Nick Vivid has it going on! He’s a rock star in the best sense of the word, as well as a sonic wizard, dreamer, and fearless innovator. In addition, he’s cerebral and, most importantly, capable of articulating his ideas in a comprehensible fashion.
Vivid’s latest album is called Blissed Out and corresponds to a travelogue of his imaginative musical journey, enveloping elements of pop, rock, funk, hip-hop, electronic, and neoteric music.
The music video for “Ricochet,” a song from Blissed Out, depicts retro-flavored kaleidoscopic dynamics full of surging disco-esque savors, tightly soaring guitar tones, and exquisitely subtle extravagances of iridescent resonance.
Interviewing Nick Vivid was a pleasure. Not only is he eloquent and thoughtful, but he’s also unreservedly open. We discussed his influences, his background, and his quest for what he calls “the blue sound.”
How would you describe yourself?
I’m just a weirdo. I like catchy song hooks, dancing like a fool onstage, and making sure everyone in the audience knows they’re adored.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
Oh damn. Out of the gate with that question. To be perfectly honest, getting into trouble implies that I got caught.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
My dad was a DJ on WBLK in Buffalo NY, where I grew up. He always played lots of soul music and blues in the house. My mom plays piano. She loves Bowie and Queen. I started playing drums, then I moved to guitar, bass, and keyboards. I wrote my first album when I was 10 — all in my head — the full production — all the parts and arrangements — before I knew how to play anything. So I was a writer and producer first. I got a 4-track when I was 15 and discovered I could make my own recordings and sell them at local stores. The idea of having my own little business with my music as the product appealed to me from day one.
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
I’ve been on such a 90’s hip-hop kick, it’d probably be something from the boom bap era. “We got the lip service. We got the breath control. Artifacts in the house with the dynamite soul.” Talk about badass strutting music. Nothing like it.
What singers/musicians influenced you the most?
KISS was the first band that I loved. The way they approached the entire package of music and show and the sheer volume of empowerment they bestowed upon their audience was everything to me. I eventually wooed their original manager, Bill Aucoin, into working with me. Who better to learn from than the mastermind behind KISS’ early success? The man was a mad genius and always believed anything was possible. He was my first Sensei.
How do your influences affect and shape your approach to music?
Every experience I’ve had in my life has influenced my music. I’m left and right brain oriented. I’m calculated in my approach to my career and what kinds of songs should be on the records and how I wish for my public image to be perceived — the record label/management side, and then my artist side fights all of that in the name of pure integrity. When both sides are in agreement, that’s what ends up in your headphones.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
I grew up in an oppressive culture, filled with people who were either angry or afraid, and not enjoying their lives, at all. I still see that every day. I’ve spent my life fighting against all that — conquering the demons of the past, so to speak. So, I make my songs about striving to become the kind of person who just makes the most out of every moment and finds joy in everything. Freedom. Empowerment. That kind of thing. That’s my utopian dream. Musically, I fumble around until something strikes me. Oftentimes I hear something in my head just like I did when I was 10. That still happens to me to this day. When all else fails, I just steal an idea I like outright and reshape it.
What inspired your new single/music video “Ricochet?”
The chorus “All that matters is I came back no matter what it took to get here” came to me first. I heard it as a female gospel choir singing in unison in my head originally, so I mimicked that idea on the track. Then I wrote the verses based on what I thought the song was trying to tell me. At the end of the day, it’s all about serving the song. For the video, I built this clone of an “Atari Video Music” box in my workshop. It throws 8-bit looking shapes and colors on the screen in time with the music. I love vintage computers as much as I love vintage instruments and electronics. I shot the rest of the footage in a park near my home. I have a fascination and appreciation for darker, dirtier, more dangerous aspects of New York City so I like to capture that kind of vibe when I can. The video is a performance piece more than a concept video, but, to my eyes, it serves the song’s message.
“Ricochet” is innovative as all get-out, discharging flavors of pop, funk, electronic, and retro. How would you describe your sound?
Well, thank you. That’s really it. It’s my dad’s soul influence, mixed with glam rock, 90’s hip hop. I’ve been listening to a lot of newer underground synthwave and lo-fi beat-making artists as of late. My Instagram is filled with them and I hear so many new interesting ideas every day from every corner of the globe. I’m still learning how to mix what I like out of all of these things together into something that feels like my own voice. It’s an ongoing process to get to the center of it.
Is your sound evolving? If so, in which direction — toward pop or rock?
Yes it is. I am a believer in pop structure — verse,chorus,verse etc… I like catchy hooks. I think my songs should have those elements. But after that, everything else is up for grabs. I like to push boundaries and move things left of center. I’ve already written a few ideas for the next album, but it will find its own life and space in its own time. In the studio, there’s a certain sound I call the “blue” sound, which I’ve been trying to achieve on the last few records, but haven’t quite mastered it. I’m still not quite sure what specifically makes it happen. I’m still studying it.
With all due respect, your voice reminds me of Barry Gibb set in a creative matrix akin to Michael Jackson. Are you aware of this similarity?
I am. I kinda modeled my falsetto more after Curtis Mayfield, actually. When I heard him, something inside me said “Hey, I think I can do that!” I just felt a kinship and connection with his voice.
What’s next for you musically?
When the album came out a few weeks ago, I did the release party at a venue called Berlin, here in NYC. The gig went over so well, and gave me so much confidence in the new live show, that I decided I just wanna be on the road right now. My girl and I love 1970’s vanning culture and always wanted to get and deck out a classic style boogie van, so now’s the time. That’s the summer project. Then this fall we’re gonna take the van on the road, and I will proceed to play as many gigs as possible with the “Blissed Out Across America” tour. I’m just gonna enjoy the ride as much as I can.