Nick Perri is one of LA’s finest when it comes to music. He is an experienced and accomplished guitarist, songwriter, producer-engineer, and business owner. Not only is Nick a founding member of the bands Silvertide and Sinai, he has also played for Shinedown, Perry Farrell, Matt Sorum, and Christina Perri (sister). Since the early 2000′s, he has lived his life on tour, all over the world: playing in over 40 countries. Nick has toured with some of the world’s biggest acts including; Aerosmith, Van Halen, Kid Rock, Mötley Crüe, Velvet Revolver, The Foo Fighters, and MUSE. In 2009 Perri launched “PERRI INK. LLC” as a parent company for his future endeavors off stage. And later that year, he debuted his first product: boutique custom guitars, handmade with American grit, sweat, and the spirit of rock. That’s My Gig caught up with Nick to find out what it really takes to make it, and build a ubiquitous career in the music business.
By: Deanna Passarella
TMG: Nick, we’re honored to hang with you and hear your story! So, when you were growing up in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, how did music first become a part of your life?
NICK: My pleasure, thanks for having me! I started to play the guitar at age 12, after hearing rock n’ roll for the first time via my Aunt Dode. She gave me two cassettes… AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” and Pearl Jam’s “Ten”. It was life changing! I started to play almost immediately, and gravitated toward lead guitar right away. To this day I still get excited when I hear those records. I took lessons for about two years initially, but after that I am all self taught. I listened to all the greats, soaked up what they were doing, and twisted it around for my own style. Hendrix Band of Gypsies, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Johnny Winter, etc.
TMG: Those are some powerful influences. How many hours a day did you practice when you were first starting out and how does that schedule differ from your practice regime now?
NICK: Oh my, growing up I played 8 hours a day, everyday… minimum! Currently, when I’m on tour, it’s usually 4-5 hours a day just because you’re out there with nothing to do most days, before a show. When I’m at home I still try to practice for at least 2 hours a day. But I also spend many hours writing as well. It’s always a balance between writing and technique.
TMG: Your hard work has truly paid off. So, did you always want to be a rock star, or did you have other ideas or dreams about your future?
NICK: It’s always been playing and performing and writing. Always.
TMG: What attracted you to the idea of moving to LA?
NICK: I first lived in Los Angeles in 2001, for about two years. I was recording my band Silvertide’s debut record, “Show & Tell”. I fell in love with the city, lifestyle, and weather. Eventually a few years later I made the move permanently. Nick Perri
TMG: The weather is most definitely something to brag about! Did you have work lined up in LA before you made the move?
NICK: I had nothing when I moved here. My band was on a hiatus, and I was starting over. I lived on a friend’s couch and went out every night meeting people. I played as often as possible, and was a “yes” man. Within a short time I landed a great gig playing lead guitar for Perry Farrell and I was on tour before I knew it. It was a whirlwind!
TMG: Yeah, networking and getting yourself out there is more than half the battle. Before you landed that first tour, did you ever have to take a “day job” while you were out there pounding pavement and networking?
NICK: I am very fortunate in that I have never had a day gig. It’s always been music since I was 15. That’s not to say there haven’t been “lean” times as a professional musician, but that’s why there is eBay! (wink, wink)
TMG: Oh yeah…we’ve all been there before. Or at least thought about it! When you were really getting settled in, were there any “turn offs” about living in LA?
NICK: Every city has good and bad elements. LA is no different. I’ve just looked at it as a means to an end. And I love palm trees.
TMG: The environment does seem to help keep spirits high out here. So how did Silvertide come to life? Did you know the other band members previously, or did you place and ad?
NICK: I started the band with my friends from High School. It was as organic as you could imagine.
TMG: From what I understand, you were pretty young when Silvertide was signed. When did you know it was going somewhere big, and how did success impact you in your earlier years as opposed to now?
NICK: I knew right away it was going well, but had no idea what we were in for. When we signed to Sony/BMG, I was 16 years old. It was off the hook crazy, and to be honest I was much too young to deal with having money, free time, and access to everything I wanted. I don’t have regrets but I will say we took it all for granted. How can you not at that age? Let’s just say I appreciate every little thing now that I am older. And I now know how rare it is to find success at that level.
TMG: And from there, how did you land the gig with Shinedown? Would you say your skill level contributed the most to you scoring the gig or was it just being “a good hang”?
NICK: Yeah, both. I knew the guys really well because my band Silvertide toured with Shinedown extensively. When they needed a lead guitarist the singer, Brent, called me and I went down to Florida and jammed: it felt right. I spent about a month preparing. I had a lot of songs to learn, and a very large guitar rig to build! Nick Perri
TMG: Yeah, their sound is huge! How did your Shinedown experience differ from coming out of a band where you were a forming member, and what adjustments did you have to make playing as a hired gun?
NICK: Well, you said it right there. It is 100% different. When you are hired to do a job there is always a different feeling in the air, at all times, compared with it being your own project. For me, and I mean this with all due respect to everyone I have had the privilege working for, I much prefer writing and performing my own music. But that’s not a secret at this point.
TMG: Is tour life/rock star life everything you thought it would be? I hear there are high-highs and low-lows.
NICK: Of course, that is true of anything in life. It’s a business at the end of the day, like all other businesses, there are really exciting things about it and really shitty things about it. But if you love music you do it. Plus, touring can be a total blast! Just remember my friends… everything in MODERATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TMG: We love your custom guitars, Perri Ink Guitars! Beautiful axes. When did you first become interested in building your own guitars, and what was the inspiration?
NICK: Thank you!! I first started at age 12, and I was of course inspired by Eddie Van Halen, like most people. Over the years I learned more and more skills, and started doing more and more. Touring with Van Halen in 2004 was eye-opening, and Eddie shared a lot of knowledge with me. In 2009 I finally had the time, confidence, and business sense to start the company. I have never looked back!
TMG: How do you balance life as a musician & artist as well as a builder & entrepreneur? Did you ever find that you needed to make a transition into one or the other or are you able to manage multiple goals all at once?
NICK: Uggh.. haha. It’s a constant balance and learning process. I’m not perfect at it. It’s been tough at times because I am still a full-time musician, and make most of my living from music. Business can be fun, but it’s a lot of work. You have to be dedicated and REALLY believe in what you are selling: luckily for me, I do 100%. But there is no easy road when you are multitasking and trying to build a successful career/family/brand at the same time = Less sleep!
TMG: In Nashville, it seems to be all about the “chops”. There is a level of respect that comes with being a player out of “Music City”. Do you feel that LA places less emphasis on technical skill and puts more focus into use of effects? Is simply being a hip dude/dudette-with-a-Strymon-endorsement enough to land you a gig in LA?
NICK: Haha, that is a funny and interesting observation! There is way less emphasis on skill here, or maybe it’s assumed you have it before going to auditions. But I feel like a lot of it, if not most of it, is based on how you look, and who you know.
TMG: Speaking of effects, you’ve been doing some gear reviews lately? Any “got-to-have” pedals you’ve come across that gigging musicians absolutely need to include in their rig?
NICK: Absolutely. I really like handmade, heavy duty effects, with high headroom and clarity. I also stay away from too much gain because it makes everything muddy. That said, I have really been digging pedals from MojoHand FX, LovePedal, and Synaptic Groove. They don’t make a single bad pedal. Check ‘em out!
TMG: What’s your “worst gig” story?
NICK: Thankfully I can’t remember too many. Which means the good outweigh the bad!
TMG: Seems like you have been lucky to play music for a living, from a young age. Do you even have a “starving artist” story?
NICK: Again I have been very blessed in that I haven’t had that awful job that makes you crazy, but I will say there are highs and lows financially for every professional musician. There have been times that I have sold all my gear, bought it all back, sold it again, etc: just to pay rent and buy food. You do what you have to. You can’t go wrong when investing in gear. It has saved my ass many times!
TMG: What kept you going through those gig droughts?
NICK: Watching a live concert DVD of my heroes: always brings you back around to remembering why you do this. AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”, Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same”, or Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” will always do the trick!
TMG: What is one word of advice you have for those young players out there that want to make music their living?
NICK: Make sure you really, really, LOVE music. Don’t do it for money, chicks, or fame: it’s too tough and you will give up. The people who stick it out and find success do it because they truly love music in their souls, and can’t imagine doing anything else. Nick Perri
TMG: And for those brave enough to have already made the move to LA, NYC or Nashville, but are currently in that gig drought, what would you say to encourage them to keep on keepin’ on?
NICK: Never ever, ever, stop or give up. Eventually the competition stops at some point. Don’t let that be you. The last man standing wins!!
TMG: Good word! Thank you again for taking the time to share your story and advice. You are an inspiration and motivation to everyone at TMG, as well as our readers.
NICK: Thanks for having me! Appreciate the opportunity to share some stories. ROCK ON!