Following his and Jonathan Rice‘s set (which he played on), LA singer-songwriter Nik Freitas and I walked down Frankford Avenue and took advantage of the New Acropolis Restaurant’s hospitality to chat. PLanting ourselves in the back booth and sipping on some tap water, we got to talking about the new record, touring and cartoons.
Jessica, PopWreckoning: Hi, Nik. How are you?
Nik Freitas: I’m all right.
PW: The show was great. I’m sorry to hear you were stuck in traffic for six hours.
NF: Yeah, it was crazy.
PW: Has that happened anywhere else on the tour?
NF: Not yet, but you’re always bound to have one of those where you’re late and you show up and go right to the stage.
PW: Let’s talk about the new record, Sun Down. You write, play, engineer and produce everything on all of your records. What’s it like to have that kind of control when a lot of the industry outsources the tracking and mixing and all?
NF: It’s just really the only way to do it if you don’t have a budget. I wasn’t on a label, you know. I just kind of was doing it anyway. I just love doing it.
PW: How did you hook up with Team Love, which is putting out Sun Down?
NF: I was playing guitar for my friend’s band, All Smiles. We went through Omaha last summer and we were hanging out and I met Ian, Conor [Oberst]’s cousin, but I had no idea.
We’re playing guitar late night after the show and he’s like, ‘you got any CDs?’
I was like, ‘yeah!’ and I gave him a CD and he dug it and gave it to Conor. I got an email from Conor about a month later and he asked me to open up for Bright Eyes in the fall. That’s how it all started.
PW: How’d that tour go? That was your first big tour.
NF: It was fantastic! I’d never played in front of that many people in my life.
PW: So what was that like?
NF: It was great, it was great. I was very used to playing in front of five, ten people in L.A., especially.
PW: Since then you’ve toured this year with Dave Dondero, Rilo Kiley, currently Jonathan Rice and Maria Taylor. How have you been adjusting to touring pretty much non-stop?
NF: It’s been great. You kind of get into a groove. You just learn a lot about life because recording and playing live it totally different. You have to adjust to crowds and all. For Dondero’s crowd, I had older crowd, like drinking beer in a bar. Then I went out with Rilo Kiley and it was teenagers and then now with Maria and Rice it’s more my audience. The reception has been great at these shows.
You just learn a lot. Financially, this is the only way I can do it, just kind of going by myself. Rilo Kiley was my backing band on that tour so they backed me up. I got off that one and I sent Maria’s backing band my songs and then I learned them so when I got out on this one, I started. That’s the only way I could do it.
PW: That’s why you’re playing guitar for Rice?
NF: Yeah, same reason. Otherwise I can’t financially do it right now. So we all play with each other. It works out real good.
PW: Are you supposed to be playing with Maria right now?
PW: Are you touring again when you get down with these guys?
NF: I’m taking a break. I play guitar for Conor in his new band and we’re doing a world tour right when I get home from this. Like, literally the next day.
PW: You’re on the Mystic Valley Band record…
NF: Yeah, I play the guitar, mmhmm.
PW: You obviously wouldn’t have total control over that record, what was that like compared to your own thing?
NF: I’ve played guitar and other instruments for other people on records. You go into those situations and you just play your part. In the end, it’s up to that person whether they like it or not. If someone doesn’t like something, it’s fine with me. You have to understand the situation you’re in.
I guess when I record my own stuff, it’s just me and I get to do whatever I want. It’s pretty cool. Either way, it’s fine with me. As long as it’s a rad project, you know? So whatever I’m playing it’s fine with me.
PW: Do you, with touring so much and working with some many other people… you don’t have any other sort of job, do you?
NF: No, I don’t. I quit my job, actually.
PW: What did you do before you started playing?
NF: I hung plasma TVs in LA. I worked for an audio/video company for like three years. I worked full time and all the extra money I made, I just bought recording equipment with it. I made a record while I was doing that and this record was 75% done before I even met Conor.
I just make ‘em. I always do it.
PW: Have you been writing a lot while you’ve been on the road?
NF: Not really. Not really at all. Just kind of, I dunno, haven’t really thought about it. It’ll happen, it’s not something you can force. I’ve been pretty busy since last fall. Even before this, before I met Conor, I was doing music for a cartoon on Cartoon Network. Just at my house. I was always just playing music.
PW: Who are you listening to nowadays?
NF: Oh, man. Lil Wayne.
PW: Lil Wayne?
NF: Yeah, a lot. I’ve been working a lot with All Smiles on that new record, so I’ve been listening to those mixes that we did. Those are pretty good.
PW: When’s that record gonna drop?
NF: I dunno. Dan’s still working on it. Oh, Charlie Wadhams, it’s this guy out of LA. He’s really good.
PW: So you’ve got this world tour coming up when you’re done with Maria and Rice, but if you could put together your dream tour, in which you either headlined or opened, who would you want to play with?
NF: Geeez. I’d wanna play with The Band. I would love to play with The Band. It would’ve been great to play with The Beatles. Bowie.
PW: I think he’s touring, you should get on that.
NF: Aw, nah. I’d almost want to be a part of the jam. I’d almost want to play an instrument in the band; I wouldn’t even feel worthy. I’d rather just be in the jam. I’d play acoustic guitar, whatever man.
PW: What about the new record? It was mostly done before you met Conor, so was it recorded and then picked up by Team Love?
NF: Yeah. I was making it just ‘cause. I’d already made one; I have three or four records out. I was on a label that kind of…whatever. I just love making records.
Like I said, it was pretty much done and I did the first west coast leg of the Bright Eyes tour and then he’s like, “I wanna put out your record.”
I was like, “that would great.” I went home after touring and recorded three new songs and he asked me to open up the east coast a few weeks later. So I flew out there and I gave him the record and I got all the artwork ready and that was it. It happened so fast.
I just keep making music, man. Somebody will hear it and like it.
PW: Everyone inside liked it.
NF: Yeah it seemed cool. I don’t even remember playing, it was a blur.
PW: Who were your influences growing up that got you into music.
NF: The Beatles. I feel like I always say this: the Beatles; Bowie; Dylan; Neil Young. Just the ones you can’t really go wrong with. I like the Talking Heads a lot. Radiohead. Wilco. Just the ones you can’t go wrong.
PW: Totally. Well thank you very much.
NF: No problem. It was great.