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Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves

Nick Perri – Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves

For years Singer/Songwriter/Producer Nick Perri has been out performing with several bands starting with Silvertide in the early 2000’s. Now, he has taken his amazing, extraordinary talents and formed his own band Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves consisting of himself as Lead Vocalist and Guitarist, Bassist Brian Weaver, Keyboardist Justin DiFebbo (on Hammond organ and synthesizer), Drummer Zil Fessler and Michael and Anthony Montesano on backing vocals.

As their first single “Feeling Good” was starting to hit the airwaves, Perri took time to reveal how he and his Philadelphia bandmates created their debut album SUN VIA what inspired him to become a musician, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: How did the new album Sun Via come about?

Nick Perri: Well, I guess, you want the full story?

SFL Music: Sure, whatever you want to tell us.

Perri: Sure. Well, I don’t know how much you know about my history or anything, but I’ve been making music for a long time and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to keep pursuing this dream, and over the years I’ve played in a lot of bands. A lot of collaborative projects I guess you could say, and it was in December. December 1, 2017 was the first session for this record. It was two and a half years ago, and at that time I had made a decision after my umpteenth band had dissolved, frustratingly out of my control, and just because of bandmates that either weren’t as committed or record labels or managers. People that dropped the ball. I was just really fed up and I just said, you know what, it’s time to do things my way. I’ve been kind of training for this I guess you could say, my whole life, and I felt very ready to take the rings. Number one, creatively step up and start singing my own songs. I’ve always written lyrics and melodies and I always sang, but I’ve always have been in bands with greeaaat world-class singers. So, I just decided I’d sing background vocals and play guitar, but certainly capable of singing lead vocals. I just didn’t have a reason to do it before now. So, I decided to sing. I decided to get back to doing my own original material and I wanted to form a band that I could lead creatively and that I would also be producing and recording. So, I decided early on in the process that I was gonna produce and record the record myself and that we were going to make the record we wanted. I was going to make the record that I wanted with zero artistic compromises, and we were going to do it, pay for the whole thing, completely independently and do it the exact way I’ve always wanted to do it. You know, with zero artistic compromise which is a huge, huge thing for me. I’ve always compromised in some way and I’m not saying it’s bad. That’s a part of any kind of relationship or collaboration. There’s always compromise, and sometimes those compromises can lead to cool things. Sometime not. For better or worse, this time around I said I just want to do it my way and have that experience for once in my life and for once in my career. So, the last two and a half years, it has been an incredible undertaking to do almost virtually everything, and very proud of the album. It took a while, but it turned out exactly the way I wanted and I love my band. I love everybody that I’m playing and making music with. There’s no sour apples. Everybody is serious about the music, and we’re all life-long friends from the Philadelphia area. I’ve been all around the world and played with a lot of awesome people, but these are the people that I want to make music with every day, and it feels great to be in a band that I love. It feels great to have the opportunity to put forth a body of work that I’m very proud of in every way and in many respects, is my debut as an artist. As an independent front man and artist and creative force, I guess you could say. So, it’s really a big moment in time for me and the band and I’m very excited and very grateful, and of course, now we are building a team around it and we are doing deals and getting things on the business side ready to help bring it to the world, but the entire creative process was done completely, independently and exactly the way I’ve always wanted. So, that’s a long answer (he laughed).

SFL Music: That was a great answer! Thank you. The single “Feeling Good” you stated was about “being grateful for what you have and not relying on material goods for happiness.” That is awesome. What inspired that?

Perri: Great question. Literally that. So, I wrote the song a couple years ago at a really, really tough point in my life. We had already started the record, but I was facing not only the challenges of taking on such a mammoth project again, independently, but just in my personal life, there were some challenges, and there were some trying times. I wrote it as like a pep talk to myself, not to give up and to remind myself that happiness doesn’t come from material possessions. It doesn’t come from external things. That often times all the happiness we need is right inside. You just have to sort of go inward and look inward and not look outward, and that’s a reflection of just where I’m at in my life. Fifteen years ago, that would’ve made no sense to me, but where I’m at in my life as a person. As a being. As a spiritual being. Having this experience. This human experience. There’s lots of things in my life that kind of led me to that perspective, and when I found a way to kind of say it so simply, I just ran with it. The song lyrically almost wrote itself in five minutes once I found the perspective of which I was going to tell that story, and I really firmly believe it’s true. Especially now, which I could never have predicted back then that the world would be in such a state that we’re in right now with so much uncertainty and so many things up in the air, and it’s been a very tough year for so many people, and I’m of course sympathetic and empathetic to that because I’m living through it as well, but I do in spite of it, I still feel that it is incredibly important to have that perspective and that its ok to simultaneously be concerned and be very present in what’s happening in the world, but also allow yourself a moment to feel good. It doesn’t have to all be bad and grim and dark you know, every day, all day. So, I think it’s important that people remember, go outside, take a walk. Get some sun on your face. I know that there’s crazy stuff happening in the world. Things are upside down in a lot of ways, but try to find that happiness from within and try to feel good, and if this song, you know we’re doing a big radio campaign. Hopefully it will be on stations across America very soon, and if I could play even one small minute roll in reminding people or encouraging people to feel good at this time, it would be an honor for me and it would be just wonderful. It would make me feel wonderful. So, that’s I guess, my feeling on it.

SFL Music: That would be great. When is the radio campaign happening?

Perri: Now. Right now. It’s already started. So, the song is being sent out to radio stations across America as of last week and hopefully we’re going to start seeing spins on various stations. I mean, I think actually some stations have probably already started to spin it. I’m waiting on a report, but it’s happening right now in real time. I mean it’s going to be a building process. It’s not just gonna all the sudden be everywhere, but we’re starting that process now and I would hope by July 4th, I really hope that its pumping.

SFL Music: So, fans can call in and check social media?

Perri: Absolutely. In fact, next week I’m gonna actually film a little video and kind of go to the fan base and ask everybody for their support and to call into their local radio stations. Very much my career and everything that’s happening is still very much independent. The fans that are there, that I’m so grateful to have. Many of whom have been on the ride with me since Silvertide way back in the day. Have followed me through multiple bands and projects. I feel, this is almost for them as much as it is for me. So, I’m hoping that they rally around the cause and will pick up the phone, and email and start Tweeting it to DJ’s and program directors and radio stations, and try to help me get that song out there, and that’s what I’m going to ask them next week to start doing because I really feel like you know, people listen when people speak up. So, that’s gonna to be part of something I’m gonna start doing next week. Yeah, anybody can stay in touch. Instagram is a big platform for me, @nickperri. Nickperrimusic.com is the website. I’m very active on social media. I’m not hard to find. The record is also available for pre-order on vinyl which I wanted to do my whole life, and I’m so excited about. This is going to be my first vinyl record. So that’s exciting!

SFL Music: Is there a theme to this album? Tell me about some of the songs.

Perri: You know, that’s another good question. I don’t think there’s overall, one specific theme. At least not lyrically, but what we try to do is capture the essence of what this band is when the six of us come together, and I feel like there’s quite a spectrum here. It’s not one dimensional by any means in the sound and the song, but at the same time we tried not to make it, you know, unlistenably crazy and diverse. You know what I mean? it does have a musical thread through it which I think and I’ve been told, and this is not something that was an original thought of mine, but I’ve been told that that thread is the way that I play guitar. People seem to think that it has a sound and it connects across different genres of songs, and to me it’s all rock and roll. The whole album just falls under the title of rock and roll music, but there are more straight-ahead kind of bluesier rock and roll offerings, and it would be inauthentic to deny the part of my influence that is so heavily into Pink Floyd and psychedelic rock and kind of the Floydian stuff. Radiohead. So, that’s a huge influence that’s also present, and the other thing is, even though I’m from Philly, live in Philly and the whole band is from Philly, I’ve always been obsessed with kind of the desert, southern California vibe, and I lived in California for many years. I married a California girl and was doing a bi-coastal thing for a while, but I spent a lot of time, you know, just all over southern California and the influence there, The Birds and The (Flying) Burrito Brothers and the Eagles and Poco. All that kind of California sound, Jackson Browne. That’s all kind of seeped in too. So, there’s moments that kind of have that vibe. There’s moments that have the Floydian thing. There’s moments that like I said, are more straight ahead, down the center, rock and roll, but I think the thing that unifies it perhaps, I’ve been told is the way the I approach playing guitar and writing songs and certainly the way that we sing. When we sing together, we have this awesome kind of three, four-part harmony through all the songs. I just think that that’s another unifying element. Somatically, lyrically, I don’t think so much. I think we just try to tell stories and write songs that were honest and made us feel something, but I don’t think there’s a lyrical concept throughout that I would definitively point to.

SFL Music: Are the bands you mentioned, the ones that influenced you to go into music as a career? Was being from Philadelphia an influence? What did influence you?

Perri: Actually, what influenced me was a very specific and finite moment in time. I grew up in a very conservative household. Kind of a strict, you know, Catholic. I went to like all boys high school and church and the whole thing. I didn’t really know from rock and roll. I think like the only rock and roll I’d ever heard was “Johnny B. Goode” in the movie Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox like takes over the talent show, (he laughed).Which was awesome, but I was very young when I saw that and it wasn’t the right age to actually like compute fully what I was seeing. It wasn’t until years later; I think I was around eleven. My aunt who was my mom’s sister. Wonderful women. She was kind of the black sheep of the family. The rock and roll one, and she gave me two cassette tapes because we’re talking about you know, this is the nineties. She gave me two cassette tapes. One was Pearl Jam Ten and the other one was AC/DC’s Highway To Hell. Unbeknownst to my parents of course. Can I tell you? It was just life changing. Like that moment in time. I mean it’s interesting to go back and have a reference like that where you definitively know that your life changed courses. Anything else I’d ever previously thought about went out the window when I heard the sound of electric guitar. Immediately I started playing guitar, and four years later, I signed a record deal with Clive Davis and touring the world. It happened very fast because I became obsessed with playing guitar and writing songs. So, that moment in time kind of set me on a course that I’ve never, ever once looked back. I just always looked forward. Obviously, the city of Philadelphia does have a rich musical history which you mentioned, but it wasn’t until years later that I really found out about Hall & Oates and some of the other great bands, songwriters and artists from the area, but I’m drawing inspiration now from all of and it’s not all retro stuff. There’s a lot of modern stuff that I like too. There’s a band called The War On Drugs. Ever heard of them?

SFL Music: They sound familiar.

Perri: They’re from Philadelphia and I’m not just saying this because they’re friends of mine and from Philadelphia, but they are one of my favorite bands. They won a Grammy last year for “Best Rock Album,” (for A Deeper Understanding). They are just incredible. So, they’ve been an influence. There’s other modern artists that I really like and draw influence from, but a lot of old stuff too. You know, I grew up on records from the sixties and seventies. Once that happened with my aunt, I just started digesting everything that I could and I really gravitated toward vinyl records. I don’t know why. Something about the aesthetic of it, and that was before vinyl exploded and came back. I could go anywhere and find an old record for two or three dollars. So, I was buying vinyl records in vast quantities and just sitting down and soaking up The Beatles and The Who and The (Rolling) Stones and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. All that stuff. Whether I currently listen to it all the time or not, it’s part of my DNA because at that age you’re soaking things up like a sponge, but also the nineties too. So, it’s like Pearl Jam is in there and Nirvana and Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. I can’t ignore that that was also happening in the nineties and Radiohead. Stuff like that is also somehow still a part of me. Weezer. You know I went to see Weezer when I first got my driver’s license. That’s the first concert I drove to. It’s a pretty diverse and eclectic group of inspiration, and I think the record reflects that I have quite a few musical influences, but I do think that it does somehow manage to have one nice unified thread.

SFL Music: What influences you when you write your music?

Perri: You know, that is another great question. I honestly don’t know. I kind of leave myself open. The way I approach writing is like, I don’t try too hard. That may sound counterproductive, but in my experience the best songs come when they come and you don’t force it. I’ve done plenty of songwriting sessions in my lifetime and sat down with people with a specific intent of writing songs, and sometimes cool things happen from that, but in my experience, the best stuff that I’ve ever done, and the stuff that excites me the most, comes completely organically, whenever the time comes. I mean, I do sit down with a guitar quite often and I really like playing electric guitar even at home, pretty loud. I just sit down and dial in my home studio in my basement. I’m kind of like a mad scientist down there, and I just get a whole bunch of sounds happening, and sometimes it’s the sound that influences a piece of music. A guitar part or chord progression. Something, and if I’m lucky and the universe is smiling on me that day, sometimes I’ll be handed a melody or a lyric, and when I leave it open like that though, not forcing it, I somehow, you know it’s kind of like, I think the whole thing with being artistic is being able to turn off the left side of the brain that just is compulsive thought and really tapping into the right side which is more artistic, kind of present moment awareness thing. So, I think that’s the great battle is setting yourself up to receive this inspiration wherever it comes from, which is incredibly important because if your always just thinking too much, I think you close off that channel and I think there’s almost an art form in tapping into that outside of the actual art itself. So, I’m aware of that now and I try to put myself in a position where I can tap into that place as often as possible, and not always will I get an idea, but sometimes I will, and sometimes they’re great, and that’s really the moment that I look for. “Feeling Good.” There’s a song called “Let You Know.” There’s a song called “I Want You.” There’s quite a few on record that were just spontaneous, in the moment. Somehow, I was tapped into something from somewhere that I can’t describe and it just flowed. Not only the music, but the lyrics, melodies. Everything. It was like somebody handed me the song. I can’t explain it, but it’s my favorite thing in the world outside of being a dad and hanging out with my daughter. It’s the best thing in the world. That moment when that happens.

SFL Music: Did you teach yourself guitar or did you take formal lessons?

Perri: I took formal lessons for a very short time. A few months and then a few years later I went back and took another series of lessons. I’m really into the idea of lessons. In fact, a couple of years ago, almost twenty years of playing guitar, I actually started taking lessons again. Just kind of broaden my knowledge of music theory, which I never got into. So, I would say I’m 99.9% self-taught, and I learned from listening to records. Literally listening to records and figuring out what other guys were doing and going like oh, ok. I understand that, and then, how can I apply that to what I’m doing? So, most of my training I guess you could say, comes from ear. From just hearing it and being able to play it back and sitting down and figuring out what other artists, favorite artists of mine were doing, and learning from that. If there were more hours in the day, I’d like to go back and take lessons now. It’s just a matter of delegating my time, and while I’m being the crazy tunnel vision artist, trying to reach as many people as I can. I’m also a dad, and a husband and a son, and I’m trying to have the full earthly experience of family and career and all that. So, just doing my best to balance it all.

SFL Music: You played with Shinedown and a lot of different bands, plus your own. What would you say is the secret to your success and what would you advise an up and coming band?

Perri: Well, you’ve got great questions, I have to tell ya.

SFL Music: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that.

Perri: My advice to an up and coming band or artist would be. Well, it may be different for a band or an individual. If it’s a band, and everybody in the band really likes each other and really get along well and they really think they’ve got something special happening, my biggest piece of advice would be the same piece of advice that Sammy Hagar gave my band Silvertide when I was a teenager. We were on tour with Van Halen. He said to us, “no matter what happens just stick together. No matter what happens, stick together this exact line up. Don’t replace anybody. Don’t change anybody. Don’t let a label or a manager, anybody come in between yous and divide and conquer. Stick together, and of course we didn’t listen. Of course, the band fell apart because exactly what he warned about could happen, did happen and I often regret not having taken his advice more seriously because we had a really special thing going. Everybody knew it and we did well, and could have done even way better and bigger if we had just stayed together and worked on problems and not changed things and ruin the recipe that was already working. So, that’s a regret that I would like to save anybody else the same mistake of making. If you’re a solo artist, you’re a singer, you’re a songwriter and trying to find your way in the world. I would just say to just be very mindful of putting the art first and make the kind of music, the kind of art to make you happy without factoring in what you think would be successful. What you think will make money or make you famous or any of that crap because It never works. The only thing in my experience that works, I’m sure there are some exceptions for some people in maybe different genres, maybe the pop world. I don’t know. I don’t come from that world, but I know coming from a more organic earthy rock and roll where authenticity is so important I feel like as a genre, and what we’ve gotten away from a lot is artists who have a better authenticity to them and they have an artistic backbone and are gonna like be true to what is really in their heart, and that brings diversity to music and it brings life and color to music as opposed to things just being homogenist and manufactured, which I think sucks. So, I would just say to stay true to yourself. Focus on the art. Do what it is that makes you happy and what inspires you because I think inevitably, if you do what inspires you, that authenticity will shine through and it will also inspire others, and you will build a fan base based on that. That’s my thought.

SFL Music: That’s awesome advice. That’s what you would say accredited to your success?

Perri: I’m giving that advise based on hindsight of what worked and what more importantly, didn’t work in my life. The times that I’ve been successful, the times that I’ve had the most success and fulfillment at the same time was when I was following that protocol, whether I knew it or not. Its only now I’ve become conscious of what it was that was working in the past and what is working now and why it’s working, but there was a chunk of time, almost 15 years between SIlvertide and Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves where I was lost. I was lost in the sea, and I had no idea how to get back to home base. I had no idea of how to find the north star and get to where I knew I needed to be and where I wanted to be, and it was through trial and error and making life mistakes and career mistakes and artistic mistakes that I started to learn, oh, and started to gain the hindsight of ok, this is why, and when I put it all together and I recognized and I had the aha moments, right before I started this band, it gave me the confidence and it gave me the clarity to pursue this project under my own name now for the first time ever. It was a clear path forward and I can say confidently for better or worse now, I understand what works for me at least. This is the next twenty, thirty years of my life. This isn’t like a band that I’m going to get tired of and quit. It’s under my own name. This is me, and I’m coming at it from a place of authenticity where I’m being really true to the art and really true to what makes me happy and makes me inspired and I think that’s why I connect. That’s why it’s doing well. Much better than other things I have done, and I think that’s why things are happening in what feels like a heightened and quick way. Almost like they did with Silvertide you know, because I think there’s something really to that. Something that emanates from somebody when you see them being true to themselves, and it’s not an act and it’s not manufactured and it’s not put together to achieve a certain thing. It is what it is organically and its beautiful. It might not be for everybody, but for the people who dig something that’s real, I think that that’s why it reverberates with them and I think that in this moment in time, in this moment in human history, there’s so much that is simulation and there’s so much that is manufactured I think doing something real is so important and I think people respond to it almost like an intuitive, auto response. When people hear something real, they can’t help but be drawn to it because its earthly and it comes from an organic place. I’m trying not to get too heavy, but I do think that there’s something there. There’s a reason why when people put on vinyl records. They feel something different then when they listen to Spotify. I’m not saying Spotify’s bad. I love Spotify for certain things and it’s a great way to discover new music, but as far as music quality and sound, there’s no comparison. I’ll sit down and put on a vinyl record and like something in my, the core of my being starts to tingle because I’m hearing organic soundwaves. Analogs. Its real. Its earthly. Its coming into my body. It’s different than digital ones and zeros.

SFL Music: What else did you want fans to know about any new videos or projects?

Perri: Well right now we’re in the process of little by little debuting this whole album campaign, so the first single “Feeling Good” is streaming on Spotify. There’s two songs streaming on Apple music. One is called “Feeling Good” and a second called “Excess.” If people want that second song, if they don’t have apple music, they can go to iTunes and pre-order the album on iTunes. The other big thing Is the vinyl. We have a pre-sale going for vinyl, for physical CD’s. We have a whole new merch store. So, everything can be found at nickperrimusic.com. Links to all that stuff, and really over the next weeks and a couple months leading up to the release date which is August 14,th there’s going to be a lot of interaction and a lot of promo. A lot of social media stuff. I’m doing a live performance tonight. I’m doing a live stream with Gibson guitars, but I’ve got a lot of live streams and behind the scene things. I’m going to be featuring behind the scene like making of the record and all that kind of stuff. So, there’s going to be a lot of content on Instagram @Nickperri. Facebook is Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves. Like I said, I’m not hard to find, and if people want to hop along for the ride, this is a great time because it is just about to really take off.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you wanted to add?

Perri: I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here in this place. In this moment in time, and doing what I love and sharing it with people. I’m having a good time and I hope everybody takes care of themselves. Be kind to each other and enjoys the summer. Feel good when they can. Make that time to feel good.

With SUN VIA, 10 new incredible songs to enjoy, Nick Perri & The underground Thieves certainly add to summertime fun and relaxation!

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