the rest of America will be surprised when they realize this pool of talent exists in their own backyard. The Far West and TCF are both great bands, very different from each other and I’m excited for people to check them out.
Can you give any sort of sneak preview to what the show will be like?
It will be interesting for me to see what it’s like, it’s been over a year since I performed solo in Los Angeles! If the two-night stand from the Troubadour is anything to base it off of, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Incredbile energy from the crowd. There’s no element of “rock” or “punk” to it, that was my pathway to this music but I’ve embraced it for what it is. There’s no pit. The El Rey is a beautiful room and fits in to my vision of performing in different kinds of venues, a totally different experience from seeing Tiger Army live. I’ve seen people like Johnny Cash and Ray Price live and I love that feeling of stepping into a different world for the evening than what you’re used to. I try to spend as much time in that world as I can these days!
Thanks for you time Nick and can’t wait for the shows in a couple weeks.
Thank you! I’m hard at work writing a second solo album so this may be my only chance to perform solo live for awhile, hope to see everyone there!