Nicolas Falcon's music is a true guilty pleasure: we can't get enough! And why would we? This self-taught musician has the talent to write witty lyrics, find catchy melodies that just make you want to hum along to, all the while managing to keep it all simple and unpretentious. His Cuban roots and soft voice traveled from his native America to China, with a 4-year halt in Italy. The result? A warm and authentic international folk music. So, just get on board- I'm sure the replay button won't mind the continuous hits.
Hey Nicolas! To begin, can you tell our readers who Nicolas Falcon is & what is his story?
Well, my story is I was born in Houston, TX to Cuban immigrants, grew up in Miami, FL, went to college in Gainesville, FL, lived in Philly for 3 years, Milan, Italy for 4 and currently live in Shanghai, China.
How did you start making music? Was it something you've always done, or was there a trigger moment in your life ?
I've always liked singing, but I didn't start playing an instrument till I was about 12. My dad had bought me drumsticks when I was about 8 or 9 and taught me some paradiddles. I thought it was fun, but never thought I'd actually put them to any use, till one day after our weekly Sunday bowling he led me into a drum shop and showed me a basic beat. I struggled with it for a couple of hours. I went back the next day and had it down. I really got into the drums so my dad got me a used kit shortly after that. I was happy just playing the drums. Around the same time I was discovering all this great music from the 60's and 70's. I don't remember why I picked up the guitar a couple of years later. I think it was my mom's idea. Anyway, I found myself really wanting a guitar and not really knowing why. I taught myself some chords out of the back of a book I found and started writing my own songs before I really learned how to play any covers. The next year I had the same inexplicable urge to get a multitrack recorder and start recording my songs. Then I got a keyboard shortly after that in more or less the same kind of whim and the one-man band was pretty complete. Since then I haven't been able to stop writing and recording.
How would you describe yourself, from a strictly musical point of view? (genres, influences, musical tastes and background, favorite instrument, etc...)
Genres: international folk, jazz, manouche, indie, blues. I'm not really good with genres. With the exception of very generic stuff, it's all music to me. I know I really like minor scales and unpredictable chords change. I can't really get into anything proggy or repetitive.
Influences: The Pixies, The Violent Femmes, Morphine, Portishead, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Cure, Jacques Brel, The Beatles, Django Reinhardt, The Velvet Underground, STP, The Strokes, Radiohead, The Brazilian Girls, Buena Vista Social Club, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith and Claude Debussy among many others.
The instrument I have the most fun playing is probably the drums. The instrument I couldn't live without is the guitar. In fact, I need to go buy a guitar cause I got rid of the ones I had when I moved to China a couple of weeks ago.
You're a singer, a musician but also a songwriter. How would you describe your lyrics, and what is the inspiration behind them?
I don't know that I would try to describe my lyrics. They're quite varied for one. I have serious stuff and stupid hokey stuff too. It depends on my mood and what I've got going on in my life when I write it. I've been writing for a pretty long time, so a lot of it depends on when I wrote it too. I'd leave this one to my listeners. I'm curious to know what they think, assuming they listen to and/or understand them (I know in Italy a lot of people didn't).
Can you tell us more about your debut, self-titled album? (You can listen to it here).
I recorded it in Philadelphia after losing my job. I had written the songs between 2004 and 2008. It was just a selection of the songs I thought were catchy enough, or that people had told me were worth recording. I recorded most of it at home, then went into a local studio to record the vocals and have it mixed and mastered. I'm not really happy with how it came out, but then again I'm not perfectly happy with any of my recordings and wouldn't mind redoing most of them.
Who are the Featherweights that accompany you in this EP? How did this pairing happen? Is there much difference in the creative process between making a record on your own, and being with a band?
The Featherweights are Marco 'Mamo' Betti (drums) and Francesco Palmisano (keys). They are two Milanese guys I met through a friend of mine whose also a musician. We played together for about 2 years. There are several differences between this and my solo stuff. For starters, Francesco added a lot of clever bits I could never play on my own. Then, Mamo's drumming style is quite different from mine, which gives the songs a different feel. We recorded the base live, overdubbing just the lead guitar, vocals and other little embellishments (like the squeaking rubber pig in Pervert) which I think inevitably make for an entirely different feel from multi tracking everything or almost everything at home alone.
What would be your best advice on how to create a song (writing, composing, recording)?
I don't know if I would give advice on this. I know when I try too hard or at the wrong time it comes off contrived and I hate it. I guess the best stuff comes about spontaneously, then you have to edit it and work out all the rough edges. I think art in general is just taking something visceral and refining it so that the conscious more rational mind doesn't find it commonplace or stupid. But I have a degree in Engineering so don't take it from me; not that I 'd make a good Engineer, but I'm probably even less of an expert on art.
There are songs out there that are perfect for weddings, or funerals, or dance floors. If you were to imagine the perfect scenery to match your music, what would it be?
My stuff is definitely not perfect for dance floors. I know that. It might be interesting to hear The Marrying Kind playing at a wedding. This is a really tough question. I would be interested in having people who are into my music answer this one.
Do you have any live experience you would like to share ? Your favorite performance, or maybe a particular/funny anecdote ?
My favorite performance was in Hamburg just off the Reeperbahn at a place called Hasenschaukel. It is (or was-not sure it's still there) an awesome venue. I went there two summers in a row: first alone, then with the Featherweights when we did our little tour of Germany. The audience was very quiet and listened very closely. Whenever anyone would try to talk, we'd hear "Shhh…" They really got into the music. Street playing in Berlin was fun. We got an unopened bottle of Ballantines as a tip from one person, which a Canadian homeless person drank most of before passing out by us in Neukölln. We were harassed by all kinds of strange/interesting characters and I kept a journal if you want more details. I know I'm forgetting the best one right now. I'd have to go read through it.
You've already released one LP (your debut album) and several EPs (Falcon & the Featherweights, Songs from the Aaahtic, With the Aaahhchestra -with the band Keyboard Rebel...). Can we expect a new full-lentgh album in the near future?
I have too much music and I'm dying to record and release all of it. I just need to get a band together, or get settled in properly in Shanghai with my recording setup. I have a couple of songs I've put up on my soundcloud which will be on my next 9-song album. I have like 10 I want to get down right after that. So not 1, but at least 2 albums are on the way as soon as I can get them recorded properly.
Nicolas Falcon - Cyanide Surprise live for InMyKitchen