Recently I was able to schedule an interview with actor/musician, Thomas Nicholas, who will be releasing an album next year via SBÄM. In this conversation, I asked Thomas about his great, energetic new single called, “Tomorrow’s Gonna Hurt” and the inspiration behind it, his recent collaborations with musicians like Jaret Reddick of Bowling For Soup, and the difference in how prepares for film roles versus making albums.
Let’s get rolling! Thank you so much for your time today. Let’s first talk about your energetic new single called, “Tomorrow’s Gonna Hurt.” Can you walk me through the lyrical material on this new song, and the inspiration behind it?
Yeah, this new single does have a lot of energy, I think probably more so than my previous six albums, maybe combined. And that’s all in part to Taylor Carroll, who’s producing the album. You might know him best as the drummer for Lit. He’s been in <that band> for about five or seven years, or something like that. And then he also has another band called Kemikalfire that is really heavy. So yeah, with this song, I don’t know that this is necessarily where the inspiration came from…but I do know that my first time of hanging out with Taylor, a couple of years ago, we both live in LA, even though he’s from Nashville, and we made a plan to just go get a drink at a local bar, grab a bite to eat, and connect. And then we ended up closing out the bar. And then we sat in my car for like three hours. And he played me the advance of the new Lit album, Tastes like Gold, six months before it came out, I got to listen to the whole thing. He played me KemikalFire, and songs he was also producing for Mest, and we just had like a whole evening. And that’s kind of on par for the course with Taylor and myself. We’re always the last ones to leave the party. Despite whatever we’re getting up for the next day, whatever time I gotta get up and take my kids to school or whatever is going on…I’m sacrificing sleep and the next day is gonna hurt, but it’s always worth it!
Nice, and that’s a cool story behind it too. While many know your face from your work in films, like American Pie, and Rookie of the Year way back when, your band has clocked over 1,000 concerts, which is a remarkable feat! What are some of your favorite memories of playing to new crowds?
I mean, this is gonna sound so bad, but if I’m playing to a new crowd, and they do know my work as an actor, I have probably the easiest job of winning them over because their expectations are so low…<Laughter> So all I have to do is just not suck! And so that’s always a cool thing too, I’ve got my stories that I like to tell. So, if I’m in front of a new crowd, their reaction to that is always the freshest. Though I try to change things up just a little bit. So, if you come to a few shows, you’re not going to hear quite the same story. There’s always going to be something new happening.
Can you think of a time when you kind of “won over” a skeptical audience?
I think the moment that is kind of the pinnacle, for me, is in line with having released six albums before getting the record deal, for the seventh. You talked about 10,000 hours of work, I’ve probably put in 20,000. But 10 years ago, when I was doing American Reunion, I had been playing music longer than I’ve been doing those films. And I basically kept asking for the favor of getting a song on the soundtrack. They kept telling me yes, but they kept not doing it. So finally, I decided on the fourth film, I’m wasn’t going to ask them. So I played the wrap party just by myself and a guitar. When I went to the bar to get a drink one of the directors, Hayden, came up and it was the equivalent of his surprise of, “Wow, you don’t suck!” And then talking about doing a song for the soundtrack. So that’s probably my favorite, shining moment of winning over a skeptical audience of my peers to get what I wanted. And it only took me 13 years!
So you also did a parody of the “1985” single that was originally written by Mitch Allan for Bowling for Soup, called “1999”. Can you walk me through what that process was like?
Yeah, for sure. For years, Jaret and I had been told that we would get along if we ever met, and for years, we kind of circled around each other. We were at the same festivals at different times, but we never connected. And then, if I’m going to be honest here, during the lockdown period, I was promoting my last film, Adverse, that I had produced for Lionsgate. I was getting a very serious role going head to head with Mickey Rourke. So I got an offer to be on Jaret’s podcast, called Jaret Goes to the Movies. They wanted to watch American Pie, and at the time, I said to Sean that was inviting me to do it, “I’m in a cycle right now. I’m focused on dramatic films. I’m not doing any nostalgic stuff right now. However, the only word that got back to Jaret was that I didn’t want to talk about American Pie at all. <Laughter> To which he replied, “Well, that’s stupid!” So he has a podcast without me and calls me out for it. and rightfully so. And then cut to after the lockdown, I was doing a meet and greet tour in Texas. And I got offered to do a podcast live with Jaret, and I said yes, because I was done with that previous cycle. And so when we connected, Jaret didn’t believe that I had said yes, but then we kind of hit it off immediately. I did his other podcast, Rockstar Dad Show, too. Anyway, to make a long story endless…at the live event, after we watched American Pie, we played a live acoustic set together. And Jaret, I think, was feeling a little nostalgic. And he got done halfway through “1985.” And he goes, “We should sing lyrics about American Pie!” So we tried, off the cuff, and of course, failed miserably. <Laughter> You can’t come up with rhyming, catchy lyrics, on the beat, and all that…But Jaret was just like making it a bit, but it stuck with me. I knew there were other parodies already kind of out there. So, the next day, I sent Jaret these lyrics, and he goes, ”Oh, yeah, that’d be a funny TikTok.” the next month, I was at a charity event for Rookie of the Year, and when I landed in Baltimore for the event, I got a text from Jaret saying, “Hey, are you in Baltimore?” I looked at their band page, and I was like, “Oh, we’re in the same city at the same time!” So I said, “Do you need a surprise opener, LOL?” And he said yes, so then I got so excited that I recorded the TikTok in my hotel room, and in the matter of a week, it got half a million views! So Jaret and I kind of ramped up the lyrics together. I think if I’m not mistaken I might be the only artist that has done a parody of a song, but wrote it with the artists that did the original song…
Yeah, I don’t even think parody artists, like Weird Al, ever did anything with the original artists. He always gets the permission to do it but, yes, you might be the only one! That’d be a cool claim to fame. You could just put that newsworthy thing on a “hype sticker” on the front of the album cover!
Exactly! Prove me wrong.
So your new album features key collaborations from great musicians like Jaret Reddick, Ace Enders from The Early November, Matthew Kennedy of The Dangerous Summer, Adrian from Zebrahead, AJ from Lit and many more. What features of these key musicians made you want to work with them?
Namely because I’m friends with them, and obviously the other side of it is they’re established in their own right. So, I think it’s just the idea of joining forces with like-minded friends. For me, it kind of all started when I released nine singles during the lockdown, working with a buddy of mine out of Nashville who is originally from England. And so I was going to just put all those together and make that the seventh album, and it kind of just seemed easy. And then I had released this last song called “Whatever It Takes,” and Ace <Enders>, who I’ve been friends with, since like a festival in in England in 2015, hit me up and he says, “Hey, man, I heard your last single, and I really like the direction that you’re going with your band. I’ve got some ideas for you. Let’s get together and write.” So we got together and wrote a song that I know is definitely going to be on the seventh album. But, it was so different from the nine singles. And then I was saying, “Well, I just collaborated with Ace Enders…what if I did that with my other friends?“ And that’s kind of the spark of it all. It has just taken a really long time, like everything else that’s worthwhile.
And it’s a good time to do it too, at this point in your career to kind of try something new. Anyways, what are the key differences in preparing to make an album, than preparing for let’s say a film role as a producer or an actor?
I mean, writing a song is, by and large, very much more an “in the moment” kind of thing. And I pound the pavement on putting the best lyrics forward. I don’t ever settle for anything less than coming up with the <best> idea for the song, the hooks, the style, all that stuff. But for the most part, it’s a hell of a lot easier to put a song together and record that in the studio than it is to put together a film project, or even my latest TV series entitled, UnderDeveloped. And as you can already watch it on TV right now, it’s probably the fastest I’ve ever done a project. Every project that I’ve done is anywhere from, five years from the time of inception, to the time of release. For Instance, when I was talking about the record deal with SBÄM. They asked, “Who do you want to produce the album?” And I was considering three people, and I told Taylor Carroll about it. And he said, “Well, I want to do it!” And I told him I’ll put “your name in the hat.” Taylor invited me to his recording studio so I could see how it would go. And six hours later, we had “TOMORROW’S GONNA HURT,” and I said, Dude, you’re producing the album!
That’s nice that you had that little trial period, too, because you made sure it worked and all that…
I’ve never had something work so easily, and so fast! And again, that’s what it’s like when you’re working with friends. Especially ones that are as talented as Taylor.
That’s awesome. What was your musical upbringing like in your early years? And how do you feel that may have contributed to the type of music you play today?
For me, I started out listening to my mom’s collection of 70s rock. I wore out her Houses of the Holy cassette tape! She was pretty pissed off at me about that…<Laughter>
Well, in your defense, tapes only have a certain amount of shelf life to them!
<Laughter> And then The Beatles, and all that stuff and everything in that sort of vein of classic rock. Although, I progressed into grunge as far as my first collection of things. And I remember my first five albums were Nirvana’s Nevermind, Green Day’s Dookie, Weezer Blue Album, Spin Doctors Pocket Full of Kryptonite, and Blues Traveler‘s Four. Those are my first five albums on CD. I say that I grew up with classic rock, but I’m showing my age in history right now. Because, I’ve got two kids, and so when I am at the grocery store once a week. And I remember I was there maybe like six months ago. And I’m picking out some apples, and I’m singing Nirvana…And I realize Nirvana is playing at the grocery store. <Laughter> I’m like, wait a second. This was always classic rock playing here. Oh, no…Crap, that means I’m old!
<Laughter> Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I just turned 40 in March, and I get what you’re saying. I hear Green Day’s “When I Come Around” in the grocery store, and I’m like, Oh, come on, man!
Well, as long as it’s not in the elevator yet…
Yeah, then we’re just dust. <Laughter> So what advice would you give to fellow actors potentially looking to get their “feet wet” in the music scene?
I don’t think it’s something that you can just take lightly. I mean, it seems to me that that’s maybe part of the bad nomenclature that’s there. For me personally, when I started playing guitar, I never had an initial intention that it was going to become another career for me. But, the first two years that I played guitar, I played for three hours a day, every day, for two years. And I remember recording myself playing Nirvana songs, and trying to learn how to play them, sing them and then listening back, and just it being the worst thing I’ve ever heard. And I think that that’s an important part of it too; to not just sing and play and say, “Hey, listen to me!” but to listen to yourself. Because I think that we’re our own worst critics, and I think that everyone has a chance of being great at anything that they want to do as long as they give themselves an opportunity to put the time into it, and listen to what they’re doing. And again, it’s music recording. You can edit it, you can tune it, you can do all that stuff. But I’m more or less talking about the live stuff where you can’t really lip sync it…
Yeah, we’re not going to have another Milli Vanilli on our hands!
I mean, that’s probably lame to them <right now>. So many artists have playback…but I mean, granted, they couldn’t actually sing, right? I guess it’s different if you can sing and you choose to have something playing instead.
So who are some of the trusted voices, so to speak, when you test out new material?
Man, probably besides myself, my other biggest critic, and biggest supporter, is my mom. I remember when I first wrote my very first song when I was a teenager, and I had just started playing guitar when I was 14. So it was probably six months into playing guitar, and I was like, “Hey, Mom, check this out!” And her first response to me was, “Why is there no bridge?” <Laughter> So when I pass the “mom litmus test,” I know I can start playing it for other people. So she’s one of my first, top five, of hey, listen to this and tell me what you think. And I think when she heard “Tomorrow’s Gonna Hurt,” She didn’t have anything bad to say about it…
Seems like she’s looking out for your best interests. So you’ve had a fair amount of success as both an actor, producer and musician. What continues to keep you motivated in each field?
I mean, I love the process of creating. Especially as far as films and TV, when I’m on set, performing and creating that character, and bringing it to life/ And for music, playing live shows, or creating songs in the studio, the writing process, and all of that is just, in my mind, under the <same> realm of creativity. And that’s the thing that keeps me sort of punishing myself for 36 years…and still going!
Nice! The last question I have for you is, what’s the reason for people to check you out live or listen to your new album? What’s your quick sales pitch?
I would say, prior to this single, the live show was always superior to the recordings. And that’s the thing I would hear for years, is that people would be like, “Oh, I really dug what you released, but man, then I saw you live…<and it’s even better> And I feel like “Tomorrow’s Gonna Hurt,” while it’s a very polished song, it encapsulates that energy that I have in the live show. So I would say, as far as the live show, it’s all about the energy. People have a good time when they come to my shows for sure.
Any last words for your fans, or projects that they can check out coming up?
I’m excited about this release. Since this is my first <record> deal, there’s gonna be a single coming out every six weeks, up until the album drops in mid-May. So, I’m pretty stoked about that. And I’m really stoked for the second single that’ll drop on December 1st. It’s the antithesis of the <previous> song, and probably one of the slowest songs that I’ve written since 2008. But it has all the feels. Each song is going to kind of have its own life and I’m excited about sharing these songs with everyone.
Thanks again for connecting with me and it was great seeing you! This was fun. Have a great one!
Thank you so much for taking the time, Adam.