August 26, 2014 Interview – Jonny Hawkins of Nothing More
Perseverance often leads to positive results. For San Antonio, Texas band Nothing More, their energy has been focused on creating music since they were just teenagers in high school. Now signed to Eleven Seven Music, the crafty four-piece hard rock outfit are blazing a trail onto the scene with their major label self-titled debut album. With stimulating lyrical content and textured instrumentation, it is no surprise they are making such an impact as they gear up for an arena tour this fall with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, and Hellyeah. Provoking listeners to peel away the layers and look deeper into the core of their songs, Nothing More come with maturity, depth, and undeniable passion. Recently CrypticRock sat down with lead vocalist Jonny Hawkins to discuss their rise to success, the strength behind the band, personal inspiration, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Nothing More began for you over a decade ago when you were still a young teenager. Tell us about the evolution of the band from those early years to now in 2014 touring among some big national rock tours and receiving generous airplay on radio?
Jonny Hawkins – It know it sounds clichéd but it really is a dream come true. The guys and I have been working and dreaming about doing what we are doing now for years since we were young kids. To hear ourselves on the radio and charts while we are about to embark on our first arena tour is very surreal. It really is wild. I think every day it sinks in a little more, but still almost does not feel real (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. Still very young, you have obviously learned a lot as musicians and on the business end of things. What are some of the most important things you have learned over the years now that you have released your major label debut?
Jonny Hawkins – That is a great question. There are a lot of things we have learned. I want to say probably the biggest lesson we learned very quickly when we started touring was to not put so much value on what people are going to say, what they are going to do, or what they even say about your band, but really put value in their actions. At the end of the day we all have mouths with tongues and we can all use words very easily. People that really put their money where their mouth is, work hard, and prove themselves with actions are the people you want to surround yourself with. You run across a lot of talkers in this business. It is kind of along the lines of what the song “Take a Bullet” is about. I think that is probably the biggest lesson. I would say the second biggest lesson is really just focusing on keeping it together internally. I mean as a band our biggest threat to our survival and success is within all of us, more so than it is outside of us. We have conquered so many different challenges and hurdles that have been in our path, but we have only done so when we have stuck together and made sure we did not give up on each other. When we started out on this we did a lot of research and case studies on bands that were successful and ones that were not. Nine times out of ten, the bands that were not a success or could not keep it together were usually because of something internal; they could not get along or something on the inside. We have made it a strong point to get together and never give up.
CrypticRock.com – That is a great level-headed attitude to go into things. Sometimes a young band will get overwhelmed with things; possibly get caught up with the glamorous end of things, making things fall apart relatively quickly. It seems you guys have a good grasp on it.
Jonny Hawkins – Well I would like to hope that we do. Like anything, it is a lesson every day and we are always learning something new. I think the other thing, which is a big part of that, is surrounding yourself with people that are wiser than you are, people that are genuinely good people, and watch how they treat others. How they the act around you probably is going to be different, but if you watch how they treat others it is a good symbol of who they are as a person. We have been fortunate to have some great management, very specifically Will Hoffman who is one of our managers. We have been with him for many years. He has instilled in us a sense of a lot of his wisdom which he has learned throughout the years touring with a band on a major label as well. We have been fortunate to have him as kind of the invisible member of the band. He really has helped us get past a lot of pitfalls that his band fell into it. That is a really important part of what you do, the people around you.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. Now the self-titled major label debut Nothing More was recently back in June. The album is extremely diverse in style and sound and quite a mature piece of music for a debut. What was the writing and recording process like for this record?
Jonny Hawkins – The writing and recording process was unique because of our limitations as a band at the time. What I mean by that is we started working on the record when we did not have a label. We did not have the traditional road in front of us that most bands have when they have a budget. Really all we had was our time and a little bit of money we had raised from our fans from Kickstarter. We raised around $15,000 just to jumpstart the recording process. We moved into a house together and converted each one of our rooms into some facet of the recording process. My room was the control room, Daniel’s room was the amp room, the dining room downstairs was the rehearsal room, and so on. We just kind of lived and breathed the record while also trying to pay our bills and stay afloat month to month. We did that for about two years, even the year leading up to those two years; we did a lot of preparation. We had a lot of life experiences that we went through that we kind of filtered down to songs that you hear on the record now. It really was just a long learning process because we were not in a professional studio paying a bunch of money, but we wanted our record to sound just as good as a major label release on a shoe-string budget. When you are in that situation you usually have to spend a little bit more time because it is a giant learning process. That is kind of how it went about.
CrypticRock.com – That is really interesting. The audio engineering and mastering is excellent. It seems you put a lot of heart into it.
Jonny Hawkins – It is really good to hear that because looking in the days we were working on it. It was very difficult because we had to figure out how we were going to pay our bills every night while giving 110% to the record. In the thick of it, it was not discouraging, but we reached points where we did not know how much our work would pay off and what people would think once we were finally done.
CrypticRock.com – The redeeming quality has to be the feedback from people. One of the things that is extremely pronounced throughout the record is the uncompromising lyrical content. The concepts seem to involve around society and do not pull any punches. Where do you find your lyrical inspiration from?
Jonny Hawkins – We grew up listening to bands like Rage Against The Machine, Tool, and Muse. There are also bands like Thrice and Ben Folds which are all artists that are influences of ours. There are so many of them which we ended up being so inspired by. It was a direct result of their lyrical content, not just the music. I think in the rock genre there has been a kind of vacuum of really meaningful lyrics in the last however many years, of course there are some good bands here and there which have some meaningful things to say. For the most part, there are always these rehashed phrases to words you have heard before that are not really about anything that big or important in life, at least that is how we interpret it. We were kind of inspired by that in a weird way, the lack of meaning in our genre to step up and bring a little bit of that to the rock genre. We also all grew up in church when we were younger and our parents were very passionate about what they believed in, but also instilled in a sense of us trying to care more about the deeper issues in life than the day to day surface issues. They instilled those values in us and I think as time went on and we developed into our own persons it came out in our lyrics.
CrypticRock.com – It is quite refreshing to have such thought provoking lyrics to go along with the instrumentation the band provides. It seems that in modern rock a lot of bands lack a distinctive quality and identity. It is obvious from the first time people are introduced to Nothing More that you stand out. How important is it to you and the band to pave your own path in the rock world?
Jonny Hawkins – I think with everything we have done, whether it be the music or live show, even how we started touring when we began doing all this, in each one of those endeavors we would ask ourselves what are we doing that is different than everyone else. How are we going about this in a way that may be valuable or interesting to people in ways they have not gotten from other artists. To answer the question, yes, at the back of our minds there is always that question to challenge ourselves to be different or think about things in a new way. At the same time, I think the other half of it is the music and lyrics that you hear are more of a natural result of all our accumulated experiences, our upbringing, and people we have surrounded ourselves with. All those things end up naturally bleeding into the way that you write, the way you create, and decisions you make every day.
CrypticRock.com – Right, that is where music should come from, from the heart. With the music you have created with this debut, it is bound to provoke a more emotional experience with listeners that is more than skin deep. It is going to develop a stronger connection with people. How does that feel for the band to know that you are developing these deeper connections?
Jonny Hawkins – Honestly, that is probably the most exciting thing for us is to hear that. Being on top of the charts or getting recognize in the press is awesome and cool milestones to reflect on, but at the end of the day what is actually important behind all of that is making meaningful and lasting connections with people. The deeper you can get and more honest you can get with your lyrics based on experiences you have had is going to connect with other people, which translates to long term friendship and fanship. That is really what we are focusing on in the long term. We want to do this with our lives; we want to keep connecting with people. We want inspire them in the ways we have been inspired by artists we grew up under. I think it is an amazing thing when an artist can have a song that changes someone’s experience or gives them enough energy to get through some struggle they are going through. I think that is the coolest thing about what we are doing.
Crypticrock.com – Yes, and some of the artists that you mentioned you are inspired by are ones which never really fit a specific mold and have done their own thing. It seems like Nothing More will following a similar path of being uncompromising. Considering you are now reaching the mainstream with this album, where do you see Nothing More going in the future?
Jonny Hawkins – I do not know exactly. One of the things I would like to think will happen in the future is we will have more energy to focus on the creative process. Up until now, we have had to wear so many different hats our energy is always split between all these different endeavors and logistical things. As time goes on, we are going to get a bigger crew helping with the mundane tasks that have to be done. That will free us up to really explore more. I think when we begin to start opening ourselves up and putting more energy into the creative process, I think we are going to evolve a lot more and explore and experiment new sounds while still trying to maintain the core of our sound. We have always followed bands that are evolved artists like Thrice, The Beatles, or Incubus. We always have valued that change and explore rather than just put out the same record with subtle variations year after year. I think the challenge is going to be finding the balance between the exploration processes, maintaining the elements of our sound, and core that everyone liked about us in the first place.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and horror films. If you are a fan of horror films what are some of your favorite horror films?
Jonny Hawkins – I am not, to be honest, a huge horror film viewer. I do like a lot of different films. There is not a particular type of film I like as much as what I happen to come across that is just a good movie within it of itself, whatever genre it may be. I end up going back to psychological thrillers. Growing up I always like the Matrix (1999) mainly because of the psychological undertones behind all the characters. The story within the story in that movie turned me from this is a sci-fi movie to be really thinking there is a lot more to this that I can put my teeth into it. There is a movie called The Fountain (2006) which is an interesting movie as well the way the director did it. I have always been a fan of Stanley Kubrick and his work with 2001 Space Odyssey (1968) and Clockwork Orange (1971). His stuff is just wild and always kind of rubs me funny but in a way that gets me thinking. I just think he is a very unique director.