Nick Palma Interview
I get terribly excited when an interviewee comes to me via old friends, because I know my friends don’t keep boring company! Newly solo artist Nick Palma approaches his craft with great humbleness and compassion—Emotions he’s rather talented at conveying with his guitar. On the heels of his newest single, “Lanterns”, released Friday, he’s come to our pages to discuss the transition from band member to solo artist, the past that inspires him, and the debut album to come.
D&D: Considering Brian was the one to put us in touch, I think it’d be great to start with ADA. Or rather, the aftermath. Tell me what that transition from band member to solo artist was like?
Nick: Sure thing. Well to keep it as short as possible, I can’t go into complete detail because unfortunately with the way things ended there had to be some legal action taken on both sides. But basically we were at the highest point in our career in every aspect and all of a sudden things came to a screeching halt. No warning, not even the respect of having a conversation about it from this member that screwed over the rest of us. And of course we tried our hardest to find a replacement but between COVID at the time and the current state of the industry in general, it seemed like all the odds were stacked against us and it was the perfect storm of bad luck.
We were all pretty depressed for a long time and for a little while I actually thought I was done with music. I had such a bad taste in my mouth from this whole experience that I wanted nothing to do with it for a long time, but I think I definitely needed that break. I was burnt out from years of running that band and focusing so much on the business side of things and not enough on the artistic side, which is what it’s really all about. But as time went on, I found myself missing it more and more, and that long period of time I spent without picking up a guitar actually helped me regain my passion for it. I sat down and told myself “well, I’m kind of done relying on other people for my own success after what happened with ADA, but I’ll never stop writing music no matter what. So, the only logical thing right now is to do my own thing for a while and see where it goes.” People always told me my music conveys emotion even without lyrics, so I might as well give it a shot with a whole album and now here we are.
D&D: There is a major grind to being in a band that people don’t usually see, & it tends to heavily fall to one member of the band. How has your approach to the grind changed now?
Nick: One of the great things about spending so many years with the same project was learning what not to do. There’s so much trial and error involved, especially when you’re younger, and even the things that you could see as “failures” really aren’t that at all in my eyes. It’s just experience and there’s no substitute for that. Luckily from years of having that experience, I feel like I’m able to navigate my way around the business side of things much easier and hopefully not make the same mistakes twice. There’s also much less stress on me now simply just because I’m an instrumental artist. I have complete creative freedom and there’s no more worrying about writing songs that are radio friendly or short enough or whatever mold they had to fit into. I know I’ll probably never be on the radio or the billboard charts again, but that’s okay because at the end of the day, I’d still do this whether one person or one million people listened.
D&D: Better to do something you enjoy on a small scale than something you hate on a big scale. Well, since you are such a seasoned musician, I know you’ve got some good stories for me to hear. Good, bad, or just plain weird, what’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you at a show?
Nick: Ah, the stories! Well, I don’t think I have anything too crazy. I’ve always been pretty much the opposite of a party animal, but I can definitely think of a few. One of my favorite experiences was when we did our first tour. It was completely self-funded and self-booked. We didn’t expect much, but to our surprise in multiple cities across the country we had fans show up just for us. It was so cool and inspiring to meet them and hear them tell us what our music meant to them, and I think it was even better since we weren’t expecting that at all.
I don’t remember where it was or even what state we were in, but one totally weird and random thing was when we played this venue and the whole time there was this guy there that kept following us around all night and telling us that he was Johnny Craig’s brother. And we were just like “….okay.” You definitely meet some weird people out there! But I try to be as Friendly and respectful as possible until it gets too weird haha.
D&D: I’m a sucker for stories! Do you have any memories from childhood that foreshadowed your future as a rockstar?
Nick: Oh, I have a ton. I was always drawn to music as a kid no matter what genre it was. I was always the kid with headphones at all times pretty much. My mom would play Guns N’ Roses and Santana in the car and tell me about how these were some of the greatest guitar players. The funny thing is, I actually started out wanting to be a drummer! I never did get a kit though. I think because there’s no volume knob on a drum set, my parents weren’t crazy about the idea lol. So, eventually, I found my way to guitar through Slash. I remember seeing pictures of him and thinking he looked like the coolest dude on the planet and I wanted to do everything he did. From the looks to the playing, he was my first idol.
One Christmas (I think I was 10 at the time), my parents got me a guitar and they started taking me for lessons to a local place by us. I have a ton of memories of my dad driving me to that music store and bringing my empty tab book for my teacher to write in. He was a blues player, so an appreciation for that style of playing definitely stuck with me throughout the years. As I got older, the lessons weren’t as frequent, but I would go back from time to time as I was slowly getting into more metal and the style I play now. Eventually, I remember him saying there wasn’t much left he could teach me, so I had no choice but to move on.
Somewhere in between all of this I discovered Avenged Sevenfold and the rest is history. They’re still my favorite band and Synyster Gates is still my favorite guitar player. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve stuck with guitar as a teenager if it wasn’t for that band. I would say Slash, Synyster Gates, and pretty much everything that was on the radio during middle school were my earliest influences.
D&D: Where does the writing process start for you and what does it look like?
Nick: It’s definitely a different process every time. Usually when I sit down and say “I’m gonna write something from scratch” nothing comes out. Most of the time the good stuff comes when you least expect it. If I’m feeling creative that day and I hear something on Spotify or whatever, that inspires me. I’ll definitely jump right to my computer and see what happens. Once I have a starting point, I usually try to finish as much of the idea as possible. As an artist, I feel like it’s critical to minimize the time between having an idea and getting it recorded. Otherwise, you end up with a thousand voice memos on your phone, haha.
As for this album in particular, it was definitely a challenge to have 4-5 minute songs of guitar as the focal point and keep it interesting the whole time. In the past, I wrote the songs and left room for the vocals to do their thing. But this time, I had to pretty much fill every role. I stayed true to my writing style and treated the lead guitar as a main vocal. Even though it’s instrumental, I still wanted it to be catchy and get the “choruses” stuck in your head. It’s definitely not a traditional guitar album where it’s just a shred fest the whole time. I wanted it to be emotional and sound almost like a soundtrack in a way. There are some super shreddy parts, but also some slow cinematic parts, and I’m incredibly proud of how it ended up as a whole. I have no control over this, but I hope people listen to it from beginning to end because that’s really the way it’s meant to be listened to. This album sounds like how it would sound if you plugged a headphone jack into my heart.
I have to give a shout-out to my producers, Carson and Grant, at Atrium Audio for making it come to life. For me, there’s no cooler feeling than watching songs I wrote in my bedroom come to life in a huge studio and sound better than I could have imagined.
D&D: Are there any features on the album?
Nick: Yes, there are! This was the first time I got to work with other people outside of the immediate project. ADA hadn’t had any features, and when I was writing this album, there were definitely a few people who came to mind immediately. Depending on when this interview comes out, you will have either just heard or are about to hear my next single that features my good friend, Brian Kang. This particular song was written about a very dark time in my life, but has a very triumphant feel to it. During that time, Brian was one of my closest friends, who I know always has my back. It was important to me to have people whose presence on the album has meaning to me. I told everyone I asked to just do their own thing. I wanted it to be very much their own stamp on the song as much as mine. I’m gonna keep the other features a surprise for now, though!
D&D: Haha, if you insist! I do believe we can wind down this interview. Any last words of wisdom you would like to leave with readers?
Nick: I just wanna say thank you to everyone who’s still following my musical journey. Whether instrumental music is your thing or not, any amount of support is so appreciated, and I hope this album makes you feel something. We will continue to inspire each other.