Landing one’s first Grammy nominations can be surreal, and that was definitely the case for Nothing More singer Jonny Hawkins. He learned that the San Antonio-based alternative rock band had been nominated for three awards when the group was driving from Poland to the Czech Republic during its recent European tour and the animated voice of guitarist Mark Vollelunga interrupted his sleep.
“We were all passed out, and [Mark’s] voice started escalating in volume and in enthusiasm when he was on the phone with our manager,” says Hawkins. “At first, it was annoying, ’cuz I was trying to sleep. Wanted him to shut up. But then I realized we had gotten nominated for three Grammys, and that’s a little more OK. It woke me up for a little while, and then I was so tired that I think I eventually fell back into my coma.”
The news didn’t really sink in for the quartet — which also includes bassist Daniel Oliver and drummer Ben Anderson — until the next day. Besides doing some celebratory shots (“We were already cold the whole tour over in Europe, so we drank more than usual to stay warm, and I think we drank even more than we would have,” Hawkins laughs), it led to “some happy tears” as he reflected on all the work Nothing More has invested since forming in 2003. It’s also a bittersweet moment, for Hawkins recalled that when his mother, Shari, who died of cancer in 2009, was on her deathbed, she had told him she knew he would succeed.
“Up until that point, she was always looking for other options for me to find a career that would be stable,” he explains. “Just always thought being a musician’s going to be a hard life or you’re not going to make a living. And toward the end, she just said, ‘You know what? Go for it. I believe in you. You’re going to make it.’”
Nothing More’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves was nominated for best rock album, and its single “Go to War” (which scored the band its first No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart) was nominated for best rock performance and best rock song. The group is the only act to score nods in all three categories, and the recognition puts the guys on a level with fellow nominees like Metallica, Mastodon, Foo Fighters and Chris Cornell. Hawkins says he told his bandmates, “‘We’re really standing on the shoulders of giants.’ And I feel like all these bands used to be our idols, and now they’re our enemies,” he adds with a laugh. “I say that in humor. We’ve always looked up to them, and it’s pretty surreal that they’ve become our peers.”
Hawkins thinks that Grammy voters connected with The Stories That We Tell Ourselves partially due to the band’s profile and fan base greatly increasing since label Better Noise/Eleven Seven Music re-released its breakthrough self-titled album in 2014. “There’s a lot of great art out there that sometimes doesn’t have that foundation or business backbone to really grow properly and may never get nominated for things like this,” he observes. He also feels that, from an artistic perspective, the album resonated because it evaluated such challenging life experiences as his getting divorced (addressed in songs like the heart-wrenching “Just Say When”) and tried to turn them into something positive. “This one had a lot of real things goin’ on behind the scenes,” he notes. “It’s not a hypothetical record. It’s a very real, experientially influenced record.”
Nothing More’s lyrical narratives often involve looking inward to see what role a person has played, deliberately or not, in a given situation. This is explored in the hyper-charged “Do You Really Want It,” which observes that global change cannot occur without personal evolution. But instead of pointing the finger, the band raises the hope that “we can change it all/ If you really want it.”
The group released the official video for “Do You Really Want It” today. Watch it below:
Asked about what he thinks people could change about themselves that would help the world, Hawkins notes, “The most important thing is changing their process of solving personal problems…starting with you asking, ‘What do I bring to this equation that is causing this situation in my life?’ versus the first instinct being to blame the things outside of you, whether that’s other people or situations. In some cases, the problem is someone else or just an unfortunate situation, for sure. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but if everyone shifted that direction and started with, ‘OK, what do I bring to the table that’s wrong and needs to be changed?,’ even if it’s just a tiny little bit, there’s so much more actual change and growth that would occur. Because the amount of control you have over other people and situations is so little, and the amount you have over yourself is so much greater.”
The videoclip, which shows Nothing More in concert, features an effect called “tiny planet” that provides a panoramic view of the scene. Hawkins calls the footage “visually exciting and fun,” and it plays off the idea of everybody wanting to change the world while being encapsulated in their own little bubble. “We wanted to do something live and we thought it would be cool to explore that visual, but it kind of works on a metaphorical level that we didn’t even plan.”
It also briefly shows Hawkins riding the Scorpion Tail, a 14-foot-tall, 400-pound animated structure that Oliver built from scrap metal and salvaged auto parts. The Tail upgrades the concept of Drumtron, a swiveling bass stand welded to a pair of drums (also constructed by Oliver) that Nothing More used during shows to play three-man bass solos. The hulking fixture doubles as an effects board, enabling Hawkins to play DJ with the band’s instruments. He says he feels pretty comfortable riding the hulking creature, but Hawkins’ first trip was nerve-wracking. “I asked [Oliver] as I was standing up on it while feeling very unsafe, ‘Hey, am I going to be OK on this thing, or get injured?’ And he said, ‘Ah, ya should be,’ ” says Hawkins. “And it’s like, the last thing you want to hear from the guy that’s built it is the word ‘should.’”
Nothing More returns to the road in February 2018 on a North American tour supported by The Contortionist and Big Story, followed by the spring Crooked Teeth World Tour with Papa Roach and Escape the Fate. For dates, click here.