Nothing More’s Jonny Hawkins Talks Album Themes, Touring + More
It's truly been a breakout year for Nothing More as their self-titled album has introduced them to rock fans around the world. The band's frontman Jonny Hawkins recently spoke with 'Loudwire Nights' host Full Metal Jackie about the themes of their disc and he also opened up about the challenges of graduating to arena stages, the band's camaraderie and more. Check out the chat below.
Jonny, your lyrics deal with sociological and political themes and also difficult personal emotions. When you sit down to write, is it actually a case of analyzing your way through a given topic or emotion before ultimately ending up being a song?
I think in a lot of cases it's something similar to that. Every song's unique to itself as far as how it ends up being creative. The guys and I, before we really start diving into writing the song we usually just sit in a room and have conversations and get on the same page as far as events in our lives that have moved us at some deep, earth shattering level or things that have really affected us or bothered us socially. We end up talking about these topics and in a way where -- I don't know if you, you've probably experienced where you have a conversation with someone where the energy in the conversation starts building and there's a momentum to the topic and in the same way we do that with these songs as we talk about these things. It just builds energy and builds momentum just as it does when we're in the rehearsal room writing music. We try and pay attention to that and put that energy into the topic of the song.
The tour you guys did with FFDP and Volbeat and Hellyeah was the first arena tour for Nothing More. As a frontman, what did you learn about tailoring your performance to that environment?
Playing the arenas was disorienting at first because we just got off a club tour with a band called Sleepwave, so we're playing all these small 200-300 cap rooms and then we get thrown into this arena situation. It was weird because not only were we used to dealing with small amounts of space as far as our movements on stage, but we're also used to being able to see whites in people's eyes right in the front row. Or they can touch you in the front row, so with this arena thing it was much further away. You have a lot of room on stage, so as a frontman it honestly was kind of -- it had more potential to be exciting for the audience in some ways. But in others it kind of took away. For example, in the smaller clubs people can see the little intricacies of what I'm doing movement wise but in an arena, everything is so far away it's really about the bigger, over-the-top body movements. It's almost like you have to compensate by overacting, if you will. Like, when you hit a drum, you hit it with your full arm instead of just your wrists.
I like the arenas a little bit more because it was just so much room and as a band. I think someone compared us to a ferocious litter of puppies all being dropped onto the stage. We love bouncing around and running around, so the arena lets us do that a little bit more.
The process of making the Nothing More album took several years, literally. Now with momentum building around this band and things happening faster, what adjustments do you see yourself making to keep up with the pace of growing popular?
I don't know. What's difficult right now is that we're touring so much because there's still so much ground to be broken across the world. There are so many people that still don't know who we are that so much of our energy and focus this entire year is going into just touring, which leaves us very little time to be creative and get into the studio and rehearsal room together. I think they key for us is to stay on top of it so that this next record isn't like a sophomore slump like it is for many bands after their debut. The key is just cataloging and keeping track of ideas that we have day to day while we're on the road.
When we're on the road, there really are inspiring situations that we come across so many times. We'd really like to make it a point to meet people after shows. With the little time that we have hear their stories or how one of the songs affected them. I think coming across a lot of these people who have stories that are really interesting or touching many times inspires us in those moments and the key is just holding onto that and documenting it so that when we come back to the rehearsal room / studio we can end up putting some of that inspiration, that fuel back into the fire. A lot of bands forget to do that, then they go in the studio and they're expected to have another record and they don't really have anything to start with. Hopefully us doing that will help.
What thought has been given to switching up the mechanics of your live performance with successive tours? Are there plans for bigger and even more elaborate devices and contraptions with each successive touring cycle?
Yes. After we finish the cycle on this record, we may be introducing some things into the tail end of the cycle of this record. At least on the touring side. It really just comes down to a time thing and how much time we have at home, where usually I'm working in the studio and Daniel is working in the shop building the trinkets and big gadgets you see onstage.
We do have plans to elaborate on those and really, our idea is not so much to get so much bigger and over the top as we get more money, as much as it is to get more creative and I think one thing we've always adhered to, when we watch a lot of bands perform, we've all been to a show and have seen pyro. We've seen fancy lights and there's nothing wrong with that, not bashing those things. They really are production elements. But at the end of the day, we've all seen that. We're trying to brainstorm and think about ways in which we can have items onstage that serve ulterior purposes in a lot of different ways.
Maybe at the beginning of the show you were seeing this thing that you just thought was holding a drum or something and then it ends up being used in five different ways. So that's what we're working towards. How can we start connecting these devices into each other? Almost [laughs] transformer like, if you will, into ways that become creative and catch people off guard.
You started playing with Dan in high school, even earlier with Mark in grammar school. What aspects of the way you interacted when you first started playing together have remained intact through the course of the whole Nothing More ride so far?
That's hard to explain because it's more of a feeling, I think. When you play with certain people music really is a form of communication. In a way it's almost like having a conversation with sounds instead of words from your mouth, it's with the instruments you're playing. It's hard to describe but there is a rhythm and attitude behind what everyone is playing as we play together that is very different when I jam with anyone else. So, it is hard to put into words but it's something that's always been there. It's kind of this interaction, this playing back and forth where I think there's little moments where we all in the back of our mind are saying, 'OK Dan's going to throw something right there' or 'Mark is going to throw a little -- I don't know. Some kind of ad lib moment into this part.' It's almost like you just know what that person is going to do in some vague way before they do it. That's what's cool. It's kind of predictable but unpredictable at the same time and I think that makes for a good chemistry as far as playing together.
Thanks to Nothing More's Jonny Hawkins for the interview. The band's self-titled album is available at both Amazon and iTunes. You can also look for Nothing More returning to the road in January at these locations. une in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie’ Monday through Friday 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.