Hey there, Nic! Great to meet you and find out more about your unique gothic folk-rock style of music. Your striking new album Eleutherios has been out since April and you’ve been playing a lot of gigs around California, particularly in the Hollywood area where you reside. What has the reception been like to your new songs?
Hi Jen! Thanks for having me. The reception has been really great among fans from many different genres. Some people tend to gravitate toward the heavier, throatier, songs, and others have said that they prefer the light vocals and strings, but everybody has found something to like on the album.
I read that you had to go to the hospital in April after playing onstage one night (maybe at the album release party?)! What happened and are you fully recovered now?
Ah, well… That’s a weird situation. I host an open mic night and concert series on Hollywood Boulevard. I was singing “Down”, a song about opiates, when I got a searing headache that felt like I had been hit by four semi-trucks simultaneously. I started to lose vision, and audio perception, and then I felt myself going down, so I was taken to the ER. They gave me a bunch of IV opiates (ironically) and a spinal tap along with some other tests and came up with nothing.
They checked me into the hospital. I got angry, tore out a couple of IVs, and ended up staying there for about a week before things just started to get better on their own. At that point I went home.
There is some residual dizziness, and pain, but nothing like it was. This body has some issues from military training, an underlying autoimmune disorder, etc… Sometimes it just attacks itself and that’s why we carry a wheelchair in the trunk.
Oh, sorry to hear about all that! On a happier note, you’ve also just been nominated for a slew of awards at the Indie Music Channel Awards (and won for Best Male Alternative Artist), Hollywood Music in Media Award, and Akadamia Music Awards (and won for Best Alternative Acoustic Song and Best Album). Congrats on your wins! What is the process for trying to get nominated at these types of events? Do you have to apply and submit song samples or do other people vote you in? Just wondering how it all works!
Thanks! Every award requires you to submit, or pay a membership fee - even the Grammys. To submit material for consideration in the Grammys you have to be an academy member, and that requires applying, being accepted, and paying annual dues of $95. I fully expect songs from Eleutherios to be on the Grammy ballot this year, and I am working to make that happen. IMC Awards are very similar to that, but there is a fee associated with the submission of materials as well. The Hollywood Music in Media Awards doesn’t require membership, but does require submission fees.
In all of these organizations, either an individual or a panel of judges will review your submission and decide if you warrant a nomination. From there, an individual category judge, or panel of judges, decides if you are the best in that category.
There are some awards that ask for a public vote, but I generally avoid those. They strike me as popularity contests, and I am more interested in what industry professionals think. It’s not like music is a contest, or competition; these things are mostly for PR, or for fun if you like that sort of thing. It’s just one person’s, or a group’s, opinion, so you take any win or loss with a grain of salt. I had never done it before, and wanted to understand the process, and thought it could help the music to be heard by more potential listeners.
Your voice is very powerful and I think there is an intriguing contrast between your passionate exclamations and deeper tone and the acoustic guitar arrangements that are augmented by strings and female vocals. How did you dream up this unusual musical style?
Dream is the right word. Most of the songs come to me in dreams, and stay with me after I wake. Some of them forcefully inject themselves into my waking thoughts. When either of these things happens, I hum the song into a recorder. I’ve even gotten up in the middle of meetings and gone to the bathroom to hum into my phone some song that has forced its way into my head.
Sometimes the songs come with words, but often they don’t. After I record the humming version of it, I sit down on the guitar and plunk it out. After hearing it, a word appears in my mind. That becomes the title. From there, words appear, and I record them. Those become the lyrics. Sometimes I don’t know what the song is even about until it is completed, and then I am able to interpret what the voices were telling me.
Some, like “Immured”, are the result of a strange flash of conversation in song that seems to come from somewhere outside of me. That song really felt like a ghost and the man she haunted needed to have their story told, so I wrote out what I heard them saying.
Of the 9 songs on Eleutherios, which one is closest to your heart? I feel the deepest track lyrically and emotionally is “The Nothing”, which combines gentle verses with dramatic chorus sections. The lyrics are bleak “I am nothing / I have gone away / I stand before you / but I am so far away.” What experience did you base this song on?
Every song on the album is close to my heart. Each one has a theme, and an essence, with deep personal meaning. Together, the way they are placed on the album, tells a story about loss, addiction, suicide, and redemption in death.
When lyrics come to me, I use them. It feels more like the song is telling me what to say, rather than me coming up with lyrics. They obviously come from somewhere deep within.
“I am nothing” is pretty straightforward. We are all nothing. One thousand years from now nothing we do will have mattered. I don’t see this as a reason to be unhappy though; it just means that you should do what makes you happy right now, and not worry so much about what others think.
I remember one time that I was in bed with a lover when she said to me “Where are you? You’re so far away.” I was right next to her, but she was correct. The fact that she noticed I was far away, in spite of being next to her, caused me to admire her deeply. I think that may be the part of my mind that this verse came from.
One of my favorite tracks off Eleutherious is “When It Falls”. It has a distinctive groove to it; possibly the only song off the album with a drum beat. It feels like an acoustic version of a rock song, but given some percussive swagger from the drums. Can you go into the details of how you created this song?
“When It Falls” probably took about five to ten minutes to create. It really wrote itself. I just flipped my switch internally, made myself receptive to whatever is within and without that brings the music, and then recorded what I heard.
Who is singing the female vocal parts on the album? Who is playing the stringed instruments like mandolin, cello, upright bass, and violin?
Both live and in studio, Catrina Grimm is the female vocalist. I play the mandolin and guitar. William Stewart played the upright bass, cello, viola, and violins. William lives in France and has led some of the most prestigious orchestras in Europe. He’s also a hell of a great guy. You should check out his work.
Where does the album’s title Eleutherios come from? Besides your album, the only reference I can find online is to a design by Serge-Stiles. Who did the eye-catching, foreboding cover artwork?
I am not familiar with Serge-Stiles, but I am going to look this up.
Eleutherios means “Liberator” in ancient Greek. It was a name for Dionysus. Dionysus Eleutherios liberated through wine, song, and madness. Followers of Dionysus Eleutherios made sacrifices to the dead, believing that Dionysus was the arbiter between the living and the dead. They worshipped him through mad, drunken orgies in the forests on the outskirts of society.
I bought this album cover, and the rights to it, from a Russian man named Vlad. I don’t think he was the actual artist though. I think he was just the middleman. I have no idea who did the actual artwork on the cover.
Are you signed to Dirtshack Records and/or Tate Music Record Label? Which company put out your album or did you self-release it?
I was with Dirtshack, but we only recorded one song. I never released that song. Tate contacted me and offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. The next full length LP will be through Tate Music. They are paying for the recording, the studio musicians, and publicity, and I get to keep the masters. Unbeatable deal.
I created Dolor Records to own the rights to all of the music and act as publisher through the performing rights organizations, although I don’t manage it. I leave that to more competent people. I released Eleutherios through Dolor, and will probably release the next EP, Torment - An Acoustic Tribute to Danzig, through Dolor as well, but the next LP will be through Tate since they have more money, and a wider reach, than Dolor.
You traveled to Nashville in March to further your connections in the music industry in the U.S. and possibly internationally. How did all that go?
It went really well. I had the chance to attend a workshop with Tom Jackson, a live music producer who has worked with all of the biggest names. As a result of that interaction, our live shows have improved immensely. If you saw us before I went to Nashville, then you haven’t really seen us yet.
I met a lot of really good people and musicians. I’m actually booking a few of the musicians that I met there for shows at the café on Hollywood Boulevard where I book acoustic acts, and setting up dates in Denver, LA, and Mexico for a tour promoter I met with in Nashville. Now that I think about it, it seems like my trip to Nashville was really good for *them* -hahaha!
I’ve got some friends in Japan who are looking at venues, and some other tour promoters looking to fill dates around the US. Not sure if anything will come from that or not.
As far as record labels go, I learned that I have zero interest in working with the majors, or even most of the indie labels, at this point. I think it is absurd that anyone would demand that you give them the rights to your music in exchange for a loan to produce an album. That’s ridiculous. You don’t give the bank the rights to use your home as they see fit in exchange for a mortgage. That’s stupid.
You grew up on stage, playing main roles in musicals like Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Side Show, and Doomsday Cabaret. And then you fronted various metal and punk bands. What made you decide to strike out on your own as a singer-songwriter instead of staying in the theater stage environment or a rock band?
In 2013 we lost a child, so I sat and thought about what was important to me, and what life was really about for me. I decided that life was about enjoyment, and if you aren’t enjoying your brief time on this Earth, then you’re doing something wrong. I wasn’t enjoying life. I was trying to be who others wanted me to be in order to get roles in film and television. I was going out for major roles on major networks, but they were all stereotypes. What made me happy, and what theater critics and patrons all seemed to like about me, was singing.
I set out to sing. I didn’t want to sing other people’s music, so I had no choice but to write my own. The music that I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily rock music, and I was limited in who I knew who could play well enough to make it worth the money spent on the studio. I wrote the guitar, mandolin, bass, and vocal lines with the intention of playing them all in the studio.
Also, rock bands are notorious for creating drama, and I don’t have the patience to chase five guys around to make sure they can get to rehearsal, and have time off of work to travel, so I wanted an act that I could do with just me and an acoustic guitar, or that could be modified to include a line-up of stellar musicians.
Now we have The Society of Sorrow as our backing band and it sounds amazing live. Really high energy with lots of great moments, but if one of them gets fed up with me, or I get fed up with them, or someone moves out of town, or is in the hospital, I can still bring the show with just me and my guitar.
What’s next up for you in relation to your album? Do you have more shows lined up and/or will you be putting out any videos?
We have a killer show lined up for July at the Viper Room. That will be our last show for a little while. I have to have surgery on my wrist, and that will take time to recover from.
I am planning to record several videos, but I am having a difficult time finding someone who is worth what they charge. In Hollywood, everybody thinks that they are the next Steven Spielberg, and charges according to their warped self image, so I will probably shoot most of it out of state, if not out of the country.
Lastly, can you please list your official site(s) where we can find out more about you and your music?
Absolutely. My home on the web is at www.nicnassuet.com. I’m on Bandcamp at www.nicnassuet.bandcamp.com, on CD baby athttp://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/NicNassuet, and you can search my name on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, and Spotify to find the music.
ET Entertwine Interview
Indie Band Guru Interview
Indie Band Guru
XRP Radio (UK, live on air)
The Quinn Spin (On air, syndicated)
Before It's News
Carpe Nocturne Magazine
And many more...
Robert J. R. Graham Interview
UP CLOSE WITH SINGER AND SONGWRITER NIC NASSUET
The Bandcamp Diaries Interview
Nora Gouma, Model on a Mission Magazine Interview
INTERVIEW WITH SINGER AND SONGWRITER NIC NASSUET
If someone tells you that they know the secret to success in any form of art or entertainment then they’re probably going to follow that statement up with a sales pitch for their book, classes, or seminars
What do you like most about your profession?
There’s so much to love that I don’t know where to start. The challenge of creating a track in the studio, the challenge of being at the top of your game for every show, and the awesome people who live and work in Hollywood are all some of my favorite things about this profession.
What’s your favorite album from another artist?
Another tough question. If I only had one album to listen to until the end of time it would be a toss up between Danzig’s “Danzig II” and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s “13 Above the Night”.
What song of yours are you most proud of?
I’m really pleased with “The Nothing”. I think that it came out really well.
What is the formula for success in the music industry?
I have no idea. Nobody does. I see unknowns make one good song and get representation and a record deal, although that’s a rare thing. More often though I see brilliantly talented musicians with sharp minds who are never able to break into the professional side of things. If someone tells you that they know the secret to success in any form of art or entertainment then they’re probably going to follow that statement up with a sales pitch for their book, classes, or seminars.
Where can our readers find your music?
My music can be purchased at bandcamp, itunes, amazon, and google play, or you can listen for free on spotify and pandora. You can also visit www.reverbnation.com/nicnassuet,www.soundcloud.com/nic-nassuet, or www.nicnassuet.com.
Music Existence Interview
I am driven by a lust for knowledge, a drive to experience everything, and a quest for fun.
When did you start singing and writing?
I wrote my first song when I was four years old. I didn’t write another song until decades later. It will be on the album coming out this March/April.
What drives you to create & perform music?
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something there that pushes me. Maybe a mental illness, or some faulty wiring in the machine. It makes its own noises, and hears things from other places. This creates tension, and the tension is not relieved until there is some expression in three (sometimes four) dimensions. It was always there, I’ve heard it and felt it since I was a small child not even old enough to speak, but I ignored it and pursued other things as I got older. After our baby died the sounds and tension grew to the point that they threatened to destroy me unless they got what they wanted and were released into the world. I couldn’t contain it any longer and it drove me to write and perform.
Do you have any upcoming releases?
We have released four singles off of the upcoming CD “Eleutherious” so far. They have been well received and were nominated for, and won, awards. We will release one more single, a crowd favorite; “She Rides Moonlight”, later this month, and then the full CD will be released around the end of April. You can get updates on our webpage, as well as twitter, and facebook.
What can we expect to see from this new release?
You’ll hear some very unique music on the album – gravelly rock tenor vocals, crooning gothic duets, shining violin solos, crisp mandolins, and unique percussive sounds. It will be unlike anything you have ever heard before. After the release, we plan to tour in support of the album so keep an eye on our website for tour dates, or use the contact box there to let us know you want us to come to your town so that we can include your city, or one nearby.
Where can we find this release and your music?
Radio stations all across the US, and even some in Canada, Thailand, and the UK are playing the four singles that we have out right now. I put a list of the stations that I know are playing our music up on the main page of our website so you can check there for where to tune in. You can also request our music if your station isn’t playing it. In addition, you can listen for free on Spotify, or download from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, and at our website: http://www.nicnassuet.com
Will you be doing any performances?
Our official CD release party is April 29th at the State Social House on Sunset Strip. It is 100% free, so there’s no excuse to not come out and hear the album played live. We will be playing early enough to get everyone home before 10pm, so it won’t interfere with the schedules of working folks.
We’ve got a great lineup with an amazing violinist, Edward Hong, who will be coming fresh off of a recital at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, and a truly awesome bassist, Cat Arthur, who also writes music for a variety of well known projects in and around Los Angeles. Of course, the always astounding, Catrina Grimm will be lending us her angelic voice and playing hand percussion. It is really going to be an amazing show at a great venue right in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world, and you won’t have to pay anything to come and experience it.
We have a followup show at the world famous Dresden in Hollywood on June 1st. It is also free, and we should be announcing our tour dates at that show. That’s going to be a killer show too.
What is your recording process like?
I go into the studio with the music and lyrics. After I lay down those tracks we try to see what works and what doesn’t. Things don’t sound the same in the studio as they do live, so each song creates different obstacles that require different solutions. For instance, Josh at Sing Engine records where we recorded the album threw bongos in on “When it Falls”. I generally hate the sound of bongos, but it sounded great and fit the track really well. Totally different from how it sounds live.
Once I have the skeleton recorded I send the tracks to this amazing musician in France for the strings. Michael came into the picture on the first track. I had the lyrics and music recorded but I felt like something was missing. I was just scrolling through pages of musicians and I thought “Man, I love violins and upright basses, let’s see what that would sound like”. I had no idea who he was and knew nothing of his accomplishments at the time – like the fact that he’s led some of Europe’s most famous orchestras. When he returned the track my heart stopped. That was the sound I was looking for. Since then we’ve used Michael on almost every track.
What is your music about?
I’m not driven by one specific topic. Often times I don’t know what a song is about until after it is written. On this album there is a song about Santa Muerte, another one is a duet between a ghost and the man haunted by her voice night after night, one song is about a man who sells his soul at the crossroads. I don’t really have any control over it. Whatever comes out is what gets written about.
Is there a story behind your lyrics?
Each song is its own story, and has its own life. Each one comes from someplace different, gets put together differently, and takes on a different personality than the ones before and after, so yes, there is a story to every song.
What artists possess the greatest influence on your music?
I’m sure that the music I listen to has some sort of influence over my mind, which influences what gets written, but I have no conscious awareness of any specific influences.
You are also an actor. How does your time in front of the screen prepare you as a musical performer?
Acting on screen teaches you patience, discipline, the necessity of a positive attitude, and how to work together as a team. That’s good preparation for anything in life.
Can you describe your creative process and your recording set up for us?
I switch my mind into receptive mode and then go about my day. Sometimes a song will come immediately, other times it takes a few days. Often I just wake up with the melody playing in my head. Most of the songs are things that I first heard in dreams, then recorded upon awakening, but a few have come at very inopportune times and I have had to run to the bathroom to hum them into my phone before I lost them.
After the melody is out I upload it to the cloud, unless it is insistent and desires to be born immediately, then I must stop everything and give birth to the song. I listen to the melody, then a word, or phrase, comes to mind. Then I listen to that word, and the lyrics come out. It is a very fast process.
How can interested readers listen to your music?
All of my music is on my website, and a few unreleased songs appear there unannounced for brief periods of time. You can also listen to, and purchase, the music at iTunes and Bandcamp, or stream it on Spotify.
What has been your most memorable experience as a performer?
A rehearsal for a very large musical at a very large venue in a very theater oriented city. I had kidney surgery and they had given me an epidural, so I couldn’t feel below the legs. The second that I could feel my legs again, my friend wheeled me out to his car, then drove me to the rehearsal that was in process, and I rolled myself out onto stage straight out of surgery. I don’t remember much of it since I was on a lot of prescription drugs, but it was still probably my most memorable experience as a performer since it taught me a lot about myself.
What goals do you still have left to accomplish in 2015 and over your career?
We are releasing the full album in late April. We are also working on a music video, which may not see the light of day, but it is an experience that I would like to have.
I am not a goal oriented person. I don’t think in that way. I look at what needs to be done and I set to work laying the foundation for it to come into being, or I think about what I would like to experience then set to work making it happen. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, and sometimes I change my mind. Goals seem very silly to me.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Anyone who starts a sentence with the phrase “music is”, or ”music isn’t”, is probably a fraud. Music means many things to many people. Don’t let anyone else define your parameters.
Review Fix Exclusive: Nic Nassuet Talks ‘Eleutherios’
Combining poetic lyrics and solid and deep musicianship thanks to a slew of solid musicians behind him, Nassuet is able to put a definable face on the Gothic Rock genre for anyone who either had no idea what it was or had prior predispositions.
Eerily charming, soft and silky, yet powerful and dark, Nassuet’s work would fit in perfectly in a video game the likes of “Castlevania” or “Silent Hill.”
Review Fix: What is Gothic Rock?
Nic Nassuet: I don’t think in terms of genre, so this is a difficult question for me to answer. Rock is pretty well defined, and the gothic aesthetic is also pretty well defined, so I suppose that Gothic Rock would be rock with gothic themes and tonal qualities that evoke images of the gothic aesthetic.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Nassuet: I wish I knew so that I could tap into it at will! As it stands, I sort of flip a switch inside and make myself receptive to whatever comes into my thoughts. I don’t try, and the harder I try, the worse the song sounds, so I just let it be. Whatever sounds, images, and lyrics come into my head end up on paper or sung into a recorder, and the music grows out of that.
Review Fix: What makes this album special?
Nassuet: Many things make it special to me. We had a miscarriage back in 2013. Prior to that, I had been working as a professional actor in Hollywood. I was really unhappy as an actor playing stereotypes in order to pay the rent. After our child died I asked myself what it really is that I always wanted to do, what is it that makes me truly happy, and what is it that allows me to really connect with others… the answer was “music.” So I tapped into that part of my mind that answered “music” and gave it full permission to hear, write, record, and perform music. This album was the result.
Since then we have won several awards, played the major venues on Sunset Strip, and reached out to many people who resonate with our sound.
It is also special because it isn’t like anything else that you are likely to hear. It was not created with intention, or according to a formula. It is natural, and organic, and free flowing from my subconscious to your ears, without a filter.
Review Fix: How does your background in theatre help you?
Nassuet: Getting over nerves, for one. You can’t be an actor and worry about rejection, or what an audience will think. There’s a real strength and warrior spirit to the performing arts that those outside of the arts don’t normally acknowledge. I think that a background in theater also helped me to learn to be punctual, work well with others under duress, and think on my feet.
It also helped me learn how to apply stage makeup, which we use often.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Nassuet: When asked, I usually mutter something about folk, gothic, acoustic rock and end up with saying “It’s weird, you really have to hear it in order to understand.” Haha. Given the bewildered looks I get when I stammer like that, I should probably come up with a canned response.
Review Fix: The addition of a female backup vocalist and violinist adds another layer to the gothic sound. Have you thought of adding other instruments to the mix as well?
Nassuet: Absolutely. I have my eye on some Eastern instruments that I really want to make music with. I plan to pick up a couple of traditional Indian, Chinese, and Mongolian stringed instruments to see what comes out.
Review Fix: What song on this album do you think best encapsulates your message?
I don’t know that I have a message, but I am sure that my subconscious is communicating something through this music. The album as a whole tells a story when listened to from start to finish, much like an opera. If there was one song that I though really captured the essence of the album, it would probably be “When It Falls,” as it represents a sort of transition point in the album. From there the songs get slower and descend into a lullaby until “Black Dress” crescendos.
Review Fix: How do you want this album to be remembered?
Nassuet: As something real, and original, that touched the people who needed to hear it.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Nassuet: We’ve got some great shows coming up at the Dresden, and the Viper Room. We’re also heading out to Nashville to meet with tour promoters to see if we can’t get something going on a bigger scale. Definitely going to work as much as possible with the great folks over at the Indie Music Channel, and at XRP Radio. I haven’t said anything to anyone about this yet, but I’ve got some studio time lined up with Josh Riccio at Sing Engine Records and I hope to record some old horror punk cover songs as part of a Glenn Danzig tribute EP in singer-songwriter style with just an acoustic guitar and voice. I think that will bring out some elements of the songs that haven’t been heard before.