Let us introduce you to Nick DeLeo, one of Nashville’s newest residents who is aiming to take the country music scene by storm.
After leaving his small hometown in Massachusetts, he started working in Nashville while trying to get his foot in the country music door. He just released his first album, “Country Ain’t a Place,” and it is guaranteed to make you feel like it’s summer, no matter the weather.
Check out the Lala’s exclusive interview with Nick DeLeo below!
Lala: How’d you get started in music?
Nick: My first instrument actually was not the guitar, nor was it singing. I learned to play the trumpet when I was a kid in elementary school as part of the school-wide band. Learning to play back then was so important because it developed my ear. I always loved playing trumpet, in fact, I have it with me here in Nashville. But I always had a certain itch to learn to play guitar.
Senior year in high school I had an injury in football where I broke my leg and was out of commission for four months. Not being able to have my normal routine of sports for hours after school drove me crazy, so I needed something to fill that void. My sister had played the piano at the time and we were fortunate enough to have one in our living room. Before I knew it, boredom had given me interest in something and I became hooked, learning most classic Christmas songs for the holidays, and placing second at our high school talent show playing “Rocket Man” by Elton John.
When college came around and sports were out of the picture, I found myself again with a ton of free time between classes and not a whole lot to do during the day (night-time as a freshman I was booked solid).
One day I heard music coming from the massive bathrooms we had and turns out my floor-mate was playing guitar in there because of the tile room acoustics. This guy would go on to teach me the most basic scale on a guitar, giving me the start I would need to learn on my own. From then on my love for playing guitar and singing would change my career and land me in Nashville. Ironically, that guy from the bathroom, Patrick Aprea, is now my roommate and friend in Nashville pursuing a career in singing and songwriting also.
Who is your biggest music inspiration?
My number one favorite of all time is Garth Brooks, hands down. I’ve always loved the energy he brought to country music through his songs as well as his stage performances. He is really the first person I remember hearing as a kid. My dad, brother, and I would pop in his cassette “The Hits” (1994), on the way to Fenway Park to watch Red Sox games. We’d sing all the songs then flip it over and keep going with side two.
What inspires you to write?
Real events, plain and simple. It is extremely difficult trying to paint a picture that you have never been in or seen. To write a song for me is to create a mental image of an instance you’ve had or felt, and fill in the details of what you remember. It is as if you have a video camera in your head, and you just keep replaying a specific 30 second memory or scene enough times until you have all of the material that will paint that same memory to everyone else in a song. My hope is that the listener will then fill my “picture” that I sing with their own characters and specifics, making it memorable to them.
You took a risk leaving everything you knew and moving to Nashville. Describe what that experience was like.
There were a variety of emotions I felt when leaving home, and unfortunately sometimes all at once. Homesickness, excitement, loneliness, feelings of triumph, and defeat, just to name a few. It was certainly difficult leaving New England, the only home I’d ever known to move to a place with a very different culture and way of living.
Especially being the home-body I am, and having a great base of friends and connections at home, it was like hitting a reset button on all my networks, forcing me to start over. However I can truly say that my friends and family have shown me more support than I ever would have dreamed, always around whenever I need advice, a care package, a friendly call, a gig back home, anything. This proved true especially when I came out with my first album, “Country Ain’t a Place” and I was sending out 10 to 15 CDs a day to people from home that got in touch to show their support. Without their support it would make the experience nearly unbearable for me.
To answer the question further, it was a risk leaving potential jobs and lifestyles to pursue a dream career; It was a financial risk as well as a personal risk. But the risk is part of the dream, and sometimes you have to take a huge risk in order to get what you want. I want to be an established country singer and songwriter, and moving to Nashville was just part of what I had to do to reach that goal.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned while breaking into the music industry?
You cannot get discouraged. The hardest thing I faced was coming from a place where I could draw a large crowd to a venue, and friends, family, and even fans would travel to see me play. The first gig I played in Nashville was in a smoky bar with four people in it, made no tips, and worse no one heard a word I sang. It was embarrassing, frustrating, but most of all discouraging. I was a fish in a puddle compared to the ocean I am in now, and that took some getting used to.
The quickest emotion you feel when you have been “cut down to size” is discouragement, but you just have to remember why you are here, and that you didn’t move 1200 miles so you could have your feelings hurt and go home. You have to believe down deep you are the best, and in it for the long haul, no matter how many people walk by your tip jar and put nothing in it.
People often think country music is just about beer and tractors, but a lot of your lyrics diverge from the honky-tonk country stereotype. What separates your music from other country artists, while still staying true to the genre?
Country music in my opinion tells stories about the every-day, working class, regular person, that most people can relate to because it is them. That is why my first album is titled “Country Ain’t a Place”; although the country music originated down south, its messages span all the way up the East Coast, and all the way out West. Tractors, trucks, and beer are certainly popular country topics, because it is what people do on a daily basis. We all work, we all drive home, and we all pop off and relax one way or another when we get there. I don’t believe I need to sing about tractors to be a country singer, and if I do I have a serious problem, because I never grew up on them.
But I have been in love, I have had to say goodbye to loved ones, I have had to work a job that I hated to make ends meet, and I have had a hell of a good time with my buddies after a long week. I write about country ideals, things that people all over the world can relate to, even though they are not from my neck of the woods. I think a lot of writers become so focused on trying to fit this “country mold” that they lose sight of the truth of what they are writing for popularity. If you stay true to what you are writing, it comes from the heart, and it can reach people through common ground, then that to me is country music.
You can check out Nick’s music here, grab his CD on his website or on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and if you want a personalized signed copy of his first album, ‘Like’ his Facebook page and message him with an address to send it to!