Nick Gunty is a singer/songwriter from South Bend, Indiana. He is a student at Notre Dame and currently is studying abroad in Spain. He sat down with The Midwestman to talk about his music, travels, and inspiration.
For fans of: Joshua Radin, Andrew Bird
The Midwest Man: How long have you been playing music?
Nick Gunty: I guess that depends on how you define it: I started with piano when I was about 7 or 8, and around 11 I started playing the drums, followed a year later by the guitar. I started writing music once I got to high school, shitty stuff at first, but stuck with it. My brother Josh and I put together a recording studio my sophomore year of high school and that’s when I started recording. It’s also when I started picking up a lot of other instruments, like mandolin, violin, some oddball percussion, cheap pipes, and even a didgeridoo.
I was experimenting a lot with the studio.
The Midwest Man: Where do you record now? Do you still use the same studio?
Nick Gunty: Well, while I’m in Spain, my bedroom on my laptop, but normally, the home studio.
The Midwest Man: Technology has made it easy to record anywhere. So you’re writing while in Spain?
Nick Gunty: Indeed. I brought my guitar. I don’t think I could face four months away from a guitar, away from writing. It’s addicting, the minute you start doing one thing, a better idea pops in your head. It’s an endless chain reaction.
Or here for example, there’s so much inspiration for music. Toledo, where I study, is a tiny old town about an hour south of Madrid. I went on a walk the other day for about four hours, came back to an empty house and started playing guitar immediately. It’s really refreshing, artistically speaking, to change your context every once in a while.
The Midwest Man: It is natural to draw inspiration from your surroundings. How does it differ from time spent in South Bend?
Nick Gunty: Well, that’s a pretty good question. It took me a while to realize it but I think my sound is a direct result of living where I do in the Midwest. It’s an interesting question because I have memories throughout high school of thinking that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was unsettled in the small town, unsettled with the people, even sometimes unsettled with my close friends. Music, especially experimenting with the studio, became a way of creating a space I was happier with.
All my old recordings, most of them instrumental, carry with them images or atmospheres, sometimes very specific, about these unreal places I had stuck in my mind. Unreal places I wanted to be. The interesting thing is that as I got to college and became a little wiser to what the Midwest meant in terms of my overall identity, I realized that I had been, all along, drawing inspiration from the very place I’d thought I was escaping.
That is, I realized that I’d been drawing on aspects, often subconscious aspects, of the Midwest.
Nick Gunty: Now, I think I’m a little more conscious of my surroundings, and a little more practiced. So it’s easier to draw inspiration here, and it’s more intentional.
South Bend will always be my home, and I’ll always carry a little bit of it in my music. Here, it’s a different story. Different sensations, different ideas.
The Midwest Man: What comes first? Lyrics or music?
Nick Gunty: The age old question. The short answer? Neither.
Words are already music to me. When I’m writing lyrics, they’re always responding to the melody, the rhythm, placement in the song, the words before and after, the mood and movement of the piece, and for this the lyrics come in pieces. The music is the mortar, the words the bricks. Sometimes a really good phrase or sentence or idea will come to me while I’m thinking, just like I’ll hear a really good riff when I’m messing around on guitar. Usually, a song needs both, and usually, the song starts the minute the two are married. That’s when I know whether the song has potential or not. That’s when I know whether it will be successful.
The Midwest Man: It’s obvious you really love the creative process. What is the perfect venue or situation to share your music?
Nick Gunty: My friend Brian and I played a house show before the holiday. That was awesome. Dark, intimate, super familiar, and no artificial amplification. I guess that might be because it’s the kind of place where all my songs are written. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be ecstatic to play a large concert hall, but I definitely feel most comfortable in small places.
The Midwest Man: How is the Notre Dame/South Bend music scene?
Nick Gunty: Usually terrible, with its few shining stars.
My favorite place to play in South Bend is Fiddler’s Hearth, an Irish pub downtown. The place is small but the community is great. It’s definitely the center for active musicians in the area. And don’t get me wrong, Notre Dame provides every once in a while. I’ve made a good deal of friends through music on campus but as far as regularly established sites to promote yourself go, the scene is pretty underdeveloped.
The Midwest Man: Is there a band or anyone from the area we should know about?
Nick Gunty: Meh. Groups have come and gone but for now it’s pretty quiet. Most people are active on and off.
The Midwest Man: Is there anything we can expect out in the near future from you?
Nick Gunty: Actually, I’m working on some new material out pretty soon with a group my brother and I made called Woodward. We just have finished tracking our first full length album.
Also, once I get back I’m planning on beginning to record an EP to follow the stuff on itunes. We’ll mix it when I get back to the states and it should come out sometime in 2012
The Midwest Man: Thanks for your time, Nick.
Nick Gunty: Thanks a lot for the consideration, best of luck with the site. I’ll be keeping an eye on it!
Nick Gunty Online: