Review:: Big Skies | Nick Santino

Nick Santino has always had a voice that fit perfectly into the pop/punk genre.

Back in the days of A Rocket to the Moon, the simple ba-da-ba-ba-da-da-daaa (or however you hear it) hook featured in “Dakota” left fans singing the chorus on repeat endlessly. After the group ran its course, releasing a pair of full-lengths and a handful of EPs, they split in 2013 and Santino later went solo with Nick Santino & the Northern Wind.

Now, that Northern wind has blown through and Santino has returned with his first album as a solo artist with no other tags or titles. With this new freedom, however, comes a new risk – all eyes are now on him.

On Big Skies, the high, sharp vocals that Santino practiced in his earlier endeavors continue to find solid footing in the alt-country world.

The record opens on “Bad Taste,” a smooth, stuttered semi-ballad that, contrary to the name, goes down easily. Santino’s voice is calm and soft, with a sly smile almost audible through the music.

“Gone Like Yesterday” gives the first glance of a more country vibe – plucky guitars, a little bit of twang, and memories of drinking with old friends. As it fades out, it [literally] steps into “Jackson Browne,” a creaking, piano-graced piece that is a standout of not only the record, but Santino’s entire catalog.

The constant sense of wanderlust, heard mostly on tracks like “Back to Where I’m From” and the stomp-along “Long Way Home,” compliments both the sound of tracks and the genre as a whole. On “It Is What It Is,” this desire for travel is still strong, now backed by a flattering female vocal counterpart and a fiddle solo that is wildly enjoyable.

The need for travel is a two-sided feeling. On one hand, there is the hope for heading home, for going back to something. The excitement of being back in a familiar place after time away is a great feeling, and we hear this on the more upbeat “Long Way Home” and “Back to Where I’m From.”

Contrarily, travel isn’t always heading home; sometimes it’s about leaving. Musically, “Can’t Say I Miss You” juxtaposes something quick and upbeat with lyrics such as “So give it up and say goodbye / sell my things, I don’t want them. / And I wish you well, I’ll be just fine / ‘cause you’re an empty house that I’m haunting / and when I’m gone, I won’t be coming back around.” The aforementioned “Jackson Browne” is the story of a man haunted by memories of someone who left, while “Have A Little Faith In Me” asks for a second opportunity.

Album closer “She Don’t Miss Me” is the calmest, most somber point Big Skies offers. Santino’s voice is soft, nearly inaudible at times, crooning over the struggle between his lifestyle and his lover. Much like the relationship he sings about, the song ends abruptly, leaving the listener a bit frozen and wondering if there could have been just a little bit more.

Big Skies is a cheerful, catchy, and, at times, heart-wrenching storybook of travel and transition where we witness Nick Santino truly finding his footing in the pop/country genre. And with it, he stands a great chance at being a frontrunner within the sound.

Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Rating: 4/5
Runtime: ≈ 40 Minutes
Check Out: “Jackson Browne,” “Can’t Say I Miss You”

Track list:
1. Bad Taste
2. Can’t Say I Miss You
3. Gone Like Yesterday
4. Jackson Browne
5. Keep On Going
6. Back to Where I’m From
7. It Is What It Is
8. Have a Little Faith in Me
9. Long Way Home
10. Mood Ring Eyes
11. She Don’t Miss Me

Written by Eric Riley

Interview With:: Nick Santino

We had the opportunity to chat with Nick Santino once again, but this time to discuss his debut solo album, his favorite tracks, and this summer’s Vans Warped Tour! 

Check out our interview below!

The last time we had the chance to speak with you was back in December when you were on tour under Nick Santino & The Northern Wind. Now you are presenting yourself under your name alone and with a brand new debut album. Big Skies has a slightly different feel from the music you released under previous projects. As an artist who is constantly growing, what influences you and your writing process
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me again! As far as influences, mostly life and every day experiences keep me going and doing what I do.

Big Skies definitely has a mixture of a whimsical yet simplistic sound to it and fans have the ability to hear a little more of a country sound than what you have produced in the past. As your debut solo album, how would you describe it to fans that have not yet heard it?
Not really sure how to classify it, on iTunes it’s under singer/songwriter because that’s what I am. I think it has a timeless classic twangy feel with a modern rock n roll twist. 

“Bad Taste” and “Back To Where I’m From” are two songs that stood out to me the most on this album. What track was your favorite to write and is one you are most excited to perform live?
Thanks – glad you like them! My favorite to write was ‘Keep On Going’. I wrote it really fast on my acoustic guitar. It was originally in a ¾ timing and it was twice as slow. I really enjoy playing ‘Can’t Say I Miss You’ live, so I’m looking forward to including it in my set this summer.

Speaking of performing live, you’ll be on tour all summer on the Vans Warped Tour and playing the Acoustic Basement alongside Allison Weiss, Front Porch Step and Anthony Raneri. What are you looking forward to the most on this tour?
This will be my first tour since the album came out, so I’m looking forward to sharing my new music with fans and new listeners! Also excited to hang with as many cool people as I can. 

What kind of a setlist can fans expect to hear this summer? Will you be performing songs only from this album, from Nick Santino & The Northern Wind, perhaps some A Rocket To The Moon…?
I’m gonna be playing a couple from the first two solo EPs I released, but the majority of them will be from Big Skies. Gonna through in a Tom Petty cover too! The focus is on my new music, so no I won’t be playing any Rocket songs.

You previously said that doing a solo project gave you the ability to be more honest and more yourself. Do you feel as if Big Skies is a proper representation of who you are as both a person and as a musician or do you think you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what sound best fits you?
I think it is a good idea of who I am. I myself don’t know that for sure since I’m still growing as a person and a musician every day. The next record could be completely different and that’s the wonderful thing about music.

Thank you once again for taking time to speak with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks to everyone who has picked up Big Skies already – hope to see you at one of the Warped Tour dates this summer!