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Episode 02 Nick Piunti

Nick Piunti -- Photo by Tim Meeks

The dynamic guitar pop of Detroit’s Nick Piunti has earned the praise of critics and fans all over the world.

Although he’s been rockin’ out since the 1970s, Nick’s most recent albums have defined his signature sound and generated his biggest waves yet, by combining a persistent backbeat, inventive lyrics and classic songwriting hooks.

Photo: Tim Meeks

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One distinguishing feature of great songwriting is when individual lyric lines or thoughts aren't always completed within a single musical phrase, and vice versa.  Better lyricists understand how it can sometimes be more interesting to sing two lyric lines against a single musical phrase or (conversely) to stretch a single thought across two or more musical phrases.

Nick Piunti’s song, “13 In My Head,” contains a great example of this technique and it’s illuminating to see it in action.  During the first four musical lines of the chorus, Nick sings:

“What do we say now
that we made it
past the age now
when we’re fated...”

I’ve split these into four lines to show how they’re sung across four short, musical phrases, with long pauses in between.  But if you’ll notice, they’re really a single sentence — a single thought — which even continues on after that!  By stretching the line out, a couple of things happen.

For one thing, you’re forced to wait until a later musical phrase to hear the finished thought.  But on top of that, once you’ve heard

“What do we say now that we’ve made it?”

you might mistakenly believe that you’ve just heard one complete line or question.  It certainly makes sense that way.  But as you keep listening, you realize there’s more to that same thought. Really, Nick is saying this:

"What do we say, now that we’ve made it past the age [now] when we’re fated to living out the same old stories while we're searching for the glory in our yesterdays?"

A new meaning emerges.  The songwriter isn’t really talking about looking back after “having made it big,” he’s talking about “having lived past the time when he might have made it big."

One other cool thing that strings you along is Nick's repeated use of the word "now." The first "now" is used as a conjunction, keeping the sentence flowing to the following line. The second "now" is only there to complete the compound rhyme scheme of the first and third line.

This surprise double meaning is revealed slowly — you have to wait for it.  And that anticipation and slow realization is a reward for the listener.  The writer was clever for writing it, and the listener feels clever for noticing it.

-- Dave Caruso / Host

  Album Artist Songwriter Producer Song
Trust Your Instincts


Nick Piunti Nick Piunti Geoff Michael

One Hit Wonder
This song is pure bliss.  Highlights: The opening guitar effect, the melody of the verse, the guitar riff after the first two choruses, the "ooh yeah!" climactic release heading into the bridge, and the circular tag ending.

Blame In Vain
Notice how the "title sandwich" chorus bleeds in from the end of each previous verse -- you're in the chorus  before you realize it.

Stay Where You Are
"Stop me if you heard this one [/ all] before."  GREAT line.  Nick demonstrates what he meant about "bringing it back to the start," or returning to the first line(s) at the end of the song.  Love the bridge chords and the way the last bridge varies the chords and bass line.

Beyond the Static


Nick Piunti Nick Piunti
(11 songs)
Geoff Michael
(co-wrote 2)
Megan Piunti
(co-wrote 1)
Donny Brown
(co-wrote 1)
Geoff Michael
Nick Piunti

Time Machine
The crunchy verse is built on a repeating combination of a sung line followed by a space for the guitars.  That's baked into the song, creating anticipation for the story and the musical trip.

Six Bands
More anticipation: "Don't keep us waiting... don't keep us waiting, don't keep us waiting... to long."  The melody and chord changes fit like a comfortable pair of sweats.  Nice use of musical breakdown during the first and last verse.

It's a Trap
I'm a sucker for odd-numbered lines and that's essential to the success this pre-chorus.  Sometimes 4 times is too man and three is just right.  Once again, the chords are changed for the final chorus.  It takes a little more effort, but creates variation and surprise for the listener.

Beyond the Static
(Vinyl Bonus and Bandcamp (Digital)
Nick Piunti Nick Piunti
Geoff Michael
Nick Piunti

Quicksand (Unplugged)
A deconstructed version of the song, different from the original album track.  It's proof that a two-chord verse and a three-chord chorus can be interesting.  The lack of drums and bass exposes and magnifies the magnetic pull of the chorus.   

13 In My Head


Nick Piunti Nick Piunti
(10 songs)
Ryan Alan
(co-wrote 4)
Geoff Michael
Nick Piunti

13 In My Head
Great chords in the pre-chorus, and a chorus that hits with a bang and ends on a nostalgically hanging phrase .

Good Thing Going
A killer intro (derived from the chorus) and sweet harmonies.  Again, it's just 2 chords swinging back and forth but it's exactly what's needed.  The bridge creates a nice changeup and segues seamlessly into the solo.

It All Comes Down
This is the Nick Piunti song that MOJO Magazine chose to represent Paul McCartney's melodic pop sensibilities for their cover-mount CD, "Songs in the Key of Paul.  "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"

(Title / Artist / Album)

Opening Medley
13 In My Head / Nick Piunti / 13 In My Head
One Hit Wonder / Nick Piunti / Trust Your Instincts
Stay Where You Are
/ Nick Piunti / Trust Your Instincts
Trust Your Instincts / Nick Piunti / Trust Your Instincts
Vaguely Familiar / Nick Piunti / Trust Your Instincts

When You Come Back Around / The Respectables / Sibley Gardens

Six Bands / Nick Piunti / Beyond the Static

It's a Trap / Nick Piunti / Beyond the Static

Stay Where You Are / Nick Piunti / Trust Your Instincts

It All Comes Down / Nick Piunti / 13 In My Head

Quicksand (Unplugged) / Nick Piunti / 13 In My Head (Vinyl Bonus Track)

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