At what point did you know that you wanted to be a musician? What was the strongest factor that made you devote your life to pursuing a career in this industry?
I knew I wanted to be a musician when I was 15 years old. It was around the time the video game 'Rock Band' was popular. I got it for Christmas and I got pretty good at it! After being able to play most of the songs on expert difficulty I became inspired to get a real electric guitar. I learned how to play my favorite songs on YouTube (mostly Green Day, Blink-182, and other pop rock). This developed into the urge to make up my own melodies and eventually start a band with my friends. I also began experimenting with singing and fell in love with the process of creating and telling stories through music. I knew I wanted to have a career in the music industry ever since.
I didn't like the idea of having to go off on my own at first. I tried starting new projects with different people, but I knew I needed to take a step away from being in a band to learn more about the music industry. I really loved recording so I took that path seriously and went to school for an Associates Degree in Audio Production Technologies. I refined my skills and learned a lot about acoustics which inspired me to build my own studio. My family let me tear off the walls of a storage shed in the back yard and soundproof it. It was the coolest experience for me.
I feel like this transitional phase from high school to college taught me to get rid of any expectations and focus on working hard. My bands may have not 'made it' but the experience of getting into recording lead me to making my own career path and gaining a studio in the process. I have found that keeping my head down and working hard goes a long way in this business if you have a lot of patience.
I had my moments of enjoying all the bells and whistles in the gear world, but now I like to use only what is necessary to serve the song. I have found my current setup for toplining and vocal production to be simple, fast, and easy, so that the primary focus continues to be the song and the vocal. My favorite tools at the moment are Avid Pro Tools, Joey Sturgis Tones, Native Instruments, and Waves plugins, Universal Audio Apollo Thunderbolt Interfaces, and Audio Technica 5040 and 4040 condenser microphones.
I have two thunderbolt recording interfaces from Universal Audio (UA): the Apollo Twin Solo in the studio and the Apollo Arrow for on the go (also a great budget interface upgrade for up and coming vocalists). I love the zero latency features from both because I can save time when (for example) KAAZE asks me to re-record a word or two in a song months after we initially start the project. My entire existing vocal mix in Pro Tools can remain untouched while I punch in the changes fast and easy. It's also a win for KAAZE because he can quickly replace the final vocal in his Logic session without non-intended sonic differences on my end.
I'm also a big fan of UA's Unison Technology, which allows a UA 610B preamp on my vocal without physically patching in hardware or changing any tubes. After owning and recording on a physical 610B I can safely say the difference between Universal Audio's plugin and the real thing is completely unnoticeable. This means more time saved with no quality loss. Another benefit here for up and coming vocalists is that the plugin versions of the pre-amps from UA are a fraction of the cost of the legendary physical hardware.
The Kaotic Eyeball Reflection Filter helps to keep some unwanted reflections out of the recordings and gives focus to the high end frequencies in my voice. Crisp high end in a vocal is needed to stand out over distorted guitars, synthesizers, driven bass, and other elements in today's modern music. I highly recommend a reflection filter like this to anyone writing and recording in an untreated environment like a bedroom.
In addition to the tools I talked about, I also think a really important part of the creative work space are aesthetics. I love to bring a fun feel to my studio with smart LED strip lighting and LED panels. Nanoleaf makes some great panels that I love because of the color customization. I have a set of 9 panels right above a window in the studio and I have a bunch of presets ready to go based on the weather outside and the vibe I'm craving. As soon as I walk in my front door I can give my Amazon Echo Plus the 'studio on' command and the cool lighting effects are on before entering the studio (which is conveniently accessible right off my living room). My favorite time to work is when it's lightly raining outside because it's very calming and I can focus.
Plugins are additional tools that I think are most important for toplining because they can really create a signature vocal sound when used in combination consistently. My go-to compressor is Gain Reduction by Joey Sturgis Tones because it is very affordable and yields radio results fast. It is designed for screams and very aggressive vocals, but when dialing back the settings it is great for any genre. My favorite reverb and EQ plug-ins are the RC reverbs and Solid EQs from Native Instruments because they are also affordable, easy to use, and sound awesome. Waves kills it as well and I particularly love H-Delay and the J37 tape machine for my time based effects. I also use the tape machine at the end of my vocal mixes to round out harshness and give some analog-style warmth.
Allan has written hits like 'Crazy' by Lost Frequencies and 'Evacuate The Dancefloor' by Cascada. Thanks to Allan and VK Creative A&R, Alex Ter Horst, I went from zero to 18 Million streams across all online platforms in two years. Without both of them, along the DJs that believe in the songs, my creative process would have no growth or platform to be heard. Allan also critiques and provides feedback on every song I write which helps me continue to become the best version of myself. The biggest thing he taught me was to not get caught up or stressed about the future.
On the flip side I've been lucky to have hundreds of songs rejected. This keeps me grounded and free of self doubt because there's always a home for rejected song somewhere. 'Satellites' is a great example. I had written that song back in 2017 and it got rejected. Turns out that's cause it was meant to be with KAAZE! I wouldn't have it any other way.
Tell us about your latest track with KAAZE, "I Should Have Walked Away."
KAAZE and his wife Samantha are amazing people. Being someone who grew up on rock music, I instantly connected with his music and vision. After featuring on the Guestlist4Good Anthem - KAAZE Mix, I messaged him on twitter to give thanks for his work on the track. We started talking about follow up work and I sent him my demo for 'Satellites.' He sent me a fully produced version the next day. It's was so awesome!
During the production of 'Satellites' we began working on more songs, one of which was 'I Should Have Walked Away.' It took a few months and we made a couple changes, but there weren't any really big challenges we had to overcome in the studio. This is why I love working with KAAZE because we are very efficient in our process together even when we're working across the world through the internet.
What does a normal day in the life of Nino Lucarelli look like?
I work a full time day job Monday through Friday, but manage my time to spend anywhere from 16-20 hours a week on music. When I'm not at work or in the studio, I love to play video games and hang out with my fiance and our two dogs. I believe a perfect balance is very hard to find, but I seem to stumble my way through the day with a level head and a positive mindset (thanks to a lot patience from my fiance!).
Gaming is something that has always been a big de-stressor and second passion of mine. I have all the major consoles along with a PC I built myself. I love to jump in with my friends on battle royale and first person shooters like PUBG, Battlefield, and most recently Apex Legends. In my studio B room I have a music production station on one wall and the desktop gaming rig on the other. This allows me to go back and forth between working on productions and letting off some steam in a match or two.
Splitting up time between work, music, myself, and family is very hard if I don't work together with my fiance to schedule things out. Often times I come home from working 7am to 4pm then get in the studio to finish writing and recording a vocal before dinner and walking the dogs. I'll produce the vocal before bed on my laptop and then repeat the whole process the next day. Saturday and Sunday mornings are usually a great time for me to get longer studio sessions in, but I try to call it by noon so I can have a personal life for the rest of the day.
I also have to travel for work a few times a year which I need to prepare for ahead of time to keep my music moving forward when I'm away from home. Fortunately, since I've been employed as a Video Production Specialist for over 6 years, my time off accrual rate is high. This really helps out when I take a trip to Amsterdam for ADE or Dancefair. Overall, juggling my work life balance is often tiring, but I know it will soon be worth it.
Through working with other songwriters and vocalists within Vocalkitchen I have had the amazing opportunity to help others grow. When I signed back in December of 2016, I was tasked with growing the Arizona roster. I had the pleasure of previously knowing Chad Kowal from playing the same shows while we were in different bands. I reached out to Bryant Powell after hearing a new release at the time by his band, El West.
They were both very excited about the opportunity and let me talk their ears off. Fast forward two years and we've become amazing friends and worked on many songs together that have been placed with artists like KAAZE, Blasterjax, and more. They are now producing and recording their own vocals as well which has brought them many new opportunities. Watching their skills and talents continually elevate brings me a lot of joy and happiness. I hope to someday help many other songwriters grow and reach their goals.
I wrote the song about looking to the lost days from the past. Everyone has something they miss whether it be a relationship, place, or time period, and I wanted to keep the meaning open to interpretation of the listener. I feel as though the lyrics tell this story without getting overly specific. Melodically I wanted to keep it memorable yet also dreamy and nostalgic. The vocoder Dubvision and Raiden added really helped bring out this feeling in the chorus. I also carefully chose when to use my falsetto throughout the melodic build to create a 'goosebumps' feel. I hope people connect with and enjoy the song as much as I do.
Why don't EDM vocalists collaborate more like mainstream singers do?
That is a fantastic question! I think it comes down to everyone's personal journey and what the current priority is for his or her career. For instance, right now my main goal is to go full time in music. The only way I will get there is by becoming financially stable from my work in the music industry. That unfortunately plays a big role in what projects I can and can not work on at this moment simply due to how much time I have. I am always down to explore options like this though and I think, once I have more free time in music, I would definitely pursue collaborations with other vocalists both for personal releases and features with other DJs. I can't speak for everyone else, but I would assume other vocalists are focused on their priorities as well.
In pop music, usually the producer isn't credited as an artist unless they're well-known like Zedd or Marshmello, but in EDM tracks, usually the vocalist is listed second or as a feature. How do you feel about this difference in standards based on which side of the industry you're on?
Lastly, what's next for you? Tell us about what you've got coming up!
At the time of writing this I currently have 4 releases in the same week; 'We Are Forever' with Envine, 'I Should Have Walked Away' with KAAZE, 'Edge of The Universe' with Nicolas Crombe, and 'Ain't No Fool' with Mdelectro. I would love this momentum to continue as I learn more and collaborate with new people. I have some new releases with more amazing artists this year that I can't wait to announce along with some aspirations to possibly release music of my own. I also am really excited to make more memories and long lasting relationships at Amsterdam Dance Event 2019 with Vocalkitchen!
Thank you Christopher! I really enjoyed being a part of this interview, it was a great experience for me having the chance to think back on where my musical journey began and where it has taken me today. I am very excited to see where it takes me in the future. I also have a message to all up and coming singer/songwriters and producers: It may seem like getting somewhere with your career can be tiring and filled with dead ends, but if the passion and drive is in you, be patient, stay open to all opportunities, and push yourself to have as much output as possible. Your best work comes from the biggest selection to pull from, and if your selection is big, you have a higher chance of your songs taking you for a great ride. My Instagram DMs are always open so please feel free to reach out at any time!
A massive thank you to Nino Lucarelli for taking the time to answer all of our questions! Please go and follow him on social media using the links below to stay updated on all his newest tracks and projects!
Chris W. Lao
Writer, DJ, and Student
D'Angello & Francis
High 'n' Rich
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DJ Natalia Moon
Tom & Jame