theaussieword.com catches up with Australian artist Nic Rollo.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
My love of music spawned from humble beginnings – the trumpet. I did a test in year 5 and apparently scored okay so my school let me learn the trumpet. Naturally over time I stopped enjoying playing it (I’ve found school can do that with things you initially like), so I learnt guitar… and off I went. Getting into self-recording and producing was inspired by the likes of Tame Impala and Mac Demarco, two artists I idolised when I was 15. Since then I’ve just been continuing down the path, there hasn’t been a whole lot of thought given to what I want to do with my life since then.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
A huge part of it is to do with writing songs that will leave an impact. My best mate and singer of Cloning (he also plays in my band) Felix Parker spoke about leaving legacy through music a few months ago and it really resonated with me – Write and create music that’ll be remembered in the long run. I’m also motivated by other artists creating incredible works of art.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
I definitely want to be doing regular international tours within the next few years, as well as collaborations with some of the greats. On a more personal level, I want to be writing better music. I know that’s pretty nebulous, but I think the biggest goal I really want to achieve is creating super meaningful music that people might one day look back at as influential. That’d be cool.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
The focus of the next few months is largely releasing new songs since I have quite a few that are finished and ready to go. As per usual I’m going to be writing more songs (always on that grind). I’m looking into touring over East around September this year, but that’s still yet to be confirmed.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
My latest release ‘Monster’ is about saying things that you regret to those people that you love and care about. It was written in a previous relationship where I had said things that caused the relationship to get tense, and ultimately begin its slow descent into non-existence. The track is probably my favourite song that I’ve written so far, so I’m incredibly excited that it’s finally out!
I think the best way to describe my music is a combination of synth-heavy music from the 80s (think Tears for Fears) and combine it with modern day pop and pop rock (The Weeknd, The Wombats, Justin Bieber etc). The music features digital and analogue sounds, and the lyrics are typically pretty introspective. I like to think it’s music you’d listen to as you drive home from an event late at night.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
A lot of the time I’ll just sit in front of a keyboard and start playing some chords or a melody if one comes to mind. If I’m vibing it I’ll record it and start building a song from that point (usually starting with a chorus). I spend a lot of time on sound design, so once I’ve got the basic parts of the song down I’ll start honing in on what I want the track to sound like.
Sometimes I’ll be inspired by another song that I’ve heard, or by a video I watched where another artist/producer shows their creative process or how to do a certain production style. I try not to be too rigid with how I create, whatever gets me going is good.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
I wish I was sneaky enough to have hidden meanings in songs, but honestly I don’t think there are any. Maybe I should lie and say there are – Monster is actually about how I was visited by an alien who blessed me with incredible music ability and out of this world charisma (ahhhh, if only)
Success, what is the secret to it?
I’m still trying to find that out. I’d say some combination of working really hard and luck. Hit me up in a few years time and we can talk about it in more depth.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
The response to my latest song ‘Monster’ has been unreal, it’s been getting a heap of love from blogs and people in general which has been wicked. Since it’s one of my favourite songs that I’ve written it’s been incredibly fulfilling knowing other people like it too.
Last year my song ‘Feel’ got international radio play in the UK and the US which was so cool! It’d be incredible to one day break into those markets, so just having a song get a bit of airplay over there was such a good feeling.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
There’s a few different people in the industry that I find inspiring for different reasons. On the artist side, I find The Weeknd pretty inspiring in how he’s evolved as an artist from album to album, and how he’s maintained such a cool image. In a similar way, Kevin Parker’s constant evolution of Tame Impala albums has also been super motivating – You don’t just have to do one thing forever. It’s also cool knowing that you can make cutting edge sounds from your home studio.
There’s a few trap producers I follow on instagram (namely SuperstarO) who is incredibly inspiring and motivating. His whole message is to just keep grinding and improving, which is always helpful, especially when you’re feeling low.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
Sort of… The next phase of Nic Rollo I think is diving deeper into the pop realm, with less rock influences. It’s going to take a little bit of time to figure out exactly what I want the sound to be, but it’s going to be fun and exciting figuring it out! Aside from that, I have an album recorded that I’ll be releasing either late this year or early next year, so that’ll be a big task in itself.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
That’s such a tough question, it could be any number of places ranging from being an international superstar (here’s hoping), a producer/songwriter for other artists, maybe a manager, maybe sleeping on the side of the road because nothing worked out… We’ll see I guess. I definitely find the constant changing and merging of genres super exciting, I’m very keen to see what’s next!
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
My favourite part about music is the joy that I both get and bring to other people by sharing my music with them. Music has a place in everybody’s life, for the best days and the worst days there’s always a soundtrack. The thought that my music might be helping somebody get by is pretty powerful.
The worst part is how the industry can feel very ominous and discouraging at times… It doesn’t always seem that people ‘make it’ because they’re writing incredible songs or are a phenomenal act, but rather because they know the right people or have huge amounts of money behind them. Obviously that’s not the case always or even very often, but that’s definitely how it can feel sometimes.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
I really dig Deep Sea Arcade, I used to listen to those guys so much a few years ago… I think they deserve a mention here. Matt Corby, Tame Impala and Troye Sivan are all equally highly regarded in my musical life for so many different reasons – Matt for his RIDICULOUS singing ability, Kevin Parker for his musical genius, and Troye for his delicious pop sounds. Spacey Jane also deserves a mention, they’re absolutely killing it and are absolutely delightful.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
I think it’s the best time to be a musician currently, since we have such easy access to our target audience. Sure the market is a little bit saturated, but if the music is good I think it’s easy enough to stand out. It’s also great because more and more the power is in the individuals hand, as opposed to there being these record label gatekeepers who have to approve of your project for you to move forward. I love social media, I think it’s amazing for musicians.
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
I think just more of a focus on social media content suited to markets outside of Australia. I’ve been spending a lot of time on TikTok lately which has a largely out of Australian audience, so that’s been good. I guess sonically I might look into working with some producers from other countries to try and channel different sounds and styles.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
I collaborate with my friend Felix (Cloning) but aside from that I’ve been pretty insular. My plan for the next few months is to start working with other producers and artists to start expanding into new sonic territories, which is something I’m really excited about! At this stage I haven’t really figured out who exactly it is I want to work with, that’ll be something I need to decide soon.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Maybe hold off from following just yet, I’m not sure if this path works out or not. But on the creative side just write as many songs as you possibly can. I write so many songs, and so many turn out to be terrible… But it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that some are good (even if it’s 1/100 songs).
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
It’s so good getting messages from people on instagram, I’ll always try and respond. I like the fact that I can just chat with people about mundane stuff… everyone’s human we all have our problems.
Any last words?
Keep doing what you’re doing, don’t stress if things take a long time to see progress… Small movements create big results over time.