Nico Martini Ditched Football For Theater and Somehow Worked His Way Into HD Radio
Although we normally only see Nico Martini in his trademark short-bill painters' cap, he actually wears many hats. At least proverbially-speaking.
To give an example: Martini was once a character actor at Six Flags Over Texas' Wild West Show. From there, things definitely get deeper. You see, Martini is more than just your garden-variety local music supportter. He's a well-educated man, with irons in the fires of directing and theater, social media marketing (he co-runes Hypeworthy), teaching (he teaches social marketing at UTD) and even radio (he's an on-air host and social media coordinator for the Indie-verse). He was also the drummer for a local-experiment band called The Quitters.
And, oh yeah, he has a master's degree in emerging media and communications.
Martini brings an awful lot to the local music table. His passion and enthusiasm for inventive, broad-variety Texas music aside, he's the kind of mental giant poised to birth some very cool and creative ideas for nurturing, promoting and just generally fanning the flames of DFW's music talent pool.
Knowledge is, indeed, power.
His broad tastes alone make him someone the community is very lucky to have in our corner. Americana might be his forte on The Indie-verse, but he likes a little bit of everything. It's a shame we can't all have such an open mind when it comes to music. Radio would sound quite different if we did.
Most fascinating, though, is Martini's vision of local music scenes and social media marketing -- especially his point Martini about how our local music scene is fragmented, and what a big setback that is for us.
It's this kind of stuff that really should be required reading for all ambitious local musicians.
Did you ever take an early stab at playing music yourself? Say, in school?
I played percussion in junior high, which is sort of funny because I started the percussion legacy in my family then quit to play football. Both of my brothers played drums in high school and college. At one point, I was related to half of the University of Texas Tenor line. I also used to be in a weird little local band called The Quitters. We were... different. It was very politically incorrect, what we called suck rock. It basically started as joke, which is why we were named The Quitters. If we needed a backup plan in case it didn't go well, we'd just get up and walk off stage. We started as a dare in the dressing room of the comedy wild west show at Six Flags Over Texas. We were all gunfighters at the time and one of the guys was in the great alt-country band, The Joyful Sinners. He had a gig upcoming and needed an opening band. Next thing I know, I've been volunteered to play drums in this band when I had never actually played on a drum set in my life. We only planned on playing that one gig, but unfortunately the bar owner of the Black Dog Tavern in Fort Worth loved us. We developed this weird cult following and played around for a few years, sparingly.
How much programming leeway are you given for your Indie-verse show? Can you just walk in with a crate of your own records, "Adventure Club"-style?
It's all on me. Just to clarify: It's a jump drive. I gave up on crates a long time ago. Since we're FCC licensed, I have one rule, and that's no cussing. Other than that, it's all up to me. Indie-verse is very open as far as our programming goes. Eric Landrum is a great program director and sees the value in being flexible in his approach. We're actually in the process of bringing in a huge amount of guest DJs from around town and local bands for in-studio performances. If you haven't already, you're about to notice a huge focus on helping to promote the local scene and venues: Chelsea Callahan, Gavin Mulloy, Kris Youmans, Jeffrey Liles, John Solis and other promoters are going to start doing a once-a-month show promoting what they have coming up. It's a great way to introduce folks to some bands that are rolling through town and also to highlight our own scene. We're also going to start experimenting with live broadcast at festivals too. The first one we'll be doing is Fun Fun Fun Fest in November, but we're also going to be doing some massive co-production stuff with 35 Denton. It's going to be a lot of fun. Beyond that, we've got some bigger ideas for some national partnerships. It's about to get very interesting. But, certainly, you'll get your fix of Americana and roots rock on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on The Indie-verse. That's 100.3 HD3 or indieverse.com. See what I did there?
I'm fascinated to hear about your education years. It sounds like you really busted a hump in class. You're a pretty young guy to land a teaching gig at UTD.
Good lord, education. When I was in high school, I played football like every good Texas boy should, until my sophomore year. That's when I went in to the coaches' office to inform them that I'd be leaving the team to pursue my passion, theater. Man, did that not go over well. But it wound up being a great choice because I received several scholarship offers. I decided on Collin County College in Plano, which, at the time, was one of the top theater schools in the nation. They gave me a full ride. So, I was there two years and got recruited to TCU to be a part of the first year of their new directing program. Only, it turns out there was no directing program. I didn't find that out until I was a semester in. So, I took a semester off , transferred to UNT and, after a year there, I get a call from my old director at Collin County and he says "Hey! Guess what! I'm moving to UTD! You should transfer." And, since I loved that school and experience so much, I did. Well, he didn't ever move to UTD. I didn't find out that was going to happen until I was two semesters in. At that point, I decided I'd suck it up and get my piece of paper at UTD as quickly as possible. A few years later, I wound up back at UTD when I realized that theater wasn't exactly what I wanted to do with my life and I had moved into more of a "digital storytelling" medium. I received my Master of Arts in emerging media and communications a couple years back, and started teaching digital marketing design immediately after I had my degree. While I was there, I was always the naysayer when people would come up with these fabulous, outlandish ideas for how to use digital tools. I'd immediately reply "Great! Who's paying for that and how does it make money?" I guess they liked my contrary message because I've been teaching there ever since.
At some point music started to enter in to all this. Was there a particular musical moment, or moments, when it was clear that the local scene had just entered your consciousness?
In the beginning, it was a lot of Sparrows, Old 97's and Deadman mixed in with Course of Empire and Doosu, although I will say one of my favorite local bands that I felt never got the love they deserved was Squelches. Dude, they rocked. When I was first getting into the scene, I spent a lot of time at Club Clearview and Curtain Club. My friends and I leaned a little heavier, and it just made sense to enter in to that scene. It's sort of funny but the band that made the biggest impact on me locally was The Polyphonic Spree. I knew Tim, from Tripping Daisy, obviously, and I was fortunate enough to be aware of them, The Toadies and Reverend Horton Heat, too, when I was in high school, right before they broke. But Polyphonic Spree was so freakin' impacting! I have very vivid memories of them playing at the Curtain Club to an absolutely packed house. They changed the way I looked at Dallas music and showed me that anything was possible right here in our own backyard. Right after I graduated, I was directing a show in Austin, and The Polyphonic Spree was doing a midnight release of their second CD at Good Records. A buddy and I left Austin at 9 p.m., got there at midnight, bought the CD and drove back to Austin jamming it out the whole way back. It was worth it. Even though we had to get up at 9 the next day.
The term "directing" keeps coming up with you. It sounds like, although your interests in theater waned, that directing became a pursuit.
I spent a couple years in and out of New York directing. I come from a theater background and I was mainly a director during that time. That's all I ever wanted to do for the longest time. It's something I still dabble in a bit, and hopefully I'll have some cool things to show everyone soon. I've been working on a documentary about how musicians monetize their art in a free economy, as well as a TV pilot that I created and directed. That one's a little more secretive, but I'll call you when Bravo buys it.
Along the directing trail here at home, did you find yourself interacting with the local music community a good bit?
I have a lot of theater and film friends still, but the two worlds cross over surprisingly little. I'm working with Lindsay Graham from Junius Recording Company on a film project. An old buddy from college that used to be in shows I directed is now better known as Sir Silky. Just sort of random stuff like that. I feel like there could be more of a crossover because the arts are so incredibly complimentary. The Dallas theater and film scenes are struggling to find their identity just like the music scene was three or four years ago, and it would be sort of amazing to see them start to work more in the music scene. Artists are artists. It would be amazing to see more collaboration between the two disciplines. There's some random ones like the Dallas Theatre Center using Oso Closo to provide music for their production of The Who's Tommy a couple of years ago, but there should be more! Film is so complimentary to music, and vice versa! There's huge opportunity there. It's just a matter of starting the dialogue. Maybe you and I should put together a collaborative arts conference.
That would be amazing and fun work!
As for the artistic collaborations, here's my first suggestion: Telegraph Canyon and Seryn team up to score a staged version Red Headed Stranger. If you don't think that would get some national attention, you're nuts.
Care to endorse some Americana outlets here? Obviously there's KKXT-91.7 FM KXT, and your roots rock show on Indie-verse. What else do you recommend?
As for resources, I love me some No Depression, Twang Nation and, locally, I'm a huge fan of The Gobbler's Knob by the Observer's own Kelly Dearmore. Americana is interesting. My radio show sort of leans toward the indie side of Americana. I started out by saying it was just Americana, then it rolled into Americana and roots rock. Now it's really whatever I feel like playing. Anything with interesting instruments and a country tinge.
Is DFW the nerve center of Americana? Are there other strong genre-veins in the US as well?
It's best here. I mean that will all of my heart. DFW and Denton have the best country-influenced indie music anywhere. Stop looking outside of here. You're wasting your time. But to answer your question, try Asheville, North Carolina, too.
How about your personal musical tastes beyond that genre? Are there musical styles we might be surprised to find your a fan of?
I'm all over the place really. The only reason I host a roots rock show is because I know more about it than anyone else at Indie-verse. My musical consciousness switched when I was handed Bad Religion and, sigh, Dave Matthews in middle school. Yeah, I know. My parents weren't really into music. So, that was my first experience with music being given to me that I wasn't hearing on the radio at the time. To be generic, I'm a big "indie" music fan, but I think it's because music is becoming more interesting. Now, you hear the same kids listening to Black Star and The Middle East as are listening to !!! and The Sword. It's all over the place, but the important thing is that different types of music are being embraced. Music's getting better. As for my closet loves, nothing too surprising really. The band I've seen more than any other is Gomez. That may be a bit surprising, I don't know. I love that damn band.
How goes the Hypeworthy venture? Tell us what sets your service apart from the cookie-cutter ilk of social media services that seem to be cropping up.
Hypeworthy is going very well. I'm really excited about the upcoming partnerships we have. We're doing some work with the Fort Worth Music Festival, Overtone Booking in Fort Worth and 35 Denton. We've also have several non-music based clients, but I try to keep a good balance of music on my client roster. We're a digital marketing agency, specializing in not being douche-bags. Frankly speaking, the difference between Hypeworthy and other social media agencies out there is that we're more interesting in creating a great community around a great product than running a "boot camp" or charging per tweet. Social media allows brands to approach their communities in a very similar way as an artist approaches an audience. You have the story you are trying to convey, you have the specific audience you are trying to reach, and you have certain tools at your disposal. Successful brands will use these tools to convey the exact message they would like the audience to receive, but at the same time you need to be receptive to immediate feedback and learn to play off your audience, like any good artist does. But, mainly, we're just not douche-bags.
Care to just straight up wax-ecstatic about our local music scene? Vision, pros, cons....
The way I see it, the world is getting smaller, but at the end of the day, you're still living in your town, having your experiences that are centric to your town. A local music scene has a much greater impact on the city as a whole than most people realize. There are obvious examples (Seattle, Memphis, Nashville) but local music is a direct reflection of the life that artists live in their home. They're the anthem of our city, to be all artsy about it. DFW has a great anthem right now. Some of the best music in the country, in all sorts of genres, is coming out of here and the nation is starting to pay attention. I think we'll probably end up having a similar existence as we did in the '90s with some huge national acts coming out of here, like The Toadies, Pantera and so on. The important thing is that it's happening and it's finally being embraced. This is a massive media market and there's room for everyone. Once an arts community begins to realize that it's more important to support each other and grow the community as a whole than to focus on individual success, you have a fighting chance. The reason that Austin is the "music capital of the world" is because they stick together. Always. Austin understands it's about a community and a scene. Seattle fell backwards into that, but the important thing is that they embraced it. Things like Homegrown Fest and 35 Denton are very important for this city. I hope Homegrown continues to be "homegrown." Things like the DOMA Showcase are prime examples of what this community can be when it's galvanized. That's the bottom line. Stick together and grow as a whole. It's a hell of a lot easier for a band to tour when they are coming from an important scene nationally. Ask all the shit bands that came out of Seattle in the '90s. We're starting to get it here. My only hope is that we keep it up. My biggest wish is that Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton would all work together. If Dallas bands drew as much in Fort Worth as here, if Denton bands could play at the Green Elephant for just as many college kids as they do at Hailey's, those are some of the most important steps in making the metroplex a national scene. We'll never be important nationally until we're united locally.