Have a Little Faith in Me: A Chat With Nick Santino

As the guitarist for A Rocket to the Moon, Nick Santino was worried if fans would follow his solo endeavors. As his 2014 album Big Skies and a recent UK tour has proven ... yes, yes they will.
Nick Santino
Big Skies

Nick Santino is well known from his days of being lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in American pop-rock band, A Rocket to the Moon. In 2013 they called it a day, and Santino carried on by himself.

While the split may have come swiftly, Santino moved on. He released a couple of EPs last year, and then released his first solo, full-band album, Big Skies, in May of this year. The record continued where A Rocket to the Moon left of, yet left Santino in a position to add new influences here and there, while expanding his musical career.

Now, being signed to 8123, Santino is touring with the UK on the label’s own tour, supporting alternative-rockers The Maine and indie-pop group Lydia. The tour has been a major success, and PopMatters caught up with Santino in Nottingham to talk about the transition from touring in a big rock band to gracing the stage with just a guitar.

He says the current tour has been a lot of fun, being on the road with his good friends. “It’s been a blast. I mean, we’re all sort’ve excited to go home, just because anytime we’re away from home for more than two weeks we all get really tired. But it’s been a blast; just a ton of fun.”

The current UK tour has been the first opportunity for the singer-songwriter to show off his new material to a worldwide audience, but the UK feels like a second home to him already. “I mean we’ve been other places over the world, where its crazy,” he notes. “With the UK, I feel like it’s almost part of the States because people play over here all the time. We go places like the Philippines and there’s a show like once a year. The UK is cool though because you feel like you’re playing to your friends, just with different accents. I like London a lot, I do like the smaller places too, though. Places with the cobblestone streets. But London is just London. It’s like going to New York City or Los Angeles.”

The crossover on the 8123 tour plays into the success with there being no clear division in the fanbases. “It’s my first time over here as a solo artist,” he continues, “so it’s different to being with the band, especially coming over with a band like The Maine. We share a lot of the same fanbase and I think a lot of their fans have seen them a ton of times but not seen me before, so its all good. With Lydia too, I always knew them in passing, but I never toured with them. But, they’re Phoenix guys, from Arizona, so we have similar personalities.”

Despite this, it must be a huge change going from touring in a successful rock band, backed by three members every night to getting on that stage alone, but it seems to be something he’s adjusted to extremely quickly.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” he admits, “but I try not to go on stage nervous. I treat the audience like I’m playing to a bunch of friends on stage. I try to have one on one conversations with people in the crowd, and I try to treat it more like a personal thing than a big performance. I can just be myself on stage, I don’t feel like I have to be anyone else or awkward or anything. It’s different than with the band though, because I have most of that pressure on myself now rather than the other guys.”

Talking about the audiences, he said that it’s all been extremely positive: “They don’t jump around or anything because I’m just playing acoustic and I don’t expect them to, but there’s a bit of crowd participation. I get people to singalong and stuff like that. I can see they’re into it.”

Santino is eager for the releases to stand on their own merit and not just supported by fans of his old band. A lot of people manage to start up solo careers successfully, but that success can sometimes be unclear when the solo career itself starts. Santino released two solo EPs last year, and followed them up with the Big Skies full-length.

Talking about the release of the record, he tells us that “When I put out the EPs it was sort’ve hard to judge. But with Big Skies it was a full-band rock and roll record and I think it was a lot easier to get into. That helped win some kids over from the band.

“Yeah, I think a lot of things change,” he continues, “but for me it’s been a lot better. I know it’s been a lot slower and I’ve been starting over but I look at it like a new chapter. But it’s different because before I’d have the band on stage and I wouldn’t talk much because they could too, and now I have to do it all on my own and it’s making me want to be a better performer. It’s just me and the guitar so I have to find ways of making it not just like ‘oh it’s a guy on stage with a guitar.’ I think I’m getting better at it with every show.”

It’ll be an important transition and by the time the new year starts, Santino should have a clearer picture on where he’s headed. For now, this is someone who’s taken their chances and seems confident in their new path.