interview with nico stai

so, i’ve written about spanish born, LA based singer-songwriter nico stai a few times now, and the reason is simple – i really like his music. it’s not overly processed – instead, it focuses on quality musical lines and meaningful lyrics. recently, nico was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his work and upcoming album.

photo credit: danny krug

have you met heather: listening to your music oftentimes feels like listening in on private, emotionally charged conversations or situations. do you tend to draw from personal experience when writing songs? what is your writing process like?

nico stai: Yes, I do. I would say all of it is personal experiences. Whether it be told through a persona or a perspective different than my own self, it all stems from within and or how I am experiencing or perceiving situations. I don’t seek out themes or motifs, etc… Or have sudden ideas like I want to write a song about this or about that and I want it to sound like this or like that. I just do what I do and work at it until it feels until sounds right and until it tells the tale it ought to be telling, until it’s honest.

I’m not one to really ever ask for opinions on creative matters, I don’t believe in it. I believe art should be you and your story and it matters much more that it be real and undiluted than that it is accepted by a peer or that it “passes the test” of so and so and whatever label etc … Everybody around us had become insanely diluted. A lot of creation today has take a turn for the mainstream, for safe, for correctness, and all of this just leads away from truths.

In terms if my process, it’s a constant thing where I have maybe 70 to 100 songs and ideas that aren’t finished that can all be brought to fruition when its time to. Sort of like a garden with too many plants and they’re all at a different stages and some are about to flower and some will take longer. It’s quite messy, really. I’ll record the song eight or twelve or seventeen different ways, tempos and keys and drive everyone around me and myself mad and write eight different pre-choruses and then realize the thing doesn’t even need a pre-chorus… Cause what’s a pre-chorus anyway? A turn for the worse, so that you can sell a shit chorus?? I better quiet now.

hymh: you’ve been a solo artist as well as part of a band. any preferences on which you like to better? why?

nico: Solo. If I didn’t, I’d go back and join a band!! I spent years in bands and it just gets to a point where you want to just do whatever you want with your songs and not have to take points of view and other crap into consideration. I needed to just break free from all that shit, plus bands are never really quite what people think bands are anyway.

It’s more often than not a posturing lame acceptance of ideals that you steadfastly squirm and turn yourself into so that your ego is satisfied with what you are a part of. And then you wake one day and you fucking hate yourself and you realize that you’ve not sung half of what you came here to sing, so you say fuck it, and start singing, but proper. For real this time.

Having said that, I have a great band now that plays with me and it’s been the same guys for three years now and it feels much more like what I imagined a band ought to feel like. It’s definitely an amazing family vibe – really, really talented individuals who play for the song and the vision. There’s a common purpose that’s concise.

hymh: your music has been featured in a number of television shows (such as chuck, gossip girl, and private practice, to name a few). how has that experience been like as an artist?

nico: Basically, it’s been great. I the sense that it has reached a lot of people all over the world and it has connected me to many new fans etc… I am extremely uncultured when it comes to tv shows, etc… I mostly hear from others when something been on somewhere and I am always surprised that so many people watch these things. Truth is, it’s the new radio, but with the caveat that THEY actually pay YOU!!!! And on top of it, it’s not limited to one country… It’s like some sort of weird boomeranging radio show with visuals that keeps going round the globe and online and reairing on different networks, etc…

The reach of these things is way beyond what I think some people realize. Well, some do and it has changed a lot, and though I honestly have no idea what these things are about or what they are or whatever, it is good for the artist. And not a lot has been good for the artist in the last 60 years or so of the music business.

hymh: how’s the new album coming along?

nico: It’s coming along great. I’ve been doing some preliminary mixes in my set up at home. I basically ran out of money, but I have all or pretty much all of it recorded and now it’s mixing time. There’s fourteen songs recorded and the record will be about eleven. There may be some singles before the whole thing comes out.

I don’t have a label or anything and I want to see if I can get someone to get behind it. That would make sense.

It is a very warm loud record, tracked live in big rooms. There will be some acoustic tracks, but I’d say it’s very much a “rock album” :)) !!!

hymh: any plans to tour?

nico: Would love to πŸ™‚ Touring costs a lot of money and I do have it and I don’t have anyone putting it up for me. I know there are people that write to me from all over the place – Europe and Australia and the East Coast – and if it were up to me, I’d be all those places tomorrow. But it’s just not that simple. I think there this idea with some people that there’s a huge machinery in process, but there isn’t. I have self released everything. I record things at friends’ studios. I live in a studio apartment in Silverlake and I live off of music, but just get by. But there’s no label no management and no agent…(I am open to and looking for all of the above)

Basically, there’s a gap to bridge before a tour can be put in place and I’m sure it will be bridged sooner than later. Me, personally? I’m ready, baby. πŸ™‚

hymh: whose music do you find inspiring nowadays?

nico: I don’t really listen to a lot of contemporary music. I go through stage,s but you caught me on a dry spell πŸ™‚ I have been sort of revisiting old old old Springsteen and Dylan and …. I just found myself thinking about this answer too much and made me uncomfortable and the honest truth around this is this – when I like something I obsess on it. I bleed it dry. If I find a song I like, I’ll listen to it 87 times in a row, BUT, the minute I feel it’s starting to influence my writing, I freak out and I stop listening to that artist. I think there’s a part of me that feels infringed upon, or probably just the infamously pleasurable mix of bathing insecurities with my ego (which I’m told is not my amigo).

Either way, I’ve learned to listen to that part. If I don’t, the freaking out goes on and on and on and on and on and on and fucking on :)))

I do like Doherty and some Oberst and Walkmen: proper frontman, proper singer. Dig Mansfield – there are some really amazing hidden gems in that Fences record.

thanks so much, nico!

if somebody pinned me down and asked me my favorite nico stai song, i’d have to say dead pony, which can be found off of the dead pony EP. it’s not a happy song by any means – it tackles addiction, after all – but it’s got these great synth lines that are cure-esque and a driving, relentless beat that pulls you right into the story. it’s all about watching somebody you know go through the harrowing experience of losing themself to drugs. dead pony is a powerful song that’s sure to stick with you.

one day you will wake up
and everything that you thought you would be
will be standing there staring right back at you
and i guess i should have said so
but i swear i didn’t even know how to feel about it when
it walked right out on you

check out the video of nico performing dead pony on last call with carson daly:

nico stai will be performing this month in LA at the satellite with oh darling on saturday, june 18th. go HERE to learn more about the show and buy tickets.

buy dead pony/miss friday, the album you can find dead pony on, HERE.

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