Category Archives: Nathan Colucci My Rock and Roll Journey
Written by Nathan Colucci (The BallRoom Babies)
Mike, Steve and I had started up the group again, and were gigging around the local bar scene. We were performing cover gigs, which would normally consist of four 45-minute sets. We played tunes from bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, ZZ Top, Queen, etc. At the same time, we started developing our own unique writing style. and performing our own material across the Greater Toronto Area. Between the cover and original gigs, we were playing 2-3 times a week.
I was wrapping up my time at Cawrthra Park Secondary School, and began to explore jazz and classical music. Throughout grades 11 and 12, I was influenced (and motivated greatly) by my music teachers. They introduced me to new styles of music that I would not have discovered by myself. I began listening to artists and composers like Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Brubeck and Eric Whitacre.
Something that always stuck with me was when one of my teachers said to me…“You wouldn’t eat the same meal every single day of your life, so why would you only listen to the same type of music?”
I began to realize that it wasn’t necessarily just rock and roll music that I enjoyed, but any style of music that was bursting with passion and creativity. I started playing the upright bass, and really dove into practicing and pushing myself to become a better player. I was exploring the music of top bass players like Christian McBride, Jaco Pastorius, Ray Brown and Victor Wooten. I wanted to push my playing to the level of these greats.
I would stay in the practice rooms at Cawthra for hours practicing electric and upright bass. I remember my fingers being so blistered from practicing for some performances that I had to put hockey tape over them to stop them from bursting throughout the set. I really loved this time period because I was constantly being introduced to new and exciting music while pushing my own playing to a new level.
By the end of grade 12 I decided that I wanted to follow in my brothers’ footsteps and go to Humber College for their music program. It was the only school I sent an application to, and I was accepted.
Humber was like getting hit by a ton of bricks. For me, there was absolutely no way to comprehend the speed and intensity at which I would be pushed to excel. I thought that I was practicing a lot before getting into the program, but it was nothing compared to what was expected from my new professors. Practicing began to consume all the time in my life that wasn’t already dedicated to gigging or being in class. I was surrounded by some of the best players and hardest working musicians I have ever met in my life, which only further motivated me to push myself harder.
I was drinking coffee like water, and like so many other college and university students, a good night’s sleep became far and few between. Unfortunately, by my third year in the program, this constant grind began to wear on me, and what was once motivating and exciting became exhausting. At the time, I was teaching five nights a week, gigging steadily with the guys every weekend, working 3-4 shifts a week at a grocery store, and attending classes five days a week. I was mentally and physically burnt out, and something had to give. So, halfway through my third year, I dropped out of Humber College.
The band had recently released our first full-length album, Change To Silver. With extra time on my hands, I started booking as many shows as possible across Ontario. Because of our work schedule, I booked us on “weekend tours,” where we would head out on Friday, do two or three shows out of town, and come home in time for our Monday morning shifts. This was a great time for me because I got the chance to meet artists all across Canada. It started to feel like I was part of a music community.
We released a few singles from the record, and everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. It felt great to be playing so many new places. There is nothing quite like that feeling. We kept booking shows and playing gigs while working day jobs and writing songs for our next release.
In Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I’ll talk about the writing and recording of our sophomore release…
MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES
Written by Nathan Colucci (The BallRoom Babies)
It all started in the backseat of my dad’s two-door, 1994 Ford Escort. It was painted a bright neon green, so you could find it anywhere in a huge parking lot. For a little car, this thing had some major pep. Best of all, it had a stereo that you could crank all day. My dad would get my brothers and me in the car for long drive and blast music the entire time…
Fly By Night (Rush), Relayer (Yes), Machine Head (Deep Purple), Shinin’ On (Grand Funk Railroad). These were a few of the many records that we would listen to in the car. This is where my introduction to music took place.
For as long as I can remember, my brother Steve was obsessed with music. Some of my earliest memories are of him building his own guitar out of a tissue box, paper towel rolls and a few elastic bands. My parents got him his first real guitar as a Christmas gift, and he played it non-stop. By the time he was in high school, he was teaching students to play guitar on the weekends. They were usually just a few years younger than him. Around the same time, my parents got my brother Mike a drum kit. He was always parked behind that thing wearing headphones and playing along to Rush, Yes and Deep Purple. When I was 9-yrs old, my dad bought me my first bass, and just like that, we had a little rock and roll trio. Playing the bass had never even crossed my mind before then.
I started taking lessons, practicing and eventually playing in a band with my brothers. Learning my instrument and making music with my brothers was inseparable. We would rehearse in the basement trying to emulate our favourite artists, and I have to say, for a bunch of young kids, we were damn good! We wrote our own music, and set out to conquer the world under the name White Dove.
For the next five years, we were on and off with the band. We gigged wherever we could, and practiced together constantly. We had a little rehearsal space set up in our basement. If we weren’t in school or at music lessons, we were down in the basement practicing. We invited various singers to front the band. We even had a Van Halen cover act going for a while. Neither of the front men worked out, and so we realized that we had to learn how to sing.
By the time I was in high school, we had stopped playing together, and had started playing in separate bands. The time away from my brothers was really huge for me. I started listening to a bunch of new music and finding my own kind of sound. I was listening to more modern bands like The Mars Volta, Protest The Hero, Sydney, Of Montreal, Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Lifestory: Monologue and Five Blank Pages. These bands had a huge impact on me and creep into my writing style to this day.
Around that same time Mike and Steve joined a more established rock group and did some Canadian touring. Towards the end of high school, the three of us eventually started jamming together again. It just kind of felt right, so we started the band up again. The biggest change this time was that we were doing all of the singing. We weren’t very good at it, so we decided to take singing lessons, and practiced learning more Beatles songs than I care to list.
Singing was an absolute nightmare for me. Nothing about it came naturally, and I could barely get through a tune without getting terribly off key. I smoked back then, and that made it even more difficult. But I worked my ass off, and eventually got the hang of it. We learnt a lot of classic rock covers (just shy of 300), and started writing our own tunes again.
Before I knew it, we were about to start gigging, so we needed a name. I was trying to think of something that would stick in someone’s head after a night of loud music and drinking. And so, The BallRoom Babies began.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” where the story of three rock and roll brothers continues…