Nick Fradiani is set to release his new record, Where We Left Off, next Friday (October 13), and we’re betting it will surprise you. And yes, in a good way. The former American Idol winner has been putting in the hours and has created a warm, happy EP that sounds more like himself than his previous works. It is a big step in the direction that he always wanted to go, and now has the freedom to pursue.
On a warm October afternoon, we caught up with Fradiani, who is living in an incredible mindset, one that can only be earned by chasing what you love.
GSLM: I read that you wanted to be a teacher. That seems to go hand in hand with being a musician. You share knowledge and insight with broad groups of people in order to enlighten and bring joy and understanding. What do you hope fans take away from your latest single “I’ll Wait for You?”
Fradiani: When I decided to put “I’ll Wait for You?” out first of the six songs, it was more the vibe of the music that I wanted to put out there, to show how I wanted to move forward. It just felt like the music that I wanted to make, but didn’t make, or wasn’t able to, over the last year. I love the process of making that song, the way it made me feel. It sets the tone for the rest of the EP.”
GSLM: What did you want to teach?
Fradiani: My mother is a teacher for 35 or 36 years. My dad was a musician. So, I kind of did both. I have a U.S. History degree. My degree for to be a teacher for secondary social studies. I was close to doing that, but my heart wasn’t in it the way it was in music.
GSLM: It’s funny how you’ve got to take the wrong step to see what the right step is.
Fradiani: I went through a long process of trying to be a teacher. I got the certification, interned for a year… But while I was doing it, I was also staying up all night doing music. Basically I was like, “I’m not doing either of these things great.” And it was risky, going to college and doing all that stuff. I could have have just done this music after high school, but I had to go through that to know that that was what I wanted to do.
GSLM: Do you remember your first time on stage?
Fradiani: (Laughing) There are videos of me doing a Neil Diamond song, and everyone s laughing, but it is more of a cute thing. I was three. The firs that I remember was in forth grade. My dad was playing piano and I was singing. I remeber in fifth grade that I sang “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. I totally remember that.”
GSLM: It is funny how that public singing thing is either in you or not. And kids especially can be like, “I screwed up. I’m just going to run away.”
Fradiani: I remember being very self-conscious at the time. I was big into sports, even at a young age. I knew that my friends didn’t know that I had sung, even though it was the fifth grade. I had a really high voice…(Laughing) I watched this video, and I looked…I remember being nervous to sing, but terrified of how I looked.”
GSLM:It is interesting that you bring up how you looked, because in today’s culture, it’s normal to see people in the most outlandish outfits, that you would have to commit to that role to not feel silly in.
GSLM: You are a big Tom Petty fan and often cover his songs. Is if hard to perform his songs following his death on Monday?
Fradiani: It’s so weird that you brought that up. At my show at Hotel Cafe next week, I have been planning a little Petty medley. I’ve never been more affected by a person’s passing that I didn’t know. I got into Petty late, and then it totally fascinated me. I just watched him perform at Hartford in August, and it was the best concert that i have ever been to. His music meant a lot to me. It inspired me big time.”
GSLM: Most recently, I saw him in Nashville, and then I flew to Seattle and saw him and The Lumineers. He just kept getting better. That band was as tight of a band as you could hope for.
Fradiani: Dude, that’s what I said! You could just tell that they were one unit. The were just incredible.
GSLM: Recently you’ve stepped out onto your own. Kind of like “Into the Great Wide Open.” Your new album is coming out a week from today. What are you most excited about?
Fradiani: This record means a lot more to me than the last one because I was so much more entrenched in it. I produced it. I wrote it, with no more than one or two other writers. Sometimes you get into that, and I hate to use the words big machine, because that was my old record label, but you get into a room with a shit ton of writers and I kind of felt that I got lost in it a little bit, that I took a backseat. Even though I was older, I was still new. An nobody knows what you want to do more than you.
It feels like a good start. And it feels like the music that I want people to hear.
GSLM: Imagine you’ve just wrapped up tour and you’re sitting around with friends. What is your, “I can’t believe this happened moment?
Fradiani: There are a lot of little things that happened over the last several years. I am a big fan of Jason Miraz, and I got to write a song with Jason Miraz. I am a die hard fan of Matchbox Twenty, and I got to perform with Rob Thomas. But I think that the overall thing that I always used to dream that I could support myself as a musician. And so far, so good.
Fradiani is currently on tour through December 21 at City Winery in Boston. A full list of dates along with his newest single “I’ll Wait For You” can be found below.