Nicky P Talks Influences, Learning to Play, and Writing an EP

Singer/songwriter Nicky P is Rock On Philly’s fabulously talented Artist of the Month for March! He’s been playing gigs around town for a while, but with the introduction of his EP Good Thoughts in December, things are kicking up a notch. With a stunning acoustic aesthetic, Nicky P brings an unmitigated cool to the Philadelphia music scene. ROP took a minute to chat with him to hear how things have been going since his EP release.

First off, congratulations for making ROP’s Artist of the Month!

Rock On Philly: I’ve been listening to your EP all week and it’s blown me away. I can see why you have such an affinity for Jack Johnson and Dispatch.

Nicky P: Wow, I mean, that’s really cool to hear you say you were blown away. Those are really kind words and how can you not like Jack Johnson or Dispatch.  Their music puts you in a good mood.

ROP: How much do they influence your writing?

NP: It’s just the style of their sound that I found really fits my personality. I have written all kinds of songs in different types of genres over the years, but the songs that I connect with the most and the ones that have lasted, fit in the Jack Johnson, Dispatch genre. Over time I have found that my lyrics and sound mold the best when those two elements come together.

ROP: When and how did you learn to play guitar? Who taught you (if anyone)? 

NP: I use to play Cello when I was a kid, but after 6 years I stopped. Maybe it was because I thought it wasn’t cool or I lost interest at the time. Young and naïve looking back on that now. When I was around 15 I realized I missed playing music, but I didn’t know what to get into. My sister, Gabby, was getting into guitar at the time and she was really digging it. She was learning to play riffs from Metallica and I quickly found interest in that instrument. I wanted to learn what she was doing so I started doing the same thing with her guitar. I eventually saved up enough money to buy my first guitar which was an electric blue Ibanez. Now I lost all ability to read music by this time so I had to use my ear and some help from my sister at first to learn the basics. Over time, the feel of how to play grew stronger and stronger. So, never really thinking about this before, I guess I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for my sis. Soooo thanks sis!

ROP: What’s the first song you ever wrote?

NP: I cannot remember the name of the first song, but I do remember I recorded it on a cassette tape and played it for my mom in the car one day. It was only like 3 bar chords throughout the whole song. She said it sounded great, but something tells me she was a little biased…

ROP: When you were starting out, were you more drawn to guitar playing or singing? Or did both happen at the same time?

At first I was drawn to just playing. I didn’t know I could sing. When I was just starting to play the guitar I remember my church had some event and I was singing in a choir for it. One of the guys in that choir told me to my face I couldn’t really sing. So, clearly that wasn’t a motivational boost for me. I still tried from time to time, during my high school years, with little confidence backing up my voice. I could only sing if I had other people singing with me or other people playing music with me. Never just me and my guitar. Mainly, as I said, because I lost confidence. I still didn’t think I could sing well. It was not until my latter years in high school when I was a part of a comedy group at school called Roadies. There was a skit some of my peers were working on called “Legend of the Toe Walker.”  Can. Not. Believe. I remember that, but that night, after practice, I decided to write a song for that skit without telling anyone. I cannot tell you how nervous I was the next day. None of the people knew I played guitar and none of them (including me) knew I could sing. We were all in the same boat. So the next day came, I told everyone I had an idea come to me yesterday and that the night before I wrote a comedy song for the skit. Right before I played I remember it being so quiet that I could hear my shaking hand vibrate off the guitar. I couldn’t stop my knee from going up and down. Sweat was dripping from my forehead and I hadn’t even strummed one note. But when I did, and that first sound came out of my mouth something took over. My hand stop shaking. My knee stood still. I was still sweating, can’t stop that, but I looked out into the crowd for one second and I saw one of the guy holding up a lighter and he was waving it back and forth. Then I saw someone else doing the same gesture and when I finished playing everyone stood up with this shocked look on their face and started clapping. It was truly the first time I realize I could do this. That I could make a song and have people enjoy listening to it. My confidence went through the roof. It was such a huge step for me, honestly.

ROP: How was the process of producing an EP for you? Was it much different from what you expected?

NP: Awesome. I got to record at Studio 4 were Phil Nicolo engineered it and Dean Davidson (americanabrother.com) produced the EP. The knowledge that those two have in the music industry and with music in general really pushed my sound to level I didn’t think I could get to. I hd never been in a studio before, so everything was brand new for me. I mainly recorded demos out of my house and got some good response from them, but I knew I had to make that next leap to be taken seriously as a musician. It was exhausting to get through the whole process, but hearing the outcome made it worth it. 

ROP: How have things changed for you since Good Thoughts dropped?

NP: I have received amazing response from people about how they love the EP. Not only the sound, but the lyrics as well. I want people to enjoy my sound, not doubt about that, but to hear my lyrics made an impact, that’s the best part. That means I am really do my job as a musician. I am not just throwing music together just to have a song. I put thought behind my words and sound. When those two connect, then I have a song.

ROP: What do you think you bring to the table that makes you stand out as an artist?

NP: I am real and I listen to people. I cannot grow as a musician just on my own. I have to take what I see and hear from people that listen to me and use that to improve. You are not going to please everyone, I know that, but it’s those people I want to hear from the most. I also love to interact with the crowd at gigs. Tell jokes, maybe a story. The connection with the crowd shouldn’t stop when you’re done playing a song. It should be continuous. I don’t want one minute wasted when I am up there.

ROP: What’s your favorite venue that you’ve played so far?

NP: Musikfest. I had the opportunity back in college to play there and it was really cool to be a part of something that big. Got to meet so many new people.

ROP: And if you could pick any venue at all to play, from Milkboy to the Mann Center, which one would it be?

NP: In my positon, any chance I can play at a venue I’ll take it. If I was blessed with an opportunity to play at the Mann Center I’d jump on that in a second.  

ROP: With such a beautiful, uplifting EP, are you thinking about recording a full-length soon?

NP: Thinking about it, of course! I have the tunes that I want on it, but it’s expensive. Right now I am my own manager, musician, and cash register, so I can only do so much. My New Year’s resolution this year was to find a label that sees the potential that I do and will help get that rolling. Until then I will keep playing, and I will keep contacting. I believe in my music that’s why I do what I do.

ROP: Which Philly artists would you like to work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

NP: I am down to play with anyone. I can’t pinpoint a specific artist/band, but I am not biased when it comes to playing a gig. I have had the privileged to play with some amazing musician from Philly. Bruno Catrambone, guitarist from Cruisr, has played drums and guitar for me. Christopher Davis-Shannon who, in my opinion, is the best bassist I have ever seen. He plays bass for me. I mean Philly, in general, has a lot of great talent in this city and I am always up for playing a gig with anyone.     

ROP: When you sit down to write a new song or when you’re preparing to take the stage, what’s your philosophy? What’s the message you want to leave your audience with?

NP: Never stop being you. When I am writing a tune or preparing to take the stage I keep the same mindset. I am the same person on stage as I am off the stage. I define the music so the music should define me.  

Image courtesy of the artist.

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  1. Pingback: April Artist of the Month- Who Should it Be? - Rock On Philly

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