BTD Interviews Nick Tremulis
Written by Matt Zin on March 11, 2023
BTD Interviews Nick Tremulis
Hello Nick, it’s a pleasure to talk with you. I have so many questions, I hope that you are ready.
I see you are a Chicago native, is it truly the windy city? We get a lot of wind here in Southern California, sometimes I think it’s a windy city here too. LOL. Do you still reside in Chicago? What was one of your favorite things to do as a child in Chicago?
NT: My father would bring me along to Maxwell Street to pick up parts to fix things around the house. There were always people playing music on the streets to see.
I was reading that your born to a jazz playing father and a blues-singing mother, nice! I always wondered what that would be like to have two parents deeply involved in music. My mom was musical, my dad was not… I was happy to get my musical jeans from my mom. How did that work out you? Was there music playing all the time in your household? Do you feel you got most of your music jeans from your mom or your dad… or equally? I think I might know from listening to your great interview on YouTube Nicholas Tremulis Channel Episode 1 “Not A Genius”.
NT: Got it from both, but my dad was the one really showing me things so mostly him.
I also read at age thirteen you started playing guitar. Do you remember the first song you played? Was it difficult, did it come naturally? I still have my amp from when I was a teenager, it’s traveled all over the place with me. It’s a tube amp so it’s rugged. How about you, do you still have that guitar hanging around or any musical somethings that you have carried around with you up until now?
NT: The first song was Malagueña on a ukulele a friend showed me. Just a shitty student version. It felt like home to play a guitar, plus I thought it might make me popular. I have no mementos from my early years, sadly.
Chicago has been a well-known music scene for many years. How do you see the city’s music scene evolving and changing over time, and what role do you think musicians can play in shaping that evolution?
NT: Our backbeat is more back there than most other parts of the country except for New Orleans, which is way back there. I believe we still retain that. However, technology seems to be taking away some of that regionality. Still, I think we sound a bit cooler down here.
You’ve been involved in a variety of musical genres, from rock to jazz to blues. How do you approach writing and performing music across such diverse styles? Which is your most favorite genre to perform?
NT: I really don’t think in genres. I just like what I hear in my head and that turns into wherever a song leads me.
I see you were signed to Island Records in the 80’s. I must know, what was going through your mind at the time you found out? Were you floating? Scared? Excited? I will let you fill in the blanks for me.
NT:I was wildly happy and naïve. Getting signed when you’re young is like being handed a shiny new car. Then it begins to age at rate you didn’t even know existed. The biz can be rather corrosive. It is what is. It’s always up to you to keep the car going.
After the Island Record deal, you formed Nick Tremulis Orchestra, wow, can you tell our BTD listeners a bit about how that all came about? How did you find the right band members? I was reading that you call the orchestra members, The Prodigals, why is that? How did that name come about?
NT: I’ve changed the band name a few times, mainly to let folks no that the lineup has changed and to come check us out. I started after the Orchestra, and then with name the Prodigal 9 as I upped it to that many players. When I finished the last record, “Rarified World”, on some songs there were up to 17 players so had to lose the number. The next record will most likely have another band name. As for Prodigal, they were all born to do what they do so it seemed fitting for now.
You have collaborated with many prominent musicians throughout your career. Is there anyone that you found particularly inspiring to work with?
NT: Everyone I’ve worked with has taught me invaluable stuff, Ivan Neville-How to find the holes that need filling in the groove. Rick Danko- To never alter yourself to please an audience. Just be yourself. Dave Amram: How to push a brass ensemble. Bonnie Raitt: What year of Strat I like. Keith Richards: How to put folks at ease… Really too many to name. If you listen, you learn. I’m a good listener.
I would like to talk about your music. I really like “Rain for Jane”, from your album “For Homer: Piano Improvisations.” Very touching video as well. I see the video was shot during the pandemic. Can you take us into your world and share what that song is about?
NT: The video was shot with my whole family. I don’t know what it’s about.
The pandemic was a horrible time that many of us won’t forget, it sounds like you had some challenging times as well. You battled with COVID and the loss your son, Stephano. I am so sorry for your loss! That had to be hard and probably still isn’t easy. I am glad you found music to keep you busy and guide you through the way. Out of all that came the album Nicholas Tremulis & The Prodigals ‘Rarified World.’ Can you share some of your journey with us in making this album?
NT:I think when you go through something like that the only thing to do is to do what you’re put on the Earth to do. I thought it might give me some peace I guess. It some ways it did. But making records really doesn’t give as much as take. They drain you.
In addition to being a musician, you’re also a producer and composer. How do you balance these different roles, and do you prefer one over the other? Did your well-known producer and engineer Rob Fraboni provide any tips or help produce any of your fabulous albums? Btw.. how did that friendship come about?
NT: I’m best at the singer/songwriter schtick. But I adore arranging and playing. As for Fraboni, it’s a constant learning process and one I’m so grateful for. I love him so much and I believe we’ve both learned more from each other than any other humans on Earth. I’m blessed to have met him when he was working at Island Records. The beginning of a beautiful working friendship.
What’s one thing you can share with our BTD listeners that you have never shared in any other interview before?
NT: I love to fish.
Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?
More than a few but can’t really talk about them right now. I’m superstitious.
I have asked a ton of questions and I could keep going on, but I don’t want to exhaust you, so with that said, we will come to a close of this interview with one last question…looking back over your career, what accomplishments are you most proud of, and what goals do you still hope to achieve in the future?
NT: I’m proud of my family and friends. I hope to watch them grow in every way.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you Nick!