Fighting Shadowars: An Interview with Nick Thomas

For the better part of the last fifteen years Nick Thomas has made a living performing as a member of The Spill Canvas, an emotionally-driven pop rock band whose six studio albums boast some of the most anthemic alternative songs in recent memory. That project more or less went on hiatus at the beginning of 2013 so that various members could spend time with family and focus on other projects, but Thomas’ focus remained squarely on music. He launched a successful Kickstarter campaign later that same year and, in 2014, released his first full independent release in nearly a decade under the name Nick Thomas Band. That project has been the top priority of his career since then, and just last month in Austin, TX Nick found time to speak with me, James Shotwell, about his recent experiences and what it’s like to start over in the world of music.

On a personal note, I must say that this interview made me more nervous than any other encounter in recent memory. As someone who graduated just as Thomas’ career with Spill Canvas was really starting to take off, I recall countless nights and long drives spent singing his songs of heartache and loss at the top of my lungs. I even vividly remember buying his second album, Sunsets & Car Crashes, from a then thriving Sam Goody. His music was the soundtrack to my life for a good period of time, and though my interest in his work has wained a bit in recent times my respect for his hustle has only continued to grow. In all my time as a writer I had never been fortunate enough to speak to Nick in person until this interview, and though we were not able to dive quite as deep as I would have preferred I think the topics touched upon offer great insight to where he’s at as a person and professional in 2015.

If you want to learn more about Nick Thomas Band, or if simply want to share your story of getting over your first crush by spinning One Fell Swoop three-hundred times while crying alone in your room (just me?), then please make it a point to follow Nick on Twitter. You can also pick up his latest album, Shadow Wars, from every major music retailer online.

H: When did you get into town?

NT: We got into town yesterday around two in the morning. It has been…it has been a good time so far. Our last show was in Anaheim about four days ago. We took our time, visited Disneyland, and yea – we had some fun.

H: Now this tour with Secondhand Serenade and Ryan Cabrera hasn’t been going on for very long at this point, correct?

NT: Yea, you’re about to see the fourth show. We played Sacramento, San Francisco, and Anaheim so far. It’s still new and fresh.

H: Oh wow, very new. How’s the road treating you this time around?

NT: It’s great, man. This is probably the highest profile support slot Nick Thomas Band has had since Spill Canvas took a back seat. It’s good to be in a place like this right now. We haven’t really had an opportunity like this for the new brand just yet.

H: Is it weird to refer to yourself in the third person as you did just now?

NT: Very weird. [Laughs] It’s so bizarre. So incredibly bizarre. I’ve had a few tours to get used to it from the interview and press side of things, but it is odd. I didn’t always have the band I have now, but we’ve got a solid lineup now. It must be even weirder for them, since they have to explain to their family they’re a member of Nick Thomas Band. Its become our official name though, so we’re making it work.

H: I noticed you got the light bulb from the cover of your debut release as Nick Thomas Band tattooed on your arm.

NT: I did. I have the light bulb from Shadowars on my arm now. I got that on our first tour for this project. We opened up for Paradise Fears on a small acoustic tour, and my drummer Bryce and I decided to get this piece done. I never got any of the Spill Canvas artwork tattooed on me, and I’m not really sure how that happened. I really like this piece though. This is a new chapter for me, and this kind of solidified that for me. It also made me want to get some of the Spill artwork on me as well.

H: Work backwards, if you will.

NT: Exactly. No Really, I’m Fine had some reel-to-reel tapes on it that I think would look really cool.

H: Speaking of Spill Canvas, the decade mark for One Fell Swoop is fast-approaching.

NT: You’re right. That album hits the decade mark in August.

H: That fact makes me feel a little old. I don’t know about you, but my world has changed SO MUCH since that time.

NT: You feel old? I feel really old. It’s cool though because it makes me feel like I have been doing something with my life. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday I convinced my parents to let me ditch college and focus on music. So now to be able to look back like this, it’s really cool. I’ve been doing something I wanted to do this whole time, and there is something special to that.

H: I think that time factor is odd when you consider this tour you’re on now. It’s a high profile slot for the new group, but you’re more or less the road dog amongst this group. How does that make you feel?

NT: It’s a little weird. You know, I’ve been on the road for a long time, but at the same time I probably spent almost two years off the road before getting this project off the ground. So, in a way, it’s new for us as well.

H: I know you have been playing a lot of Spill Canvas songs during your time on the road as Nick Thomas Band. Do you hear a lot of requests for a new TSC record from longtime fans? Does that bother you?

NT: We do hear those requests, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s nice to know people care. Plus, I think playing Spill Canvas songs is kind of a must. I have a decade-plus catalog with that band, as opposed to one record with this project. To know those Spill songs still mean a lot to people is really something.

H: Back to this project, when can we expect some new Nick Thomas Band?

NT: Yes, new solo stuff. I’ve been writing a lot, and we’ve been talking about starting to piece together the components of a new album. I have this other thing happening at the end of the summer I can’t really talk about yet, so once that happens and we’re on the other side of that effort we can work on recording something new.

H: You’re in a great place right now. Being free of a label it seems you can do whatever you please. If you want to release a Nick Thomas Band record every year you can, and you don’t have to seek the approval of a corporation to do so.

NT: Definitely. It kind of relieves the pressure, I think. We don’t have to meet expectations, or at least not as many of them. I don’t ever want to alienate Spill fans, but I do want to do something different.

H: At the end of the day, it needs to be fun for you as well.

NT: Exactly. It needs to be fresh. I think Spill Canvas, when we took a rest, we had done everything we could do at that point. I don’t know where it’ll finish, or even where it’s at, but for right now it’s on the back burner while I work on Nick Thomas Band.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.