When we spoke with Nick Santino in December, his full length album as a solo artist, “Big Skies” was still just a bunch of song ideas recorded on phone notes.
In just 5 months, Nick recorded the album –which he had envisioned as not “a country record, I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a folk record. I think it’s just going to be a storytelling, songwriting thing.” Nick’s album turned out exactly how he described it; mixing folk, country, and rock to create a cohesive collection of 11 different stories in song forms.
“Big Skies,” produced by Pat Kirch (of The Maine) is the perfect next step for Nick. Before Nick went solo, he was the lead singer of A Rocket to the Moon, whose last album, “Wild and Free” experimented with a country sound. After the band parted ways early in 2013, Nick released two solo EPs, “Going Home,” and “The Ones You Meet Along the Way, under the name “Nick Santino and The Northern Wind.” These EPs continued his journey towards a folk sound. With “Big Skies,” Nick seems to have found his place in the genre, and as he said, is not just country or folk, but rather a mix of his influences, which seem to range from classic rock all the way to Taylor Swift. In a time where artists no longer confine themselves to one genre, Nick has found himself in an interesting mix that allows the album to be carefree and sentimental all at once.
The songs are stories about growing up, love, and heartbreak, with simple lyrics that seem to be influenced by the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. “It is What it Is” is very reminiscent of Cash’s cover of Dylan’s “It’s Ain’t Me Babe,” female vocals included with the help of Maria Sais de Sicilia. But the songs also seem inspired by classic rock. “Keep on Going” could easily be played along with The Eagles. Nick admitted to us that he listens to a variety of music, including Taylor Swift. So it comes as no surprise that “Jackson Browne,” a touching song about heartbreak, is almost a response to Swift’s “Tim McGraw.”
The album is filled with mostly mid-tempo songs that give the album an easy-going feel, perfect for summer lounging. (Releasing the album just after Memorial Day was perfect timing). “Bad Taste,” and “Can’t Say I Miss You,” the first two tracks off the album, are the perfect opening songs for already-fans to transition from A Rocket to The Moon, to just Nick Santino. While both tracks are similar to music Nick has released in the past, he takes more chances with “Gone Like Yesterday.” Another song that seems to be heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Nick takes more risks with melodies, as well as adding more of a folky-twang sound. “Back To Where I’m From” follows in the same direction genre-wise.
“Long Way Home,” co-written by John O’Callaghan of The Maine, is another song that fills the gap from Nick’s music in A Rocket to the Moon. And to turn the tables completely on everyone, the song comes before the most different song on the album, “Mood Ring Eyes.” The song, one of the standouts, is filled with a more gritty rock sound than the rest of the album, and yet manages to fit among the other songs. Nick’s ability to maintain a signature sound while mixing so many genres, whether it’s because of the songwriting or smooth vocals, is what makes the album most interesting.
The two ballads on the album, “Have a Little Faith in Me” and “She Don’t Miss Me,” feel the most honest. “She Don’t Miss Me” is a live one-take track, which allows for the raw vocals and music to emphasize the heartbreak and pain in the lyrics. While Nick proves himself as a songwriter through the album, the song’s simplicity allows for the lyrics to shine more than in the other tracks. The simple lyrics, “I found my baby, but she won’t come home with me,” with the simple sound convey the most tender emotions in the album. Mistakes and all, this song is a hauntingly beautiful (yeah, quoting drunk Ted in HIMYM) finish to the album.