Five Questions with Nicholas Semrad

Nicholas Semrad
Nicholas Semrad

Watching the growth of young artists, the moves they make, and the success they experience, is gratifying when you’re pulling for them.

Someone I’m pulling for is pianist Nicholas Semrad.

Check him out on this little gospel tune:

Recently married, and a recent maneuver to the NYC area, Semrad is def making moves in his life and career.

Tour Schedule for Cory Henry and The Funk Apostles
Tour Schedule for Cory Henry and The Funk Apostles

From his FB – “Excited to head out in a few weeks on this tour as part of Cory Henry and his Funk Apostles. If you’re in any of these cities, come check it out! ‪#‎music‬ ‪#‎tourlife‬ ‪#‎tellsomebody‬”

Nick is also spending time passing it along:

Giving Electronic Music classes to high school kids
Giving Electronic Music classes to high school kids

Nick/FB re: this class: “Amazing to see how much they dig beat music and how open minded they are to new music & ideas.”

With the talent Semrad has, and the energy to succeed, I’ll bet that EVERYONE Nick knows is pulling for him.

Nick answered FIVE QUESTIONS via email from his place in Brooklyn, NY.

1) My first question is about your practice habits. What inspires you? What is your method of practice?

NS – In regards to inspiration, it’s pretty easy for me to get inspired. There are SO MANY amazing musicians out there in the world and all you have to do to be in touch with them is literally to open up YouTube or even just go outside and go to a show. My method of practice really just depends on what i’m practicing; if I’m learning some kind of cool harmonic movement or something, i’ll start on a really slow BPM and do it in every key until it’s comfy and then speed it up as much as I can. I also do a lot of Hanon exercises….that’s like some gym-like work for your fingers. If i’m learning a tune for an artist, I just surround myself with the music. I listen to it on the train, while i’m walking my dog, while i’m cooking, etc….it all really depends.

2) Who are your favorite musicians to collaborate with? What have been some of your favorite live performances? What makes a great show?

NS – My favorite musicians to collaborate with will always be my friends….no matter the genre, the ability, whatever, friendship always makes a performance that much more inspiring to me. In regards to my favorite live performances, there’s been a lot of great ones. Even though he lives pretty far away from me now, I still think about the 2 performances I did with It’s True and Adam Hawkins….that guy is a damn genius. I’d have to have early Electric Soul Method shows with Josh Hoyer/Luke Kellison and my stuff with the Wholes dudes back in Nebraska included as they were really my first performances doing original music for young people. In present day, Id include my NYC performances with Gentei Kaijo (my hip hop group and house band for The Lesson), Lyle Divinsky, and Alice and the Glass Lake as some of my favorites. Also, performing for more than 10,000 people with Gabriel Garzon-Montano in Europe was pretty damn great as well. I would say a great show is kind of formed by this mystical energy…..but i’m not really sure what to attribute it to. It’s like a feeling in the air just ‘arrives’. I’ve had shows that I put a TON of time into prepping and that there were a ton of people at that just felt dead, but i’ve also had shows that there were 20 people at that had no rehearsals that were live as shit, so it all just really comes from the music gods, I guess.

3) Write about the difference between working and playing here in the midwest vs. east coast. How has the transition been for you? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Do you get together with other ex-Nebraskans ever? 

NS – There is a HUGE difference between working here and working back home; I’m not ready to say that one is better than the other, but there’s a ton of difference. Back home in the midwest, there’s a different energy in the music scenes. It’s very honest……when you see someone writing/playing, regardless of genre, it’s very indicative of who they are as a person, and so when I’d play with bands, I felt VERY in touch with the music. With Josh Hoyer, the Wholes dudes, Matt Cox, Adam Hawkins, etc…..all of those guys meant every last thing they played or sang, and there’s a special connection when you’re doing a performance like that. In regards to music here in NYC, the music has a lot more edge. There are better players overall because players here HAVE TO be better. It’s very competitive, and if you don’t practice hard/play hard, you don’t eat. That breeds a very different type of musician than back home. When I was in Nebraska, I could play one church service and pay my rent for the month. Here, I play 4 church services (that pay 4x the money) and a weeks worth of original gigs, and i’m BARELY cutting it……… it’s different. Also, back home there were maybe 9-10 keyboard players that i was competing with for gigs……here, there are probably 9-10 just in my apartment building. So….yeah…..
There is also a lot of pressure on NYC bands to be very cutting edge. My hip hop group Gentei Kaijo is always having to ride the line between what we respect about the past and between what we think will be good in the future. It’s very easy to sound stagnant here because this place is a breeding ground for new things and new ideas, and it’s easy to get left behind sonically. It may sound like a bad thing….however…..this kind of thinking has made me constantly search for ways to be innovative and fresh, and that has made me a better musician than I ever would’ve been back home. In regards to fellow Nebraskans here in NYC, I see a lot of them all of the time actually, and they’re all doing great. The Wholes dudes mostly all live out here, and we play shows occasionally. All of those guys have become monster musicians, and are all gigging a ton…..I’m actually touring for a bit with Andrew Bailie (guitar) in a week as we’re both playing behind future-legend Cory Henry (organist from Snarky Puppy) on a southern state run. The church that I play at (Bethany Baptist, home of Al Sharpton) has a music program run by fellow Lincoln-ite Deah Harriott. I moved out here with Sean Murphy who, though I don’t see that often, has been consistently touring the world for about a year now with Beauty and the Best……I see Sammie Ware (star of the new season of Glee) quite a bit, and my dude Darren Keen just moved up here and is already tearing up the DJ and drum/bass music scene. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but all the Nebraska crew is definitely representing!

4) What type of music is capturing your attention right now? Are you happy with the evolution of your musical career so far? What direction are you planning to take your talent in style wise? Who are you listening to and who are your ultimate artists that you would you like to collab with?

NS – I’ve been really into anything electronic or r&b that comes from England. That’s the one place on Earth right now that may be producing more innovative shit than NYC, and I’m loving’ all of it. In regards to direction, it’s funny…..I think I moved up here to be an indie rock musician and follow in the mold of the Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles cats……but i’ve literally done like 1 indie rock gig since i’ve been here (Alice and the Glass Lake….and they’re freaking amazing!). I’ve learned not to “pick” a direction, as i’ve gotten better results kind of letting the music gods choose where my life goes. It’s worked out well so far =) As far as people i’d love to collaborate with, i’d probably have to go with some hip hop/electronic heads. I’m loving everything Childish Gambino does…..i’d definitely love to do some music with Royce Wood Junior, a producer from England. His stuff is FIRE.

5) What are your goals for the near future? Long term goals? What players are you inspired by? Do you listen to/go to shows of when you can? Where do you see your career in five years? What projects and collaborations are you involved in now?

NS – My short term goal is just to tour and see the world before I’m too old to enjoy it any more. I just went to Europe for the first time, and this summer is going to include a lot of traveling with a lot of different great groups. Long term goals? I’d love to be able to live back home in Nebraska/Iowa and build a bid house, but still fly out and perform with big groups and do recording sessions. The players that inspire me are the musicians that I play with. I gig with Cory Henry, but I still transcribe his stuff like twice a week. I gig with the guys in Gentei Kaijo, and they’re constantly pushing me to be better just like the old days with the Wholes dudes and Mitch Towne/Dana Murray. It’s a friendly competition, but it’s made me want to be the best. Keep an eye on my Facebook page at to check out what I have coming up, but it includes a few different tours with Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, Gentei Kaijo, and some sick shows with this amazing band Rat Habitat and a ton of other artists.




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