Passionate gothic folk-rock singer-songwriter Nic Nassuet drops details about his recent album, song creation, music awards, and much more.
Hey there, Nic! Great to meet you and find out more about your unique gothic folk-rock style of music. Your striking new album Eleutherios has been out since April and you’ve been playing a lot of gigs around California, particularly in the Hollywood area where you reside. What has the reception been like to your new songs?
Hi Jen! Thanks for having me. The reception has been really great among fans from many different genres. Some people tend to gravitate toward the heavier, throatier, songs, and others have said that they prefer the light vocals and strings, but everybody has found something to like on the album.
I read that you had to go to the hospital in April after playing onstage one night (maybe at the album release party?)! What happened and are you fully recovered now?
Ah, well… That’s a weird situation. I host an open mic night and concert series on Hollywood Boulevard. I was singing “Down”, a song about opiates, when I got a searing headache that felt like I had been hit by four semi-trucks simultaneously. I started to lose vision, and audio perception, and then I felt myself going down, so I was taken to the ER. They gave me a bunch of IV opiates (ironically) and a spinal tap along with some other tests and came up with nothing.
They checked me into the hospital. I got angry, tore out a couple of IVs, and ended up staying there for about a week before things just started to get better on their own. At that point I went home.
There is some residual dizziness, and pain, but nothing like it was. This body has some issues from military training, an underlying autoimmune disorder, etc… Sometimes it just attacks itself and that’s why we carry a wheelchair in the trunk.
Oh, sorry to hear about all that! On a happier note, you’ve also just been nominated for a slew of awards at the Indie Music Channel Awards (and won for Best Male Alternative Artist), Hollywood Music in Media Award, and Akadamia Music Awards (and won for Best Alternative Acoustic Song and Best Album). Congrats on your wins! What is the process for trying to get nominated at these types of events? Do you have to apply and submit song samples or do other people vote you in? Just wondering how it all works!
Thanks! Every award requires you to submit, or pay a membership fee - even the Grammys. To submit material for consideration in the Grammys you have to be an academy member, and that requires applying, being accepted, and paying annual dues of $95. I fully expect songs from Eleutherios to be on the Grammy ballot this year, and I am working to make that happen. IMC Awards are very similar to that, but there is a fee associated with the submission of materials as well. The Hollywood Music in Media Awards doesn’t require membership, but does require submission fees.
In all of these organizations, either an individual or a panel of judges will review your submission and decide if you warrant a nomination. From there, an individual category judge, or panel of judges, decides if you are the best in that category.
There are some awards that ask for a public vote, but I generally avoid those. They strike me as popularity contests, and I am more interested in what industry professionals think. It’s not like music is a contest, or competition; these things are mostly for PR, or for fun if you like that sort of thing. It’s just one person’s, or a group’s, opinion, so you take any win or loss with a grain of salt. I had never done it before, and wanted to understand the process, and thought it could help the music to be heard by more potential listeners.
Your voice is very powerful and I think there is an intriguing contrast between your passionate exclamations and deeper tone and the acoustic guitar arrangements that are augmented by strings and female vocals. How did you dream up this unusual musical style?
Dream is the right word. Most of the songs come to me in dreams, and stay with me after I wake. Some of them forcefully inject themselves into my waking thoughts. When either of these things happens, I hum the song into a recorder. I’ve even gotten up in the middle of meetings and gone to the bathroom to hum into my phone some song that has forced its way into my head.
Sometimes the songs come with words, but often they don’t. After I record the humming version of it, I sit down on the guitar and plunk it out. After hearing it, a word appears in my mind. That becomes the title. From there, words appear, and I record them. Those become the lyrics. Sometimes I don’t know what the song is even about until it is completed, and then I am able to interpret what the voices were telling me.
Some, like “Immured”, are the result of a strange flash of conversation in song that seems to come from somewhere outside of me. That song really felt like a ghost and the man she haunted needed to have their story told, so I wrote out what I heard them saying.
Of the 9 songs on Eleutherios, which one is closest to your heart? I feel the deepest track lyrically and emotionally is “The Nothing”, which combines gentle verses with dramatic chorus sections. The lyrics are bleak “I am nothing / I have gone away / I stand before you / but I am so far away.” What experience did you base this song on?
Every song on the album is close to my heart. Each one has a theme, and an essence, with deep personal meaning. Together, the way they are placed on the album, tells a story about loss, addiction, suicide, and redemption in death.
When lyrics come to me, I use them. It feels more like the song is telling me what to say, rather than me coming up with lyrics. They obviously come from somewhere deep within.
“I am nothing” is pretty straightforward. We are all nothing. One thousand years from now nothing we do will have mattered. I don’t see this as a reason to be unhappy though; it just means that you should do what makes you happy right now, and not worry so much about what others think.
I remember one time that I was in bed with a lover when she said to me “Where are you? You’re so far away.” I was right next to her, but she was correct. The fact that she noticed I was far away, in spite of being next to her, caused me to admire her deeply. I think that may be the part of my mind that this verse came from.
One of my favorite tracks off Eleutherious is “When It Falls”. It has a distinctive groove to it; possibly the only song off the album with a drum beat. It feels like an acoustic version of a rock song, but given some percussive swagger from the drums. Can you go into the details of how you created this song?
“When It Falls” probably took about five to ten minutes to create. It really wrote itself. I just flipped my switch internally, made myself receptive to whatever is within and without that brings the music, and then recorded what I heard.
Who is singing the female vocal parts on the album? Who is playing the stringed instruments like mandolin, cello, upright bass, and violin?
Both live and in studio, Catrina Grimm is the female vocalist. I play the mandolin and guitar. William Stewart played the upright bass, cello, viola, and violins. William lives in France and has led some of the most prestigious orchestras in Europe. He’s also a hell of a great guy. You should check out his work.
Where does the album’s title Eleutherios come from? Besides your album, the only reference I can find online is to a design by Serge-Stiles. Who did the eye-catching, foreboding cover artwork?
I am not familiar with Serge-Stiles, but I am going to look this up.
Eleutherios means “Liberator” in ancient Greek. It was a name for Dionysus. Dionysus Eleutherios liberated through wine, song, and madness. Followers of Dionysus Eleutherios made sacrifices to the dead, believing that Dionysus was the arbiter between the living and the dead. They worshipped him through mad, drunken orgies in the forests on the outskirts of society.
I bought this album cover, and the rights to it, from a Russian man named Vlad. I don’t think he was the actual artist though. I think he was just the middleman. I have no idea who did the actual artwork on the cover.
Are you signed to Dirtshack Records and/or Tate Music Record Label? Which company put out your album or did you self-release it?
I was with Dirtshack, but we only recorded one song. I never released that song. Tate contacted me and offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. The next full length LP will be through Tate Music. They are paying for the recording, the studio musicians, and publicity, and I get to keep the masters. Unbeatable deal.
I created Dolor Records to own the rights to all of the music and act as publisher through the performing rights organizations, although I don’t manage it. I leave that to more competent people. I released Eleutherios through Dolor, and will probably release the next EP, Torment - An Acoustic Tribute to Danzig, through Dolor as well, but the next LP will be through Tate since they have more money, and a wider reach, than Dolor.
You traveled to Nashville in March to further your connections in the music industry in the U.S. and possibly internationally. How did all that go?
It went really well. I had the chance to attend a workshop with Tom Jackson, a live music producer who has worked with all of the biggest names. As a result of that interaction, our live shows have improved immensely. If you saw us before I went to Nashville, then you haven’t really seen us yet.
I met a lot of really good people and musicians. I’m actually booking a few of the musicians that I met there for shows at the café on Hollywood Boulevard where I book acoustic acts, and setting up dates in Denver, LA, and Mexico for a tour promoter I met with in Nashville. Now that I think about it, it seems like my trip to Nashville was really good for *them* -hahaha!
I’ve got some friends in Japan who are looking at venues, and some other tour promoters looking to fill dates around the US. Not sure if anything will come from that or not.
As far as record labels go, I learned that I have zero interest in working with the majors, or even most of the indie labels, at this point. I think it is absurd that anyone would demand that you give them the rights to your music in exchange for a loan to produce an album. That’s ridiculous. You don’t give the bank the rights to use your home as they see fit in exchange for a mortgage. That’s stupid.
You grew up on stage, playing main roles in musicals like Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Side Show, and Doomsday Cabaret. And then you fronted various metal and punk bands. What made you decide to strike out on your own as a singer-songwriter instead of staying in the theater stage environment or a rock band?
In 2013 we lost a child, so I sat and thought about what was important to me, and what life was really about for me. I decided that life was about enjoyment, and if you aren’t enjoying your brief time on this Earth, then you’re doing something wrong. I wasn’t enjoying life. I was trying to be who others wanted me to be in order to get roles in film and television. I was going out for major roles on major networks, but they were all stereotypes. What made me happy, and what theater critics and patrons all seemed to like about me, was singing.
I set out to sing. I didn’t want to sing other people’s music, so I had no choice but to write my own. The music that I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily rock music, and I was limited in who I knew who could play well enough to make it worth the money spent on the studio. I wrote the guitar, mandolin, bass, and vocal lines with the intention of playing them all in the studio.
Also, rock bands are notorious for creating drama, and I don’t have the patience to chase five guys around to make sure they can get to rehearsal, and have time off of work to travel, so I wanted an act that I could do with just me and an acoustic guitar, or that could be modified to include a line-up of stellar musicians.
Now we have The Society of Sorrow as our backing band and it sounds amazing live. Really high energy with lots of great moments, but if one of them gets fed up with me, or I get fed up with them, or someone moves out of town, or is in the hospital, I can still bring the show with just me and my guitar.
What’s next up for you in relation to your album? Do you have more shows lined up and/or will you be putting out any videos?
We have a killer show lined up for July at the Viper Room. That will be our last show for a little while. I have to have surgery on my wrist, and that will take time to recover from.
I am planning to record several videos, but I am having a difficult time finding someone who is worth what they charge. In Hollywood, everybody thinks that they are the next Steven Spielberg, and charges according to their warped self image, so I will probably shoot most of it out of state, if not out of the country.
Lastly, can you please list your official site(s) where we can find out more about you and your music?
Absolutely. My home on the web is at www.nicnassuet.com. I’m on Bandcamp at www.nicnassuet.bandcamp.com, on CD baby athttp://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/NicNassuet, and you can search my name on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, and Spotify to find the music.