When it comes to Nicholas Petricca the card to play seems easy: we can talk about the song Ed Sheeran defined as the summer track of 2015: ‘Shut up and dance’ and everyone will remember its rhythm. However, while recognising the appeal of such a catching track, we need to acknowledge the Cincinnati rocker in a different way, together with his band Walk the Moon (stylized WALK THE MOON). The single taken from ‘Talking is Hard’ (which made them sell 3 million copies in the United States only) is a mere starting point for a voyage of discovery about their discography and their charismatic frontman, who is the centre of our research.
As stated, Petricca (born 1987) was raised in Ohio in a family were music was always present. His parents, avid music fans inundate their house with notes and during one of their holidays, Nicholas remembers listening to jazz classics and living it as a true revelation. Growing up, between piano lessons and concerts with different jazz bands, he also started his adventure at Kenyon College, the oldest private college in Ohio. After only a year in this fairy-tale institution he started his first rock band: ‘The Expert’ where he immediately began playing keyboards and singing. ‘I like to say that music ate me up. It swallowed me whole, he said. I became obsessed with writing songs, playing gigs and making rock music.’ His former teachers remember him as one of the most promising pupils and they are still using his ideas to show students how to carry out a successful project and obtain excellent results.
The college years also saw him familiarize with styles and groups that would have a massive influence on his present band WALK THE MOON; he discovered The Beatles, Talking Heads and Tears for Fears. At the same time (you can still watch some videos on YouTube) he became a member of the Kenyon Chasers, the school a cappella group which sees its best pupils perform every year, at the Rosse Hall.
In 2006 ‘The Expert’ merged with ‘Wicked in the Mix’, Nicholas’ second band. His role as a composer got more and more refined and the search for a new name for the band became imperative. Fascinated by the ‘WM’ initials and being passionate about The Police, they chose one of their songs as an inspiration (‘Walking on the Moon’) and they became WALK THE MOON in 2008.
They started smoothly and were almost immediately chosen to represent the United States at the London City’s Showcase the same year, the band members were: Petricca, Nick Lerangis, Adrian Galvin and Adam Reifsnyder. The last years at college weren’t easy though as, back to Cincinnati, Petricca was then the only remaining member of the band. The others weren’t as eager about music as he was, but he wasn’t ready to give up just yet, not after having lived with music for over a decade. Petricca (and this is also adamant in his lyrics) thought about the options in such a dark period and decided to play some solo concerts, making his own way.
In the next two years he was joined by the definitive members of the band: Kevin Ray, Eli Maiman and Sean Waugaman and they obtained a contract with RCA. In 2011, the ‘Anna Sun’ single became a radio hit and its story is peculiar. According to Petricca, the track is about the ability of human beings to carry on after an ending. As nothing is permanent, the title can be considered as an epiphany (Anna Sun is a former teacher of Petricca’s) and it is dedicated to the certainty of the passing of time, not wanting to stop it but looking for the redeeming beauty of each crucial moment of our life, which can be preserved in our memories. The band, that has recorded three albums, had to stop their tour in 2016 as Petricca’s father’s health was getting worse (he died at the beginning of 2017). The forced pause - after five years - led to an introspective period and generated: ‘What If Nothing’; an album that plays with the concept of ‘wilderness’ by constantly referring to an imaginary ‘waste land’ where it is easy to get lost and where only the force of primitive feelings can keep us back on track.