Andrew Justin Nicoletta
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Andrew Justin Nicoletta

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With most local acts playing mostly covers, Andrew Justin Nicoletta’s debut “Reckoning” is refreshing and original, while not becoming self-indulgent or pretentious.

Nicoletta, 33, has some big shoes to fill in terms of his influences. Drawing from such legends as Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and John Lennon, Nicoletta’s sound is like an orgy of the aforementioned. However, the big difference comes with his voice, which might take some getting used to.

He doesn’t let that effect him though, because who didn’t do a double-take when they first heard Bob Dylan? I’m not saying Nicoletta is the next Dylan, but the influence is there. Nicoletta’s guitar style is reminiscent of the country sound used by Young and the Stones on certain albums, but not the country you will hear on Cat Country, for example. With “Reckoning,” he makes his mission clear and by the end, you’ll understand.

The album kicks off with the socially conscious and antiwar “Shine a Light.” Even though the lyrics reference poverty and lies, the track remains optimistic about the chance for a “beautiful life.” Up next is “Fallacy of the Free,” which keeps the slower pace while mixing in gloomier tones. The harmonica is a nice touch and gives the song more depth.

“Reckoning,” the album’s title track, is uplifting with its catchy chorus and soothing back-up vocals. The lyrics about finding “a place” have been done before, but they work without sounding corny. Switching the album’s direction to love and believing is “Melody in the Mist.” It’s soothing and relaxing, but it will cheer you up at the same time.

The next track, “Long, Long, Lonely Night,” slows the pace while giving insights into loneliness and overcoming it. Nicoletta’s reference to his daughter is reminiscent of many artists, but it gives the song even more character. Turning in his acoustic for an electric, Nicoletta gets bluesy and fun with “Yesterday’s News.” The track, which is about moving on, lets the music take the wheel while displaying Nicoletta’s diversity.

“The Letter (Didn’t Look Like the Rest)” returns to the acoustic sound as well as the antiwar sentiments. It tells a story of a female soldier killed in the war who is “gone for nothing.” The mid-song breakdown, which is highlighted by a flute solo, makes it seem like you’ve listened to two songs in one. Reminding you that all you need is “a little faith” is “Lend a Hand (a Little Faith),” which sounds very similar to Nicoletta’s influences. Drawing from your roots is always smart, but not when it compromises the originality of your music.

With lyrics about isolation, “Where Do We Go?” is solemn, but relaxing. Once again, the backup vocals add a special something to the track. Although “Isabella” is warming with its lyrics about Nicoletta’s daughter, it’s marred by its length. However, it’s still a solid track that further displays the singer-songwriter’s talent. “Turn” finishes up the album nicely with a feeling of closure. It features more uplifting lyrics about not giving up and will put a smile on your face before fading out.

“Reckoning” is an overall solid debut from Nicoletta. There are a few problems with the record, such as some of the tracks having too much going on, but as a whole, it works. He’s a solid believer in his music and after giving his album a listen, you will be, too. 8.0 out of 10.
- Newport This Week


PRODUCING MUSIC
printed in Newport This Week on Wednesday, July 26, 2006


By Marilyn Bellemore
mbellemore@ntwlive.com

For a number of years you’ve practiced your guitar playing and honed in on your singing, written 8 or 9 good songs and jammed in the basement of your bass player’s home. An occasional gig at the local blues club has brought some recognition and now it’s time for your music to be heard in front of a wider audience. But, where do you go when it’s time to record? And, who can you trust to make good judgment calls in engineering and producing your record?

Artists as diverse as the Throwing Muses, Paul Geremia, the Mair-Davis Duo and Joyce Katzberg and from the younger set like For the Glory, Rune and Andrew Justin Nicoletta have chosen Stable Sound Studios in Portsmouth. It has a 20-year reputation for turning out national quality recordings.

The man behind it all is thin, curly haired Steve Rizzo, who works in what some might describe as a Goth’s heaven. It’s a dimly lit cave-like atmosphere complete with plush velvet couches, dark wooden walls, fireplaces filled with guitars galore and even an alcove in the recording studio where musicians can relax on deacon’s benches topped with comfortable cushions.

Rizzo, who also makes his home there, has a large window that looks out into the ring at Sandy Point Stables where equestrian’s practice and ride. But, he doesn’t peep all that often because he’s usually in the control room giving musicians their cue.

“I get the most joy out of bringing out the best in people,” explained Rizzo, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and speaking in a casual but poised manner. “Getting people to see things in themselves that they can’t see and putting them in the best light possible. Sometimes recording is like 99 percent psychological. To really get a great take you have to not worry about it. There are things I have to do that are fairly invisible.”

As an engineer his concerns are the technical aspects like making sure the sound is right. The producer’s job is to allow things to happen by creating the right atmosphere.

“So the ghost shows up,” said Rizzo. “There’s always a thing that happens when you’re recording. There’s a take that is just really special and the artist is more connected to the music. An essence happens. The environment is not always as direct as you might think.”

And, Andrew Justin Nicoletta, 33, of Jamestown, who just finished his CD “Reckoning” is one of those artists. He explained that Rizzo has worked with big name pop, jazz and classical musicians yet he treats everyone with the same amount of respect. To make a great album there has to be a collaboration between the artist, engineer and producer and that’s what he got with Rizzo.

“He had faith in me and gave me the faith in myself,” said Nicoletta. “This is the real deal. Through the whole process we became very good friends. I had a phenomenal experience. It will take time but this album I recorded will be remembered by a great many people. It wouldn’t have been made if I hadn’t met Steve. Every voice is different and he has to figure that out. There’s a million different things he has to process. He’s too classy to play the bullshit games of the music industry. Music and the art of making it is so sacred to him.”

Rizzo began making music at age twelve while growing up in Providence. His first passion is singing but he plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. He graduated from Mount Pleasant High School and was a performer for 12 years before opening Stable Sound Studios. One of his first sessions was with Duke Robillard and Jimmy Vaughan. Since that time he has produced/engineered upwards of 500 albums and worked with artists like Cheryl Wheeler, the New England Christmastide Musicians and Kristin Hirsch whose latest CD will be out in January. (Rizzo was happy to report that he played drums for Hirsch on a Cat Stevens cover that was featured on ER).

He said that projects can take anywhere from two days to three years. Jazz records tend to go quickly because the music is based on form and improv whereas pop music combines the artist, engineer and producer.

“I work best at night,” said Rizzo. “It’s a natural extension being a musician. You get gigs and they usually end late and you’re wound up. There’s the old saying that rock and roll begins at midnight. Nighttime is a more conducive atmosphere. But, I actually have done more recordings during the day.”

Rizzo appeared content in his space. He estimated that the Stable Sound Studios was built in the early 1900s as a place for ribbon ceremonies and parties. Today, it’s the perfect spot in which to record.

“It’s not sterile like most recording studios,” he added. “This is cool. The environment makes you feel relaxed.”

And, that, perhaps, is what every musician needs.
- Newport This Week


This file can be seen from website.

www.andrewjustin.com

Thank you, it's an interview done in the weeks after the record was finished. If you need help in viewing this file, please feel free to email me. - Newport This Week


Discography

Reckoning- a 53 minute LP 11 songs
Mastered By Adam Ayan at Bob Ludwig's Gateway Mastering
Recorded at Stable Sound Studios, Portsmout, Ri, Steve Rizzo, Engineer, Produced by AJN and Steve Rizzo
All songs in Rotation at over 200 Radio Stations, Campaign run by Planetary Group

Photos

Bio

My name is Andrew Justin Nicoletta, and I am 34 years old. Reckoning is my debut album. It took a year to make, and the songs continue to gain momentum, critically and commercially. I was fortunate enough to win VH 1 Songwriter of the year runner up with 3 songs from my debut album Reckoning; Where Do We Go?, Long, Lonely Night, and The Letter. The VH 1 honor closed the circIe of the first cycle of my professional music career. Now, I’d like to take things to another level, and my goal is to leave a legacy that is as lasting as some of the great musicians of all time. Reckoning was completed in July of 2006, and the album received positive press from the beginning. Newport this week gave Reckoning an 8 out of 10, in an excellent review written by Andrew Martin. Newport this week is a small, but widely read and respected weekly paper that serves Southern New England, and they did an artist profile that featured me on their cover for a second time. Andrew Martin did the artist profile also, and I'd like to add that he was the first person to recognize the potential in this music. As a reviewer, I told him it was a three listen album, to really get the gist of the music. He gave it more listens then that; and if more reviewers took the time to get to know the work they are reviewing like Andrew Martin did, then I think music in general would serve a much deeper and more important standard then it currently occupies. In November 2006, Reckoning was highlighted on WNBC’s morning show in Rhode Island. They played the song 'Fallacy of The Free’, and compared me to Bob Dylan on live TV. (All media con be found on the 'media' section of the EPK, and video of the 'morning' show can be viewed directly from the link on my website, www.andrewjustin.com). Reckoning has had widespread success on Pure Volume. I went from having 60 hits on September 6, to over half a million to date. In addition, these songs have been played a quarter of a million times, with tens of thousands of downloads. I've been in the top ten on their charts for unsigned artists on numerous occasions. Those charts are measured by song play, (and there are hundreds of thousands of songs by some amazing 'unsigned' artists). I'm proud of the fact that 7 songs from 'Reckoning' have made the top ten on Pure Volume. That shows me that people are digging this record, and hopefully the music is affecting people in a lasting way. (This is the link to view my site on Pure Volume www.purevolume.com/andrewjustinnicoletta. )
Reckoning is also having steadily increasing college radio play. Since launching the college radio campaign in November, Reckoning has grown in popularity every week. It is now in rotation at over 200 college radio stations, and that number has grown weekly, along with the 'rate of song play'.

I never would, and never could duplicate the jaded innocence of Reckoning, which is simple, yet extremely complex, but also very straightforward too. The elegant and organic feel of Reckoning is an illusion, but an intentional one. I think the best producers in the world (we used no synths, no drum machines, and overdubbed dozens of guitars on some songs...intentionally staying away from the pop gloss, and built the songs from the rhythm track up) would be hard pressed to duplicate the sound that Steve Rizzo and I achieved on that album. Steve's mixing and sound as an engineer is brilliant, and Adam Ayan's mastering of the album smoothed out some of the rough edges, but left the jagged beauty, and that tied it all together. I've recently started a new double album, and it's going to have similarities, but obviously it won't be the same. The biggest difference so far, is that the songs are already written, and there are over 30 of them. The other pleasure with the new album is it's a little less intense, and more of the songs will be played live in the studio (Steve Rizzo on drums, and me on guitar), and we're just having a great time making this music.

My father got me into music (especially the Rolling Stones and the Beatles). The Beatles, Stones, Neil Young, Bob Marley, Dylan, Pink Floyd , The Boss, John Lennon, The Smashing Pumpkins (and so many more) are my main influences. Music has been important to me since I was an infant. Like most people, many of my memories involve the songs that accompanied them. Writing has been my 'gift' my entire life. It's just something I'm good at, and I'll be equally as quick to tell you that although I love works of painted art, I can barely write my own name. So, from writing papers, to poems, to stories as a child, I've always written, and have been a published writer for years. I didn't start playing