Nothing More’s Jonny Hawkins: ‘Vinnie Paul Reminded Me Every Day Was a Gift’
Life is good for Nothing More at the moment, with the band earning critical praise and Grammy recognition for their The Stories We Tell Ourselves album. The guys are also out on one of the hottest tours of the summer, joining Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin and Bad Wolves on the road.
Well into support of their current album, we spoke with Nothing More's Jonny Hawkins for a wide-ranging interview that included discussion of their current single "Just Say When," which was recently added to Loudwire's Best Rock Songs of 2018 (So Far) list, commentary on the importance of their summer tour package and the singer also reflected on the recent passing of Hellyeah's Vinnie Paul, sharing the life lesson he learned from the rocker. Hawkins also offers a loose timeline for the promotion of the remainder of their current album and when their attention might turn to new music. Check out the chat below.
First off, thank you for that awesome performance at the Loudwire Music Awards you did for us last year. I'd seen you a few years back with the Bassinator and then on this run with the amazing Scorpion Tail. How fun is it to come up with these contraptions for your live show and what was your thought the first time you saw the Scorpion Tail come to life?
Yeah, first off, thanks for having us at the Loudwire Awards. We had just one of the best nights of our lives, hanging out with all the other bands there, and it was tons of fun. Honestly, it was way more fun than the Grammys. The Grammys was you know, obviously bigger, but we had way more fun at the Loudwire Awards. That was cool. To answer your question, seeing those kinds of wacky mad scientist creations come to life is exciting at first and then really troublesome, and awesome again at the end. It’s a lot of tweaking.
Honestly, my first thought would be, "Oh my god I have to get up on this thing and ride this?!"
Yeah, the first time Daniel showed me the Scorpion Tail it didn’t even have the levers and that piece that I hold onto wasn’t even there. So what we call "drumtron" (kind of our pet name for the drums up front in the middle) got launched in the air and I was on the concrete at our band house and he wanted me to test it out so I launched into the air on it and I was standing on it with nothing to hold onto. It was so wobbly because it was this first trial run, and I was like, "Man, you’re going to kill me with this thing." I was really nervous about it, and then sure enough, we did it a couple more times and I got a little more comfortable but I’ll never forget, I said, "Dan, is this going to be safe?" And he said, "It should be. It should be." That’s never what you want to hear from the designer.
One of the things we've done here recently is to compile the best songs of the year so far here at Loudwire and "Just Say When" has made the cut. It's rare when you just get such conflicting feelings of heartbreak and hope all within one song, but that's kind of what I'm feeling off that track. Let's talk about the inspiration and what that song means to you personally.
That was born at the end of an eight-year relationship I had with my ex. It was a girl I had met the same calendar day that my mom passed away, and so obviously you can imagine the timing in my life and just all the emotions that were intertwined in that relationship. It was very complicated. A few years in it was clear to me that there were some warning signs that we weren’t going to be good for each other long-term but she was such an important person to me in my life and in my life story, because in a way she was kind of there for me at that time.
It was really hard to let go of or to end it and so it was a pretty painful process for it to end because I think both of us knew it deep down but didn’t want to act on those feelings or that knowing because of what it might mean, and so that’s what it was written about. But at the same time you know you can only keep the truth shoved down for so long. It always comes out. I think now I’m just in such a happier better more fulfilled place, and I hope she is too but that’s what that song was born out of.
Such a wonderful video that Daniel Cummings shot for you guys. What did you think of the video representation of the song?
It was a pleasure working with Daniel. We had seen his work before, really liked it. We thought his vibe was the right one for that song and the concept which we felt like - what better place than an airport terminal when you have that redeye layover feeling. When you're just waiting, but you feel kind of trapped. That was kind of the closest thing in the real world to the feeling of that relationship kind of purgatory towards the end of it. Then with the dancers, both really talented, I call them kids because they were very young. We casted them to be on the younger side because I did meet my ex when I was younger and it was much more of that innocent, child-like puppy love in certain ways. That's what we decided to use to represent that.
Looking at another interview you had done about The Stories We Tell Ourselves, you mentioned that the title was a mantra of basically the idea of challenging your own belief system about yourself. I'm curious. Since we're in an industry where much of the feedback is either overwhelming love for what you do or the flip side with the haters ready to tear you down, how hard is it to keep a balanced view of what you believe about yourself?
That's a great question. I think it's something that I had to get adjusted to at first. You know, when you're small, nobody's really paying attention to you to hate on, so any feedback that you get is just exciting because people are even looking at your band at all. Then you start hitting that point like we did a few years ago where people started finding out about us and we're growing really rapidly.
There are a lot of haters and people maybe who over glorify us on the flip side, and especially with the internet you get to kind of hear everyone's opinions now. It was a little disorienting because you almost take it personally because you're so close to your art. If somebody doesn't like what we do, [it's] totally understood because there's a lot of great art out there that I don't personally like, but I respect it for what it is.
It's really the ones that are annoying are when people are basically hating on it based upon a complete misunderstanding or something, or a perspective that's just really strange or off base. Honestly, nowadays, it's one of those things where I never really worried about critics because there's no way that they're a more harsh critic than I am about my own material. I've always been my worst critic so whatever they're going to say is never as bad as what's in my head anyway. So, I kind of cocooned from it.
Another thing that happened recently was the death of Vinnie Paul. A number of tributes have come in, including your own, which I thought was very interesting story to pass along there. You talked about being a little road weary at the time of this discussion and he offered some words that stuck with you. Just to recap, what did Vinnie say to you and how did what he said affect how you've approached touring in your career moving forward?
Vinnie Paul is just one of those guys. I think anybody that's met him would probably speak something similar to this that he just felt like a great friend to many. He was just very warm, he was inviting and an uplifting kind of person. Honestly, I remember walking back to the buses one night and we were playing with Hellyeah, and I can't remember what tour it was on but they were one of the bands and I remember looking at him and I was just really borderline getting jaded even though I was way younger than he was and I had not done it nearly as long or put in the years that he has, but I was kind of spread thin and my energy levels were just low.
I was asking him, "God, in 20 years am I going to be jaded and just tired and one of those cranky assholes on the road?" I was like, "Do you still love it?" I'll never forget he said with the most conviction I ever heard anybody said, he's like, "I fucking love this every single day." He said that in a way in which it gave me chills, it actually brought a tear to my eye as silly as that sounds but it kind of woke up that child in me, that child that was there at the very beginning that felt the goosebumps at the concert and fell in love with music and everything about it and that part of me had just gotten so covered up with fatigue and travel and problems back home and you know, haters and all kinds of stuff. He really woke that up for me and reminded me that every day is a gift and I'll forever be grateful to him for that.
Well you've got another great summer coming, touring with Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin and Bad Wolves. If I remember right, FFDP took you out early on back when you guys were starting to break. What do you think booking a tour package like this means in terms of strengthening the rock industry and putting these bands together on this bill?
First off, we're really grateful for FFDP for bringing us out again. They really did help launch us at the beginning. Now we're coming full circle, and it's pretty fucking awesome. Props to them and Breaking Benjamin for bringing us back out. Honestly, I think the rock world was kind of fragmented in a lot of ways and kind of just didn't know what it was for a while there. I think now it's just the strong ones who are left, these bands who survived and still are selling thousands of tickets every night and this tour is proof of that.
Just the other night we played to about 18,000 people or something. It was crazy. It's really the best we can do is continue to combine our strengths and try to prove that it's, well actually not prove, I don’t want to use that word, but just go out there and do what we do and stop giving a fuck about the mainstream or what people say about rock is dead. The ticket sales don't lie and there's people coming out, and it's amazing.
You'll be seeing a lot of Bad Wolves on multiple tours in the coming months. What is the relationship with those guys and are you just getting to know them? Are they old friends?
We just got to know them on this tour and so far they've been nothing but cool. We're having a really good time. Right off the bat we became good friends and clicked and that was pretty much it, looks like it's gonna be a really fun tour and even more touring after that with them. Nothing but good vibes.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves is an awesome album that's enjoyed a great run so far. How far do you want to go with the album? Will there be more singles coming along the way? Are we starting to think of the new record at this point?
I don’t know. We're kind of waiting to see how "Just Say When" does, because that song of all the songs on any of our records has the most potential to open us up to an audience outside of just the rock world. So, we're trying to see what happens with that first and then we'll probably make a decision after that.
I know that we all personally feel real strongly about "Fade In, Fade Out" which is a song that's gotten a lot of reaction online and on SiriusXM. They've been playing it a lot. So, we really want to follow up with that. We don't know what's going to happen, though.
I think even if the label or numbers or whatever kind of steers away from doing another single, I think we're gonna do something still. We're gonna push for it hard. Then, I think we're going to wrap up our touring sometime in early -- maybe in the spring of next year, kind of just do one final maybe U.S. and European tour, maybe Australia or somewhere else and play the other half of our newest record. We've been playing about half the songs on it on tour right now. Maybe do the other half, wrap it up and start working on another record.
I know you're a huge fan of Tool. We've all been waiting for this album for such a long time. Just wondering if you caught wind of any of the new music or heard anything from any of your peers about the new Tool record or are you just waiting patiently like the rest of us?
[laughs] Just waiting patiently like the rest. I wish I had some kind of insider information. I just stop thinking about it because I don’t want to get my hopes up because I'm a huge Tool fan. They're one of my favorites, so, I just want it to surprise me when it comes out. Otherwise I'll torture myself.
Be sure to catch Nothing More on tour at these stops and to pick up 'The Stories We Tell Ourselves' album and other Nothing More items, check out their online webstore.
Nothing More, "Just Say When" Video
Nothing More Perform "First of the Year (Equinox)" at 2017 Loudwire Music Awards
See The Stories We Tell Ourselves on the Best Hard Rock Albums of 2017