The PV Q&A: A Rocket To The Moon's Nick Santino — “We're All Grown Up and Ready to Come Back to Work”

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Interview by Katrina Nattress

When you’re a band as successful as A Rocket to the Moon, questions naturally arise when you release a debut album filled with pop punk gems and an EP three years later that possesses more western twang and less power chords.

“It was a natural shift, if you want to call it a shift,” vocalist Nick Santino says, explaining the sound of the band’s latest single, “Ever Enough.” “We never sat down and said, ‘Okay, now let’s change our sound.’ We started writing music and that’s what came out.”

Instead, he attributes the new sound to growing up and listening to different genres of music. “Don’t focus on ‘Oh, Rocket is country,’” he says, “because that’s not the case. I want everyone to listen to [Wild & Free] and go, ‘Rocket wrote some of the best music I’ve heard in a long time.’”

The band focused on recording in 2012 with legendary producer Mark Bright [Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood] and is gearing up to release its sophomore full-length, Wild & Free, in early 2013 via Fueled By Ramen, followed by some epic touring. And whether you think A Rocket to the Moon has sonically shifted or not, one thing is certain: The band has grown up.

PureVolume: What do you want your fans to gain from the new album?
Nick Santino: I want them to love it. I want them to see how much it means to us. We've been taking our time to put it out because we want kids to be ready for us. When [the band] comes back [it’ll] be a non-stop machine, and we just want everyone to be ready. I think this album is going to help us out.
PV: Before premiering “Ever Enough,” you tweeted that it’s the deepest song you’ve written. Can you expand on that comment?
NS: This is a song about "forever and more." It's a song about reassurance. Telling the one you care most about that you'll be with them ‘til the end of time. Through sickness and health, good times and bad. Everyone knows this feeling. It just hit home when it started to come out of the pen—and, yes, I still write in a notebook. Haven't stepped up to the digital world yet [laughs].
PV: Would you connect the same sentiment to the album as a whole?
NS: Yes. There are songs about life, love, death, and loss. There's something for everyone. There's a song on there that is in the form of a letter to my future daughter (if I get to ever have a daughter . . . . )We've shown these songs to some real close friends and they were moved to tears. We've embraced our imperfections and came out with some perfect music. We hope you agree.
PV: You worked with the legendary Mark Bright on both the EP and new album. In what ways would you say he’s helped guide your sound?
NS: He was amazing. He never forced us into anything. He is a very experienced producer and I think he knows that if you want to hear how a band or artist really makes noise, you need to hear them. Mark took a big chance on us and it was the most magical experience since I first picked up a guitar. He was a father figure in and out of the studio. He opened doors for us and help us see who we really are. I owe him my life.
PV: Do you credit him for the sonic shift?
NS: He never set out to make us a "country" band. And neither did we. We aren't a country band by any means. Tom Petty admired Bob Dylan. If you listen to certain Petty songs, you can hear that. It's the same for us. It was a natural thing and neither us nor Mark forced it. We just hit record and let it flow.
PV: How did you guys get hooked up with Bright?
NS: We wrote a song on the new record with a friend of ours Stephen from a band called Love and Theft. We did an acoustic iPhone voice memo recording of it with me singing lead and Justin and Stephen singing second and third harmonies. Stephen showed the demo to a friend of his that worked for Mark’s company with no intention other than saying, “Check out this song I wrote on today." She showed the demo to Mark. The amazing thing about Mark is that he heads everything as a finished product. He listened to that crappy demo (that I still have in my phone notes) and heard what it would sound like when it was done, but also heard the song for what it is. He made his decision to do our record based off a three-and-a-half minute iPhone note.

PV: Tell me about this Taylor Swift cover you performed with Debby Ryan . . . It’s pretty amazing!
NS: Debby is one of my best friends. We've been friends for a few years now, and we've always talked about singing together. I was in town and went over to her place. Her brother produces music in their house, so we were all sitting around jamming. I started playing a soft finger picked acoustic part and jokingly started singing Taylor lyrics over it. Next thing we know, we're working out the delicate beautiful harmonies and recording it. We recorded the video that same time we worked the song out. What you see is what you get: Two friends making beautiful music together.
PV: You are known for hosting Twitter Q&As with your fans. What’s been the best question anyone has asked you?
NS: I enjoy when people ask real questions. When they are genuinely interested in what's next for us. But I also enjoy the entertaining questions about made up scenarios, like the trust-deserted-island ones.
PV: . . . And the worst?
NS: Usually when they ask when we are coming to their country . . . 30 times in a row [laughs]. We'll be there, I promise!
PV: You spent a decent amount of 2012 on the road. Do you plan on continuing this trend in 2013?
NS: 2013 will be busier than 2012. Surprisingly, this past year we were home a lot more than not. But it'll be nice to get back to business.
PV: With such a busy year behind you, I’m sure the stories are endless. What’s the craziest thing that happened to you in 2012?
NS: We played in the Philippines and it was insane. In huge malls to about 6,000-plus people singing every word. You can never get used to that.
PV: What will 2013 bring for A Rocket to the Moon?
NS: A new album and new tours. We're all grown up and ready to come back to work. It's been a while. We love our fans and want to give them everything and more.

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