Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following interview with Season 14 winner of American Idol, NICK FRADIANI
See Nick in concert at The Ridgefield Playhouse May 26th
Even before winning Season 14 of the tremendously popular American Idol, Nick Fradiani from Guilford, Connecticut, was headed for success in the music business. His regionally popular Beach Avenue band won the “Battle of the Bands” at Mohegan Sun in 2011. Afterward, Nick and his band received national attention when they competed on the ninth season of America’s Got Talent. Although they did not win, they built a strong social media following and sold a gazillion records. Nick went solo and went on to win the 14th season of American Idol. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Dedicated to the craft of singing and songwriting, Pillow Talking caught up with this talented musician as he was preparing to return to his home state of Connecticut to play at The Ridgefield Playhouse.
PT: First of all, thank you so much for doing a Pillow Talking interview with us.
NF: No worries.
PT: We have to tell you that you have evened up the score.
PT: We interviewed Javier Colon and Amanda Ayala from The Voice and Constantine Maroulis from American Idol. But now you have evened up the score and also put us one ahead because you were also on America’s Got Talent (AGT).
NF: (Laughs) That’s right. I forget about that sometimes!
PT: (Stephanie) We love to hear how everyone gets started in the business. We know you came from a musical family and played multiple instruments including the drums when you were really little.
NF: I guess the earliest recollection is that I was given a drum set, but I wouldn’t consider myself ever a drummer. It was the first kind of thing I was given as a little kid. Music was constantly always in our house because of my father. So I would always sing. That was one of the things I could do without really trying. My mother would freak out because I would harmonize at a very early age and she was able to pick up on that. So I guess that was the earliest recollection. My grandmother gave me a guitar when I was a teenager. I didn’t take it too seriously in high school. I kind of did it more for fun. I was much more into sports and trying to get that going on in my life. I think I was delusional. I was thinking like I was going to be in the NBA or something.
NF: I started writing songs early on in college. From that point on I knew in college that I wanted to do this hopefully as a career. I finished school and even continued after college thinking I was going to be a teacher, but I always wanted to do something that I knew that I’d have time as well to do music. I think the goal was always to somehow make this a career and that is luckily what happened. I think I was always surrounded by music because of my father so that made it instilled in me you can say.
PT: (Stephanie) You said you had this delusional idea that you were going to be in the NBA. When you got started in music, did you ever think you would have had ended up with the successes you have now and have had all along the way?
NF: I’ll be honest with you, I guess it was when I got out of college where I always thought I was going to make it in music. I really did have that [thought]. I didn’t know what it would be or to the extent of what it would be. But I did have that this, well, “Don’t worry, you’re going to make it at some point” [kind of attitude]. I remember when I got on America’s Got Talent, I said, “Well this is how it’s going to happen.” But then we [the band] got cut pretty quick on that. I was like, “All right, I wonder how it’s going to happen. Maybe my band will get signed,” something like that. At the end of the day I always believed that it was going to happen somehow.
PT: You did the “Battle of the Bands” at Mohegan Sun even before America’s Got Talent, right?
PT: So that was kind of a precursor to everything.
NF: Yeah, that was just another thing that helped out a lot. We always tell the story, but that was truthfully our first show. My band, Beach Avenue, never played a show together. My drummer sent in some of my solo demos to this radio station that was putting on this “Battle of the Bands.” They picked like ten bands or something and we were one of them. So he called me up. I was actually on vacation. He said, “We got to put a band together.” We were living together at the time on Beach Avenue. He just put that as the band name. He said, “We’re probably not going to win or anything, but we can make three hundred bucks to play the one show.” And that was our first show. Then we went on for a couple of weeks and wound up winning. We won enough money to put out our first EP and then we just stayed a band from then on.
PT: Who were your early influences?
NF: When I was really little I loved New Kids on the Block. When I was five or six, I was obsessed. And then I was obsessed with Michael Jackson. I listened to him constantly. Then The Beatles for a while. I remember loving punk rock music in eighth grade. That was when I was really learning how to play the guitar. Those songs were the easiest to learn – like blink-182. They were like three-chord bar chords. I learned how to do that. I think I always loved pop music – whatever that was. If it was catchy, the type of music didn’t bother me. I would gravitate towards catchy songs. So I’ve listened to all different stuff. I went through a country phase. I think I get it from my father. He always listened to so many different types of music – all but rap. I was the one who took over the rap (laughs).
PT: Did you take formal music lessons when you were younger?
NF: I took piano lessons and I stunk (laughs).
PT: (Laughs) No.
NF: Well, I guess I didn’t stink but I just never practiced. You hear it from a lot of musicians. A lot of them just didn’t like learning formal, boring-type stuff. You wanted to learn the songs that you were listening to. I see that more often now that a lot of music teachers, like my guitar player, he used to teach music at the School of Rock in Fairfield and he would say now that’s a big thing. The kids would come in and you basically teach them the songs that they want to learn. I think that will teach kids to want to practice more. I think with the boring stuff, you kind of lose kids at a young age. That’s what happened to me. In high school I took a lot of vocal training. I was in all the choirs. And then I did the select choir in Guilford. The director of that choir gave me some private lessons that really helped me out.
PT: (Wayne) My son plays the guitar and he’s learned a lot just from going to YouTube and watching guitarists play and picking it up that way.
NF: Absolutely. I kind of did that with piano later on. I taught myself guitar. Nowadays, you just go on YouTube. It’s visual. I’m a big visual learner. It’s like having a piano teacher right in front of you.
PT: We’ve asked our other interviewees from The Voice and American Idol about the process. Can you tell us a little bit of how it was for you?
NF: (Laughs) It’s a long process and I can talk about it for a while. I had a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun with it. I like to stay busy and do a lot of stuff during the day so that’s basically what they have you doing. You’re running around and getting to learn new songs and meet new people that have been in the business. I used to say that I just wanted to be like a sponge and absorb everything that was being said; watch how things were being done. There were times when I got myself overly stressed and those were the times when I was not performing as well. When I loosened up and just enjoyed it, it was so much fun. The last month or so of it was probably the greatest month. It’s an experience that you’ll never relive. No matter how big or small [the things] that happen in my music, that will always be a separate thing that was so crazy and awesome. So I like to look back at it still. I’m sure some people had bad experiences with it and I can see why, but luckily for me the experience was really good.
PT: What were some of the differences, if you can tell us, between America’s Got Talent and Idol?
NF: They are totally different shows. Actually one of the producers on Idol was the same as on America’s Got Talent. I was talking to her when I got kind of far and I was like, “How did you guys cut us? That was so bizarre. I don’t get it.” And she was like, “It’s not always about the most talented musician.” It’s not a music show and that’s the best way to put it. They are looking for what they think will be the most entertaining. Idol was definitely and totally focused on the music. I remember on AGT we were there for one week – I think it was called “Judgment Week” or “Hollywood Week” and I don’t think we got to perform one time. We got to rehearse in like a second. On Idol they have you rehearse a thousand times during the week to make sure you’re prepared. I remember when I finished AGT I was like, “I’m not doing these talent shows anymore.”
PT: (Laughs) Good thing you didn’t keep to that.
NF: Yeah. We were doing original music and the producers really didn’t want us to do original music. But we didn’t care. In the long run it did well for us. Even though they cut us, social media-wise we got the biggest reaction. We went top fifty or whatever. We sold a lot of records.
PT: (Wayne) I think part of who you are and the way you are handling success – which seems to be very well – is because by the time you won Idol, you already had some major successes in the music business.
NF: Yes, I think so. I think it helped a little bit. I had some local success at the time. When it did all happen, I was stunned by it all. It took me a little while to get used to it and still does. I think I’m always somebody who is hungry to keep getting better and to keep making better music. I’m just excited for my next opportunity all the time.
PT: (Stephanie) What have been some of the coolest experiences for you?
NF: I had a couple of conversations with Steven Tyler that were pretty crazy when I was staying in California.
NF: I had a really good conversation with Howard Stern when I was in California. I’m a big fan of his. I listen to him all the time. So that was really cool. Just meeting so many different people that I got to look up to. It was awesome. It still is. This past summer I got to play with One Republic for a few shows and they are like one of my favorite bands.
PT: That must have been fantastic!
NF: Yeah. I got to perform with Rob Thomas on stage and he was again one of my biggest influences growing up. Just a ton of really incredible situations. I got to write with Jason Mraz. He wrote my title track with me and my guitar player – the three of us. Probably too many to count over the last two years. I was talking to my drummer, Zippy, and we were both shocked that it has been only two years. It feels like four or five years (laughs). Sometimes when we think about auditioning for AGT, it seems like a decade ago, but it’s really been only three or four years ago. I think there’s a lot more to come.
PT: You did the Idol tour, too.
NF: Yeah. That was 38 cities – about two months. That was a lot of fun – a great experience.
PT: (Stephanie) There are a lot of people out there trying to break into the business. Obviously, reality shows like AGT and Idol are one way. What advice would you give to someone trying to make it today?
NF: It is one way to go. I don’t think you can plan it by saying, “I’m going to make it by going on a TV show.” I never once thought that. The first time somebody found my band was because we were putting up YouTube covers all the time. We were working – we had already put out two albums. We were trying to stay as busy as we could on social media, and then a talent scout found us from that and put us on AGT. Because of that I met somebody that was doing the same type of scouting for Idol and that’s how I got on that. I don’t think you can plan on it from being on one of these shows. I think if you have the opportunity to go on one of them, I would say to do it – if that’s the way you want to go with it. But nowadays there are so many different ways to be heard. But now the problem is that there are so many people who are “musicians and singers” – people are inundated. There’s so much of it on social media. Everybody is a singer, so you have to put out the best possible content. So that’s the best advice I would say. If you want to do music, make sure you’re putting in the right amount of work and the right stuff. Keep writing – get with people that are better than you and work with them. That’s what I always did. I didn’t know how to record music so I got with people who knew how to record. Keep working. Obviously, a little bit of work has to come into play.
PT: (Stephanie) As we know, whether its music or other aspects of the entertainment business, there are tons of rejection and you have to develop a thick skin.
NF: Oh, my God, yes.
PT: What was it like being on national television and being criticized?
NF: It’s going to bother you – whether it’s a bad review of an album or somebody saying something to you when you’re on a show. I don’t care how tough your skin is at some point it’s going to agitate you. You just get used to it. You do have to have a tough skin or it will drive you a little crazy. Some of it I laugh at. The way I think about it is that I know I’m not as bad as some of the horrible content that things people write about me and I’m probably not as good as the insane praise I get from some people.
PT: (Laughs) A good way to look at it!
NF: You know where you’re at and the artist you want to be. More recently I’ve learned that I’m just trying to make music that makes me happy and hopefully that makes other people happy. I’m not thinking anymore if I’m pleasing anybody – it’s got to be for you. I think you have to do that with anything. You go look at a YouTube of mine and you’ll see eight thousand people saying mean stuff (laughs), but you also see the same amount saying awesome stuff. So you can’t get too caught up in it.
PT: How does it feel coming back to Connecticut, your home state?
NF: I love playing in Connecticut. All the people are super nice and they are always so excited. I think you feed off that with a crowd – especially when everyone knows the words and sings along with you. You feel that energy in a crowd and you play better. It’s like a home basketball game – you have the home-court advantage. I feel like that when I come home. I’ve never played at the Ridgefield Playhouse, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I heard the sound is amazing and it’s a really cool room. The whole band is looking forward to it.
PT: We’ve seen and interviewed many performers there. It’s a great venue. They have a large diversity of talent there. It’s an intimate venue, but it’s a very enthusiastic audience. They do great, great work.
NF: That’s awesome.
PT: We also interviewed Amanda Ayala who will be opening for you.
NF: I’ve heard her sing. She’s great.
PT: She’s played there before and we thought that it’s such a good pairing – Idol and The Voice. (Wayne) I said to her jokingly in her interview that we can create a big social media stir by having a contest between you and her – Idol vs. The Voice (laughs).
PT: (Wayne) But then I said, “I’m only kidding.” Save your comments. Don’t put them on the blog. (Stephanie) Changing the subject (laughs), so what else have you been doing since Idol?
NF: We did the tour and then I did a radio tour for a couple of months – actually a year – going around the country and playing for the different radio stations. More recently, I finished a new EP. I put out my last album in August.
NF: Yes. That was a full-length album. But we are going to be putting out an EP this summer. We just finished recording that. We don’t have an exact date yet for the release. That will be the next step – putting out some new stuff – which I’m really excited about.
PT: We spoke to Javier Colon who is branching out into acting. Do you see yourself acting or doing Broadway?
NF: I have some people asking about some acting stuff. I don’t see myself doing Broadway, but possibly acting. I’m still wanting to keep writing and working on my craft itself. I still think I have too much work in that department to worry about other things. If the right thing comes along, I could see myself trying some other stuff. For now, I just want to keep working on getting my sound the way I want it. I think it will take this EP and maybe one more to solidify the sound I want.
PT: What do you expect or want your audiences to take away from your concerts?
NF: For Ridgefield, it’s going to be a more intimate show. We are bringing a five-piece band, but we will be more stripped down. So I think you’ll really be able to get into the songs and hear the words – really hear the vocals. We’ll be playing stuff from Hurricane. I’ll be playing a few songs I’ve never played before off this new EP that will be coming out. We do songs from my band Beach Avenue and my favorite covers from Springsteen to Tom Petty to Billy Joel to The Beatles.
NF: I play stuff that turned me on to music. The covers get everybody really into it. There’s a lot of songs the fans know – even from my old band and Hurricane. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I think people will really enjoy it.
PT: We have a signature last question that we ask of all of our interviewees. Some say it’s the hardest to answer. We know that you are still relatively young in your life and career, but if you had to sum up your life and career to date in one word what would it be?
PT: Grind! Interesting. We’ve never gotten that before.
NF: I like to work and I’ve had to work to get to where I’m at. So I was on my grind (laughs)!
PT: We love it! We look forward to seeing you [at Ridgefield].
NF: Thanks, guys!