Nick Santino talks going solo and learning curves

By Rachel A.G. Gilman

via Rachel A.G. Gilman for WSN
via Rachel A.G. Gilman for WSN

Before taking the stage at The Studio of Webster Hall, singer-songwriter Nick Santino sat at a vacant bar in the back and spoke with WSN. Dressed in a tattered denim shirt, Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt, and many silver rings, Santino mentions he’s played the venue about half a dozen times over the past year.

“New York’s just like a really fun vibe…whether there’s two people or two hundred people or two thousand people,” he said.

Since the break-up of his band A Rocket to the Moon, the former frontman has been tackling going solo, noting the differences.

“I can be really free with what I’m writing about, but also that’s why it’s hard at the same time, being my own critic,” he said.

Santino also credits the freedom of being unsigned and working with 8123 to helping his process. He’s a close friend of The Maine, also on 8123, texting lead singer John O’Callaghan before our interview starts.

In the past two years, Santino has released one full-length album and multiple EPs, although he has dealt with writer’s block. “I feel like I’m currently in one right now,” he said. “But it’s like, once you write a song that gets you out of that, it feels like you’re on pretty smooth sailing…it’s just all part of the cycle of writing songs.”

Initially, Santino went under the moniker Nick Santino & the Northern Wind. He said, “When Rocket broke up, I thought that if I went straight into ‘Nick Santino’ it would kind of be overlooked.” After his full-length debut, he felt he could drop it.

In response to comments over his sound change, Santino said, “It’s obviously going to be different from what it was in the past. And if I make another band, that band will probably be different than what this sounds like. It’s just a lot of growing up and maturing and listening to different things and having different influences.”

Touring solo is also different. “It’s turned me into a better frontman…I can’t just brush the conversation off to a guitar player, a bass player…it’s just me, so…I think it’s kind of made me a little more confident.”

He tries to make each show special. “I think that’s the beauty of playing music live. Nobody wants the same thing twice,” he said. “I don’t like doing that cookie cutter set list every day for a thirty-day tour ‘cause I know there are kids who come to multiple shows, especially on the East Coast.” One of his favorites to play live is “I Just Wanted You to Know.”

Santino is confident about the direction he’s headed. “This is a new thing; why not treat it like [that] and start from the ground up? And I think that’s the best way to be a musician, going through the learning curves,” he said. “I’m just out here, playing music, and that’s it…people care, and people come out, and I feel like I touch people with my songs and that’s the most important thing to me.”

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com.

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