On August 28, 2016, Nicki Aycox’s debut EP, Red Velvet Room, celebrated its first birthday. For the film and television acting veteran, the transition to musician hasn’t been easy. Yet, courage and inspiration has become Nicki Aycox’s signature. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Nicki about her musical journey. Read what she had to say below.
Red Velvet Room recently celebrated its first birthday. Looking back on this past year, what do you feel you’ve learned about yourself?
“So much (laughs). One is I always I think I’m closer to being finished with something than I actually am (laughs). I always kinda think that something is ready and then I realize, okay, this needs a little more work here or this needs to sound better. It just kinda keeps building up and I’ve started to learn to be a little bit more patient and to pay more attention to the gaps in it, pay attention to when I think something is finished and I realize that it’s not finished or the first time I realized that it might take me another week or so. Or, I might do it a couple of times and it will take me an hour to correct something. As time goes on, the lesson learned is to be patient as I’m actually getting to my finish line (laughs). It’s also part of the exploration. You have to rework things and it’s hard when you’re doing stuff on your own. You want to explore every idea that comes to you that you think might turn out well. Sometimes it does. There are so many things you consider when you’re doing it on your own. You’ve got the sound of a recording you’re doing. Not only that but you have the technical side of the actual music, do the chords sound nice here with this rhythm or does this rhythm work. There are just so many pieces that you are always working on. The main thing that I’ve learned about music is that you’ve got to be really patient.”
As you continue on your musical journey, what challenges have you faced?
“So many challenges in different areas of music in general. One of the biggest challenges is playing in groups. You want to get a band together and you say ‘I want to play live’ which is really one of the most fun things for me when it comes to music, the live playing. But when you’re dealing with a bunch of personalities getting together and all playing their parts, their instruments, it’s very hard to get a group of people who are strangers, put them together in a room and expect that everybody gets along and it goes perfectly. It would be wonderful if that could happen. I think alot of people think of musicians jamming together and having a good time, lots of laughs and having fun and all of that. It should be, but that’s ambitious considering you’re putting a bunch of artists together who don’t know each other. You try to have a common goal, but there are still alot of problems. You get alot of problems with rehearsals, you get alot of problems with people dropping out or not wanting to finish or worst, you kinda get half way in there and you get five or six songs ready to go, everything is doing well, but as you start rehearsing, people start arguing, somebody doesn’t like somebody else. I think that happens with anything in life. But when it is an artistic purpose when it’s volunteer and kinda considered done on the side, people can’t really be forced to stay. It’s really hard to get up and have a group play live when they haven’t been doing it at a really young age. That was one challenge. Other challenges have been: I think the writing is coming much easier for me now when it comes to structuring the songs and having them sound well and the sounds are becoming what I want them to be with the instruments, the notes and all of that. That part is easier but now I’ve gotten into this recording thing when I want to record myself live and put it up on the website. As I was playing more and more and recording more and more stuff, I heard cars and trucks in the background on the recording. I really didn’t like it. It frustrated me. It interfered with the sound and changed the mood of the song. Now I’m soundproofing my music room and making it into where it will record better. So that’s been a really, really big challenge. That wasn’t something that I expected to do. The background noises compete with the feel. It wasn’t something I noticed of course when I first started recording. I don’t know if the background noise bothered me so much that I think people should avoid doing it. I don’t think there’s any problem with there being some background noise in the music that you’re playing live and sharing because even if you’re out listening to a live band, there’s noise you’re competing with. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. I just start noticing it more because I was thinking about it more as I’ve been restructuring music. I thought, well, if I don’t like it and I can change it, why don’t I go ahead and change it because it’s a journey. Here I am so why not.”
What has given you the biggest joy as you establish your identity as a musician?
“This is something that has really taught me alot about myself as an artist I think more so than the acting because with the acting, I did it in a very extreme business like, professional manner. In other words, I worked for the studio. I worked for specific shows and I was being paid a salary and it was this every day job so I was not self-employed even though I was running stuff by the production company and working for the production company, I wasn’t really self-employed, I was at the mercy of the studio. Which is fine because that’s what a job is. You get hired and you do what they want you to do, whatever fits their project for the best. With the music, I’ve really gone off on my own and I’ve really spent the time learning every step of the way. There are alot of things I don’t know and there are alot of things I’m still working on. Some things I have worked really hard at and I have accomplished, but along the way, I get to make my own choices and I get to make my own decisions about what I want to say and how I want the songs to sound or how I want the videos to look if I can ever put one with it. So there are alot of creative aspects to it that I’m making decisions about it by myself. So for the first time…as much as I talk about the frustrations and the obstacles, like now having to build a vocal booth because I want the sound better or learning to write something better, the challenges and obstacles take time and that frustrates me, but at the same time, I learned alot about myself by the choices that I make. I’m learning alot about how I see life because they’re my own choices and decisions. I think that everybody, whether they’re working hard at a nine to five should take some time on the weekend or sometime every day to crank something out, or to write something, because you learn alot about your feelings and where you are emotionally. I think that’s a healthy thing to do.”
You champion creative artistry. In what ways (if any) do you feel social media can be a more positive experience for fostering artists?
“Good question. There are alot of positives and there are alot of negatives about social media. Obviously for the first time in our history, we have been able to share things globally very easily. It’s no longer just something very wealthy corporations can do. It’s something that everybody and anybody can do it. That is wonderful because I typically like to listen to music that comes from Eastern Europe, Africa and even some Middle Eastern music I absolutely love. I love the instruments so for me, I really have alot of access to that now. It comes into my life and it comes into the songs that I write. But at the same time, you can get things out quickly, you have something to show other people. You have something to show an agent or a manager or somebody to help you with your career. But here are the negatives that I’ve found, in my opinion. One is if you get too used to or too accustomed to writing something or producing something or directing something and you put it on YouTube or wherever you put it on. And say you get one thousand or two thousand likes, alot of times that has people say ‘Okay, that was great and it’s finished.’ It kinda becomes this finished product because you put it up, you shared it and you got alot of likes. But that’s not really the end of it. It’s an accomplishment, but that’s just the beginning. Whether you get a thousand likes of two thousand likes, you need to go back in and restructure, or go in and make corrections and make things better to take it to that next level. I think that alot of times people will sorta put stuff out and just because they got a thousand likes, they’re on to the next thing. For me, that kind of seems like a bunch of unfinished work lying around. It shouldn’t be ‘I’m going to do this to get a thousand likes.’ It should be ‘I’m going to do this to make somebody happy, to keep my career going. I’m going to put it out once to test it to see how many likes I get and I’m going to polish it up. So you can use social media for that kind of feedback the first time you share something. The other situation with social media and I find this particular with young people. They’re very creative. They’re very excited about their projects. These people are going to be our next generation of artists. But because being on social media all the time and really having to share all of your work on social media all of the time, that takes up alot of time and that takes up alot of your creative energy to be on the computer and uploading and trying to communicate and publicize yourself. All of that stuff just really gets in the way of trying to create the work. So I would say that when dealing with social media, make sure to create the work the most in the beginning and spend less time on social media. When you really start thinking you’re near the finished line then you can start putting stuff out because you don’t want to get yourself distracted.”
What has Nicki Aycox, the musical learned from Nicki Aycox, the actress?
“I have no idea and that’s really sad (laughs). I mean, there’s just so much and sometimes it’s really hard to look back on it. I remember someone asked me once during an interview what is the most shocking thing about being where I am today and I really didn’t have an answer. But I think that at the end of the day, the fact that I made it is the most shocking to me (laughs). Because there were so many pieces. Like coming out to LA, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in myself. But to the outside world, I put on a mask like I had alot of confidence. I’m not really sure how I got through all of that to the point where I don’t have a nervous bone in my body. I had to tell myself those feelings are not real. They’re only in my mind. But in doing so, I kinda missed out on what I learned. I did have to do the same thing when I transitioned into music. I had to fight self doubt. People feel that putting things on the Internet means it has to be perfect. They put on a mask. They’re afraid to admit they’re struggling. But it’s okay to struggle.”
Are there any current projects that you are able to share with us?
“That’s another thing and that’s something that’s always been interesting to me. There’s always been this rule in Hollywood that if don’t have something that’s coming out, don’t do any publicity. It was always this big no no. I have alot going on and I have things that I want to do that are still in talks but they haven’t gotten to their official point yet. Contracts aren’t signed. Negotiations aren’t finished. It’s taking its time, but like anything, that’s how it works. I think alot of times the public sees someone come out just when they have something to sell and think this person is so great and so wonderful. What you don’t see are the down times. When you don’t hear from an artist that’s because they’re trying to make things happen. I wish I had something to talk about, something to share. But it just hasn’t gotten there yet. I don’t want to say anything that possibly could not happen. So I just have to wait. As far as what I’m doing in the meantime, I’m building my vocal booth. I’m continuing with my own stuff. Half the battle is trying to learn the ropes.”
When you returned to Supernatural in the Season 4 episode, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester, did you find it difficult jumping back into Meg’s mindset?
“It was something that I was concerned about when I first got the call to do it. I thought about it and I worried whether I could connect with the character again because it had been such a long time. I remember being on the plane going back and I panicked a bit (laughs) . This is what self-doubt can do to you. I was really nervous and I was really sick on the way there. I was kinda obsessing. I got there on set and there was Jensen. He was like, ‘Hey, Nicki!’ and all of the doubt, it just kinda disappeared. It was as if I never left the set. In just comes from the set because those guys are so great. They’re are so caring and they’re so respectful and it’s true and genuine. They are the same guys they were the day the show started. It was just so easy coming back there.”