I've been following Derek Nicoletto's career since I saw the Orion's Light video on Logo. I went right to iTunes, DL'ed the Telling On Trixie album, and have been following since. I was doubly thrilled when I discovered the handsome frontman was out and proud. In my collection, I have the self-titled debut album, and was part of the fundraising cleverly known as "A Band With A Plan," which in some ways foresaw the coming of places like Kickstarter, allowing indie musicians a way to assist in the funding. I have my autographed copy of Telling On Trixie's second (and final) album, Ugly, Broke & Sober. And an autographed copy of Rock Face, the album by Derek & the Darling. So I am truly looking forward to my physical copy of Derek's first solo outing, Kind Ghosts, set to release next Tuesday, July 26th, 2011.
To discuss the album set for release, Derek graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the blog. I start off by asking him after having been part of a group, a duo, and now a solo act, how are they different? "It's a completely different experience," he explained. "It's all my vision, my choices. I chose my collaborators on every song, I chose the producer, the players and I didn't have to please anyone but myself. There was a fear of failure element with the other groups because other people were involved and I was constantly wrangling and balancing people's input and creative egos."
"Now, it doesn't really matter if it succeeds or fails …and truthfully I feel I already succeeded by my own definition because I made the album I alone wanted to make. And I'm in love with Kind Ghosts. I take total responsibility for it and got to work with some of my favorite people in the world to make it happen."
As a long-time admirer, I couldn't help but notice Derek was writing with Telling On Trixie bandmate Brad Small again. And it was also great to see TOT guitarist Tommy Kessler in the credits, too. How was that reunion?
"Brad is a Kind Ghost. He's a vital part of the building of my career and a huge part of my history," Derek said warmly. "It was important he appear on this album. I feel the same about Tommy. When Go Your Own Way was in production, I said, 'there's only one person who can play the guitar solo the way I want it done, and who I don't have to explain what I want - Tommy will know.' I would play with Tommy in the live show if I could, but he's on tour with Blondie."
Now feels like a great time to feature video for the title track. Without further ado, here is Kind Ghosts.
Julian filmed both Hustler With A Rescue Plan and Kind Ghosts, two very different but very visual videos. How do Derek and Julian inspire one another? "It's totally organic and mutually respectful," he said. "It's very much like the way my producer Jamie Siegel and I work, or that Brad Small and I worked with Telling on Trixie. Certain people just come along in your life and bless you with their talent and somehow, you just match. He really blew me away with both videos that are already available to the public for an album that hasn't even been released yet. (It releases on July 26th) There will be more to come but I'm so blessed to have him in my life and what an amazing start for my album, to have these two incredible complementary visuals."
After listening to the Kind Ghosts album, it seemed like a celebration of genres, featuring sounds of Pop and Rock and Dance. What is Derek's favorite genre? "My favorite genre is where Rock and Pop meet, with dance and electronica following closely behind." He added, "I love that phrase, 'celebration of genres' by the way. I'm going to steal it."
Kinds Ghosts sounds and feels quite honest, and very close to home. I heard Girls Like 'Em Lucky was inspired by Derek's grandfather. So I had to ask him if that was true, and if his family was often a source of inspiration? "Yes my family inspires me and they are all over the album, especial in Girls Like Em Lucky, Kind Ghosts and Suddenly. As for Girls Like Em Lucky, my family is full of veterans and current servicemen. I realized one day that I had a living World War II veteran riding with me in my car."
"So I asked my grandfather to describe his experience," Derek recalled. "Some of that description is laid out in the lyrics of Girls Like Em Lucky. My grandfather met my grandmother right before he went to war. She waited for him and they married when he returned. I asked him why he thought she waited around for him. In his Alabaman accent he replied, 'I don't know Derek. I guess girls just like em lucky and alive.' He passed away in August."
I remember a quote from one of the songs, Sugar. I toss out "Old dog, new tricks," and ask what new tricks has Derek learned making Kind Ghosts? His answer was quick, clear and strong. "A new, truer sense of self."
Now, I am loving Take Medicine featuring God-des. So I just had to ask, how did that collaboration come about? "God-des and I appeared together on a panel at the CMJ Music Marathon two years ago," he recalled. "We became insta-friends. When Take Medicine was 75% done, I knew exactly what it needed to become my complete vision. A hot rap by God-des."
The song Suddenly immediately made me think of the great music of Yaz on Upstairs At Eric's, an album I still adore. What is Derek's favorite music and/or band from the 80s? "Duran Duran," he said, without hesitation.
Go Your Own Way really rocks, and leads me to the question, who is Derek's favorite member of Fleetwood Mac? I mean, we know they are all great, but... Favorite Fleetwood Mac album? "My favorite album is Fleetwood Mac Live, a double disc collection of the magic of their music and live performances. Stevie Nicks is my favorite member and the only member I've actually met. However, I wanted to cover Lindsey Buckingham's Go Your Own Way on Kind Ghosts.
Alabaster Sky almost feels like a lullaby to me. So is it? "It's a sad lullaby to dying love," he told me.
Check out the video for Hustler With A Rescue Plan, a great song I think could be perfect for those summer trips to the beach, both for the drive there, for parties and just fun times. Perfect for your iPod.
Speaking of the iPod, I wonder if there was any music on Derek's that might surprise fans? "The question actually asks me to say what goes on in other peoples' brains," he replies, "by saying what would surprise them. I have no idea what goes on in anyone's brain or what their reaction will be or what their perceptions of me and my work are. I let that go. I've got no control and don't bother to guess. I just do my thing. Most of the time, I can barely keep up with what goes on in my own brain."
So I just have to ask the question that always begs for me to ask when speaking to a creative individual like Derek, whose music inspires him? "This changes on the hour and the mood," he answers, and I feel the exact same way. "I wish I were one of those people that could sum up a day with a single mood description. One day last week, Adele's Turning Tables had me crying at 10 a.m. I was belting along with Counting Crows at noon. I worked out listening to Passion Pit and some remixes by DJ Kevin Graves. That night, I cleaned my house to Robyn. I listened to Vashti Bunyan before bed. Amanda Palmer. Motown. Bimbo Jones. Dolly Parton. Janet. Lady GaGa. Sade. Elton John. Anything Alex Metric remixes. Eminem. Rolling Stones. Pink. Enrique Inglesias. Super commercialized hip-hop. Girl in a Coma. Broadway musicals. Reba McEntire. Kelly freaking Clarkson. I'm all over the place. Good music is good music and is subjective and subject to my many mood swings."
Is there anyone Derek would like to collaborate with given the chance? Or is there a song he wishes he could just let loose and sing? "There are ton of people I'd love to collaborate with. There's another list of people I'd like to write for. As for the second question, I have no problem letting loose and singing anything," he says with a laugh.
That is a collection of album covers, the largest being the cover for his new release, Kind Ghosts. Across the bottom, we have Rock Face by Derek & the Darling, and Telling On Trixie's Ugly, Broke & Sober and the self-titled debut. For more about Derek, check out his official webpage here. You can also find him on Twitter here, and on FaceBook here. He has his own YouTube channel here. And look to purchase Kind Ghosts next Tuesday, July 26th. If you are worried you might forget, don't, for I am sure I will remind you!