Thomas Ian Nicholas got his start in the biz as part of that crop of cute teen boys who emerged in the early ’90s. They all had three first names, cheesy TV sitcom roles, and smiling faces that lined the pages of Seventeen (and consequently, my bedroom walls). His charm and good looks made tweeny hearts go pitter-patter in Rookie of the Year, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, the soap opera hit Santa Barbara, and, of course, as Kevin Myers, the lucky guy who lost his virginity to a still innocent Tara Reid in the American Pie movies. At 27, Nicholas is married and has expanded his resume to include producer, director, and now singer/songwriter credits. Now fronting his own band and touring the United States, Nicholas recently phoned in to discuss music, touring, and his debut pop-rock album, Without Warning.
When did you finish the album? How long did it take, and how involved were you in the process? I started writing for the album in 2005. I wrote at least 70 songs and chose the top 11. Between films, I recorded sporadically because the guys who worked on it were insanely busy. The engineer, co-producer, and mixer, Brian Virtue [Audioslave, Deftones, Jane’s Addiction], would work on his days off, and when he was free, I’d rally the other musicians. I wrote all the songs and did a lot of collaborating. I dig collaborating because it challenges me to be a better songwriter, because then it’s not about just satisfying my own taste, but also about satisfying someone else who is a better musician. I self-released the album, Without Warning, on iTunes in January 2008. For the most part, I’m selling the CDs at shows. : I’m booking my own shows, carrying my own equipment. : I’m not a big fan of things that come too easily. I like to earn it.
And how’s the tour going? The acoustic tour started before I released the album. I hit 50 spots in 12 states to get the word out, and then late last year I put together the band and started touring. The show turnout varies. A lot of people assume that since I did some movies I have an insane fan base, but it’s not really like that. A lot of promotion is based on the MySpace page and mailing list. MySpace is how I booked my entire acoustic tour. Fans would email me and ask me if I was playing in their city, and I would say, “Sure I’d love to play there; where should I play?” They passed along contact info, I would find a venue and book a show in a city I’d never been to before-all over the country, from New York to Florida to California to Texas to Illinois.
How would you describe your sound? I sound like : me. But if I had to draw a comparison, my quip I say is that I sound like John Mayer with a distortion pedal.
What’s the response been like thus far? The response to the live show is great. One of the things I hear the most is, “Wow, you don’t suck!” I did the acoustic tour on purpose to prove myself, because there is a sort of stigma with actors becoming musicians. A lot of people can hide behind a band, but you either have it or you don’t if you’re just singing with a guitar.
It seems like everyone in Hollywood who acts thinks they can sing and vice versa. What are the advantages and disadvantages you’ve come across as an actor who’s trying to build a music career? It’s funny, I find that as far as my acting career and [celebrity] factor [is concerned], it’s not as insane as people might imagine it is. People don’t recognize me in the grocery store or anything. So I think I’m just getting to approach the material as simply a musician. The benefit of having been in American Pie in particular is that I am able to book more shows early on in the music career. [Fame] does the same thing that it’s always done with my acting career, opening doors and opportunities. But once that door is open and I walk through it, I still have to prove myself. As far as a stigma, I don’t really feel it, because I just really enjoy playing music, and my music is really a representation of me. I think you can see that in the live shows. Truth speaks loudly, and it’s visible. I don’t know, come to the show and tell me afterward. Bring tomatoes to throw at me if you want.
What are your plans for the future, personally and professionally? I really enjoy working, and working hard, and I’m trying to balance both avenues right now. I’ve been touring to support the album release and just scheduled a film out of New York. I’m actually opening for Kenny Loggins in June for a crowd of 10,000, which will be my biggest show to date.
Thomas Ian Nicholas will play the Wildcat Lounge (15 W. Ortega St.) on Tuesday, June 3, at 10 p.m. with opening act the Youth and Beauty Brigade. Call 962-7970 for details.