Thomas Ian Nicholas has been writing, performing and recording his own music for the past 16 years. As the lead singer in TNB (Thomas Nicholas Band), Thomas has been honing his craft and has so far released two studio albums.
In the UK he’s probably best-known for playing Kevin in the American Pie series and is set to return to the big screen soon in the series’ fourth theatrical outing American Pie: Reunion.
Recently he released the TNB EP and whilst in the UK promoting American: Pie Reunion, Thomas has been playing a couple of live shows.
We caught up with him backstage at The Garage just minutes after his first ever live London show. In our interview Thomas talks about his music, American Pie: Reunion and his hopes for the future.
How are you?
I’m good. I was pretty nervous before my London debut, especially with so many people here, but now I feel pretty good. I think it went pretty well.
You hid the nerves very well…
Well yeah, that’s what a double shot of Bourbon will do for you.
This was your first show in London. Why has it taken you so long to come over here?
I’ve toured pretty close. I’ve played in Denmark and I’ve toyed with the idea of catching a flight over but it never really evened itself out – the cost of the flight versus what I would get at a show. Not many people know about my music yet so that’s why.
After the reception you got tonight do you think you’ll come back again?
I would love to come back. In fact I’ve spoken to several people – the promoter and the other acts – and we’ve talked about the next time so it’s a good feeling.
Next time maybe you’ll be headlining?
I think I’ve got a way to go before I headline my first show in London but it could happen at any time. Maybe after the song’s been on the American Pie: Reunion soundtrack that will elevate the knowledge of my music and I’ll be able to do that. I never try to put the carriage before the horse, or so to speak.
We’re sure you could do it. There’s plenty of venues in London of various sizes…
Sure. I think the goal for me right now is to have the privilege of opening up for established artists like Jay Brannan tonight allowing me to come on the bill. The line out of the venue was….(laughs) There were some people that had tweeted me to say they were coming early to see me but that was very gracious of him to put me on the show.
We were reading that you’ve actually been involved in music for the last 16 years. Is it something you did along with your acting to test the waters and see how it went?
It takes a long time to get the word out. For the last 16 years I was certainly not putting as much attention on it as I was in the last 5 years. I sort of don’t count the first three albums that I recorded – no one will ever get those. Basically I scrapped those – no one will ever hear them except for the people that did at the time – but when I wrote Without Warning it was the first time that I was really satisfied with where I’d come as a songwriter and I worked with some amazing people on that record. That was when I really got behind it.
I thought I was going to shop it around and get a record deal. I had stars in my eyes I think. The album was co-produced and engineered by Brian Virtue, who worked with Bob Ezrin, Bruce Kulick played lead and Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction played bass and I thought ‘this is it, I’m going to show it to a record company and they’re gonna sign me in a heartbeat.’ That didn’t happen so I started getting out on the road and working it myself and now I’m kind of like a five year, 3 album DIY kid.
Your EP ‘TNB’ is out now. Tell us about that.
The new EP was produced by Damien Starkey who played bass for Puddle Of Mudd for a little bit. He and I really achieved the closest to the sound I wanted to get. I’m a big Foo Fighters fan so I wanted that heavy edge but still that hooky melody. This is the closest I’ve gotten to that.
Your voice is a lot rockier than we expected live. You were singing away from the mic and we could still hear you crystal clear. How do you get that power?
Well thank you. I don’t know. I think it just comes from every ounce of me and that’s what’s on the stage. You know how they say a cat moves with all of its body? That’s how I sing with all of my body, my soul, my brain and my heart.
It’s hard to fill a stage with just an acoustic guitar but you did that…
It’s the energy. I’m a big fan of Gibson Guitars and I’ve been working with them for those 5 years as well, just cos they have the fullest sound and all-round tone. That’s works well for a lone guitar. Playing tonight I got to borrow a Hummingbird which is the only guitar I don’t own in my collection and now of course I need to figure out how I’m going to get one of those.
I usually play with a J-45 which is a little bit of a smaller body but it still has a nice beefy tone. It’s also the pick-ups. You just sort of plug it in and the sound guys are like ‘oh you know’ and you’re like ‘no that’s it, you’re getting the full sound’. There’s no EQ or control volume – you just plug it in and you get what you get and it sounds great.
Can’t you sneak it home with you?
This one? Oh no (laughs) I wouldn’t do that to Gibson.
Go on you could say it got lost at the venue…
No! They just put me on a 3 and a half week tour in the States on the Gibson Guitar tour bus. They do a lot of things for me and I wouldn’t even dare think about stealing from them.
(laughs) Not yet!!
You never know what’s going to happen do you?
Tell us about the ‘American Pie: Reunion’ soundtrack. Your track ‘My Generation’ is on there. How did that come about?
That came about from the live show. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the writer/directors of the movie, knew about my music and they liked it. We talked about it in our first meeting when we talked about the characters but that was pretty much it. They were like ‘we saw your music videos and they were really cool.’
At the end of filming we did the wrap party, which I’ve never played a wrap party in 25 years of acting and 16 of those playing music, but I thought I’d have a good time and play a set for the crew. I thought it would be fun, something late when everyone’s had a few. After my hour set I went to the bar to get a drink and they came up to me and said ‘we have to put a song of yours on the soundtrack’. I won them over with the live show.
That must have been a good feeling because by the sound of it you weren’t that confident…
I knew people would have a good time but I certainly had no intentions like ‘here’s my reason for playing the wrap party’. I didn’t play it so I could get the song in the film. Look, I had tried to get a song on the soundtrack of everyAmerican Pie movie and it didn’t work out. It’s certainly not something that came about just because I was in the film. I just did it for fun and when they said that I was like ‘oh wow, cool! I should play more shows’.
What was it like revisiting ‘American Pie’ because it’s been quite a while since the last film?
Yeah it’s been 8 years since the third American Pie. It was crazy. We’ve seen each other one-on-one but this is the first time that we all came together at the same time. It’s like reuniting with old friends and I think it was more of a reunion for us than it was for the characters. We’re portraying this reunion but really it was our own reunion.
Did it feel like a big party all being back together again?
We have a lot of fun making these movies. I think somehow that fun and that energy translates onto the screen. It’s work – we have to get up early and be on all day and it’d been fun hanging out – but then we’d party on the weekends. This is the first one we shot on location. Usually we shoot in L.A. and you go home and spend the weekend with family and friends. It was a good time.
Did you take time out before filming to reconnect with each other and catch up?
No, the first time we saw everyone was at the table reading and I’ve come to find out that everyone didn’t know what to expect in terms of how everyone had changed or matured or was maybe different, or what their attitude was like. Literally it was like walking into a timewarp. We were right back where we started and I think we all realised that the chemistry is intangible when we’re all in the same place.
What’s the future looking like for you? Are you going to try and balance acting and music?
I’m going to try and balance everything together. I’ve done it now for the past 4, almost 5 years, I’ve somehow managed to play 350 shows, record three albums, shoot a dozen independent films and somehow my wife is still married to me and we made a baby so I plan on doing it all (laughs).
Well your next goal needs to be a headline gig here in London.
(laughs) alright. I’ll make sure it happens and make it’s my goal too.
Thomas Nicholas Band’s new EP ‘TNB’ is out now.
‘American Pie: Reunion’ is released on Wednesday 2nd May and the soundtrack featuring ‘My Generation’ is released on Monday April 30th.