Musician Nick Lopez Talks ‘Boombox & Tapestops’ EP, Ghostwriting, and the Struggles of Life in L.A.
Age, gender, class and race: these are all different labels that people are often classified under. Musician Nick Lopez tells us that genres are no different in their attempt to define what music is and what it isn’t. But instead of allowing himself to be lumped in with other pop artists, Lopez’ unique sound has brought him closer to a spotlight and brand of his own making.
At just 18 years old, Lopez has already come a long way in the industry, and we’re not talking about his fairly recent move to Los Angeles. Long before his songs were making waves on the radio, his high school classmates were humming his tunes in the hallway. And if that weren’t impressive or inspiring enough for a young artist, one of his original songs got a nod from the singer and founding member of The Grateful Dead, Bob Weir. (Fun fact: At the time, Lopez had no idea who Weir was.)
So what is it exactly that makes his music so charming and distinctive? Well, the answer is simple. The magic lies in the beat. While the lyrics and music follow a pop-based style, the beat is more reminiscent of what you’d find in modern hip-hop tracks. Pair the two with a renowned music duo like Kings Dead and what you’ve got on your hands is a single that is as good as gold. (Don’t believe us? Scroll down to the end of this article and check out “Teacher Teacher” for yourself. Trust us when we say that you’ll be thanking us later for discovering your new favorite song.) With songs that address the little things as well as feelings of regret and remaining sane in a crazy, fast-paced world, just about everyone will find something to relate to on the emotive fusion of fun found on his latest EP, Boombox & Tapestops, including those based internationally, as according to Lopez: “music is a universal language.”
GALO recently caught up with the imaginative artist to talk about his newest EP, L.A.’s scene, and how he went from ghostwriting for stars like Alicia Keys to writing his own music.
GALO: Music can touch and change lives in ways that few other art forms can. What would you say is the most moving part about writing music? And given the personal aspect to songwriting, do you think that it is therapeutic for the artist to some degree?
Nick Lopez: The most relieving part of music? To be able to express what is kind of going on in my life and be able to put it into words. It’s kind of like going to a therapist when you write a song, except you’re not really going to a therapist, you know? You can put it all out there. It’s a good, healthy thing to do, I believe. I always try to make it so that whatever emotion I am trying to convey in the song is easy to get or understand for those who listen. Hopefully, people are able to tell what I am feeling in a song, and that is the goal.
GALO: I read that you moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but only after you had made a name for yourself in the industry. What do you think it is about the City of Angels that draws so many people to its light? Do you feel more content now that you’ve made the move?
NL: Honestly, that is where the industry is and that is probably why it draws so many people [in]. You can throw a stone in the city and you’ll probably hit someone in the entertainment industry. I mean, even every conversation in L.A. has something to do with the entertainment industry. Whenever I go and get food or whatever, I always listen to the people around me and they are all talking about something in entertainment, whether it is music or acting, etc. It is just where everything is.
I knew a few people down there when I moved, but I definitely met tons more this year. I just think it’s a place (like New York, maybe) that has endless opportunities. If you come from the middle of [the] country, where there [are] literally no opportunities except for [those] on the Internet, it is definitely a move that is important if you really want to have a career [in music]. I definitely feel more fulfilled. I’ve met a few people since I moved there who have significantly helped with my development this year as an artist and on the business side. I am definitely happy that I moved down there.
GALO: Your new album, Boombox & Tapestops, was released on July 13. That has to be exciting! As a music enthusiast myself, I have found that many EPs tend to center around one specific theme or emotion. Would you say that is true? If so, what would you classify your EP under? And how do you expect your listeners to feel or react when they listen to it?
NL: I didn’t intend to do that with the EP, but as I was listening to all of the songs, I realized that the EP is very much about or centers on the theme of going against a status quo in L.A. I’ve realized that all of the songs are about that. I know a lot of people in L.A. and I honestly don’t like a lot of my peers, like those who are part of the Kardashian clan or others like it — they are just annoying and shallow to me. So, I think a lot of the songs are kind of talking about how I don’t like that lifestyle and [how I’m] not planning to conform.
I like to make pop music, and the first song on my EP, “Simple Things,” is kind of a fun song and I hope that my listeners will want to sing along. That is my first goal as a pop artist. At the same time, I want people to appreciate the lyrical content, too, and somehow relate to that. That’s the big difference between this EP and all the past work I’ve done. This is more lyrically mature and more me.
Video courtesy of Nick Lopez.
GALO: Three of the singles that were released with your EP gained thousands of followers within the first few weeks of them becoming public. Those are some powerful numbers. How did it feel to receive such a following so quickly? Did that in any way justify your career move and decision to pursue music full-time?
NL: Well, I knew that it was going to happen with the first single, “Teacher Teacher,” because it had Kings Dead featured on it. They have a really big following, so I kind of knew that it was going to happen with that song. When it comes to the second single, I was surprised. I didn’t think it would go over nearly as well. I mean, it didn’t have such a high profile musician on it. Catalyst has a following, but not nearly as big of one as Kings Dead. So, I was surprised. But the “Witching Hour” is now more popular than the first [single], which I did not expect. I hope that there are a few more songs on the EP that gain such a following from all of the promo.
No, they weren’t validation. The numbers are great and I am always looking to expand, but I justified it to myself because of who I will be meeting that will be useful in the future.
GALO: Word around the block is that you’ve also been a ghostwriter for several prominent artists, such as Alicia Keys and Chance the Rapper. When you hear the songs that you worked on being played on the radio, how does that make you feel? Do you ever wish that it was you singing them instead?
NL: It’s kind of a weird feeling hearing songs that you’ve worked on [being played] on the radio. But then again, it also makes me wish that those were my songs. I wish that it were me. It is also kind of frustrating because nobody knows that you worked on it. It’s kind of cool, but then it again, it’s like, “wow, that could have been my song.” That is why I am kind of staying away from ghostwriting for a while. I want to focus on my album.
GALO: That’s definitely understandable. We all want credit for the hard work we put in. Still, producing music for these artists and working behind the scenes must have had an impact on you creatively as well as given you more self-confidence in your abilities, am I right?
NL: It prepared me for the politics and stuff like that. These are very competitive people who have different tastes. It prepared me for dealing with the process, where you have to get approval from like 10 different people for one line of a song. That’s how it works in this industry, though. So it prepared me for the business aspect.
GALO: Given your history together, have you thought about collaborating with any of these artists?
NL: Yeah, that would be incredible. But I don’t think they even know who I am. It is kind of a weird thing when you are ghostwriting. So many people send them stuff, they hear the demo, and then they just do it. It’s really strange, just the whole thing. I mean, I would love to because they are great artists, but the process is just so hard as it is to even get a demo to them. I just know how hard it would be to even ask them to do a song with me.
GALO: You actually started playing music in high school and even had your classmates as fans. Apparently, so much so, that they were humming your tunes in the hallway — is that correct? I’m curious, though, at that time, was music just a pastime or was it always your career goal? Did you ever think you would be doing something else?
NL: You know, deep inside of me, I think I knew I always wanted it to be a career. It was great validation, though, during my senior year of high school when my first song came out. Everywhere I seemed to go, people were always singing my song. It was kind of like, “wow, that’s kind of cool.” I always wanted that to happen. I honestly didn’t really have any other career in mind. I think my career plans have always been oriented toward music.
GALO: Going back to high school for a minute, I hear that your 2014 single “Back in the Day” got a nod from Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, but that at the time, you didn’t know who he was. If you could go back to that moment now, what would you say to him?
NL: It’s true. I had no idea who he was when he came up to me. I’m not even sure if that was the song that I played, but I know I was playing one of my original songs. He came up to me and he complimented me about it.
I probably wouldn’t have dealt with it much differently. I don’t believe in treating celebrities different than regular people. I think you want them to feel like they are regular people and that they appreciate that. I would probably still [have] said thank you. If anything, I may have complimented him on his music as well, but other than that, I think I wouldn’t have handled it any differently.
GALO: I’m guessing that in the past year, you’ve received your share of compliments from influential musicians. Is there anyone who left a particular impression on you?
NL: I really appreciated Sonny Shotz. He said he really liked my lyrics and that was cool because I have always listened to his lyrics. Millions of people really love his music and it was really cool for him to say that. It was definitely [a] nice validation.
GALO: In some cases, living in a big city like Los Angeles can have an influence on a person. Sometimes it is positive and forces the person to try to better him or herself and work harder in order to succeed. In other cases, it can be negative and cause a person to become greedy or superficial. How would you say the city has changed you? I know we briefly touched upon this, but are you ever afraid that you might lose yourself?
NL: The city definitely has changed me. It’s made me probably a bit more jaded, which is unfortunate — but it is true. It has probably made me a bit more aware of the business aspect of music, how it is very cutthroat. It has been a great learning experience and has gotten me more prepared for the real world.
No, I don’t think I would ever lose myself. I’ve been exposed to pretty much everything now.
GALO: I think it is the uniqueness of your music that makes it instantly likable. While the pop vibe draws the listener in originally, it is the hip-hop beat that keeps them around and craving more. Honestly, the thought to mix the two genres together in the way that you did is pretty ingenious. How would you say that you found the perfect sound for your music? Did any other artists inspire you?
NL: I tend to work with a lot of hip-hop artists for some reason or another — and producers. I don’t exactly know why, but I’ve always been around rappers. My personal music preferences are generally pop-based. So, I think that my pop vibe mixed with the hip-hop sound is the product. It wasn’t even intentional, it just happened that way based on whom I was working with.
GALO: I think that my favorite song from your new EP is “Teacher Teacher.” The track is so relatable for people of different age groups and personality types. To me, it is a reminder that life is our biggest teacher and that we don’t always get what we want, or end up where we expect. Sometimes we are given advice that we ignore at the time, only to realize that it would have actually come in handy in certain situations. How would you explain the meaning behind the song? Were you speaking to a situation in your life in particular?
NL: So, kind of what you just said. It is about not necessarily listening to advice that you’ve been given at a certain time. It’s kind of like when your parents give you advice when you’re younger and you just sort of blow it off. Then, you find when you get older that it was actually important.
For me, I’ve had one specific teacher in high school that was really great and helped me with a lot of things, especially when I was just getting into music and the business. He gave me great advice about stuff. So it is kind of about that. When living in L.A., I kind of thought back on it and thought that, ‘Wow, that was actually great advice and I should probably hit him up for more.’
GALO: So long as we’re on the subject of your songs, “The Witching Hour” kind of reminds me of a feeling where you can be surrounded by people but still feel so alone. Where you lose yourself inside your own head and you have to find some way to get out. It may not be a place necessarily; sometimes it is just a mindset. Would you agree with that interpretation? Have you ever lived in a place like that or felt like you were being swallowed up by your own thoughts? Any advice on how to break out from that mindset and move on?
NL: I would definitely agree with that interpretation. That is pretty spot on. “The Witching Hour” is kind of about that whole L.A. thing that we were talking about earlier. You can surround yourself with people and you can get lost within yourself, and that is definitely what the song is about. I hope that it kind of enlightens people and that they will listen to the lyrics and realize that it is definitely a problem with a lot of people, especially in L.A. Sometimes I get too concerned with what my peers are doing, where they are going and who they are hanging out with. Though I shouldn’t care about that nearly as much, I can get caught up in all that, which is stupid and a problem. But other than that, I try to stay true to myself. You just have to appreciate the friends that you do have, especially those friends that are not famous. You just have to be grateful that you have true friends — famous [friends] are the ones that are very fake and shallow and the ones that are jaded. I deal with it by appreciating what I have.
GALO: In my opinion, your music doesn’t exactly fit into a specific genre. It is so unique that I think it deserves its own category. If you could define yourself as a musician, what would “Nick Lopez” mean? What genre label would you place upon yourself?
NL: That’s a good question. On iTunes it says “pop,” but I would maybe want to not even have a genre at all. I don’t like genres. My music is a mix. I would just want people to be able to listen to the music and enjoy the lyrics without worrying about the labels. I don’t want them to think, ‘oh, this is hip-hop or pop, so I can’t listen to it.’ I want them to appreciate the music for what it is. Genres are just another way to categorize people and place labels upon them. I think nowadays people care less and less about genres anyway. But there are some music blogs or whatnot online that still won’t post something if it doesn’t exactly fit into one genre. That’s kind of annoying. We just need to move past that.
GALO: So now that you’ve got an EP out, what’s next for you? Is an LP in the works, perhaps?
NL: So, I am definitely working on an LP, which will hopefully be out by the holiday season. I’m also planning a few live shows for late summer. There are going to be a few really big ones that I am excited about, which I will be announcing on my Instagram account as they get closer. There are a few music festivals that I am also looking at for next summer. It is hard to get on the lineup, but I have been talking to one and they seem somewhat interested. So nothing is set in stone yet, but we shall see.
“Boombox & Tapestops” is currently available on iTunes for purchase. To learn more about Nick Lopez and his musical endeavors, you can follow him on Twitter @nicklopezmusic.