St. Paul’s School '06
Berklee College of Music '09
Founder of Monkey Rock Presents, ECHOREV
In May, Johnny Nicholson touched down for a day at SCDS to speak with our sixth through eighth grade students prior to hosting a concert in the Jackson Theater. It would be an understatement to say Johnny’s life is exciting. His band, ECHOREV, wrapped up a 50-city U.S. and European tour in the winter, and Johnny “rested” by heading to Baja to spend two months completing the duo’s new record which can be downloaded free by visiting ECHOREV.com
As this article was being written, ECHOREV was in Germany for a summer tour. Although he has logged well over 10,000 “touring” miles already, Johnny finds his life as an indie rock musician exhilarating. “I love what I do: writing songs, performing, and promoting my music as well as other musicians,” he said. “There’s an art to every aspect of what we're doing, and the endless possibility derived from that energy is why we do it.”
While at SCDS, Johnny was known for participating in any opportunity to perform live music. He arrived as a kindergartner playing violin and picked up guitar at SCDS, taking private music lessons from SCDS teacher Jonathan Taylor. “I always wanted to perform. I played in the talent shows and band concerts, at my own graduation ceremony, and at the annual Battle of the Bands, which SCDS organized to showcase student bands,” Johnny said. “I had started to write songs with content, knew I loved performing, writing music, and how it felt to express myself in a way that could prompt a physical reaction from an audience.”
After graduating from SCDS, Johnny attended St. Paul’s School, a college preparatory school in Concord, NH, where he further developed his talent as a musician. Johnny then attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston because it offered opportunities for him to perform as well as learn the business aspects of the music industry. “While I was a student, I worked with friends at the school to organize a free show, and ended up putting weekly concerts on for several years,” he said. “I realized that by simply making a commitment to throw the shows regularly, we created a buzz that, in turn, created even more interest. I learned that when you commit to doing something—even a weekly engagement such as ours—people begin to expect it of you.” That experience was also the impetus for Johnny to start his music promotion business, Monkey Rock Presents.
After graduating from Berklee at the end of 2009, Johnny has continued to collaborate and learn from musicians he worked with while at the school. ECHOREV features fellow alumnus Jörn Bielfeldt, and the two musicians continue to develop the band’s musical style of electrified folk songs propelled by organic hip/hop and electronic beats nurtured during their earlier collaborations. “Jörn and I are involved in a lot of experimentation as we play, we are constantly communicating and learning from each other,” Johnny said. “It’s important to seek partners in your learning because their experience propels your experience.”
ECHOREV also utilizes musical technologies to enhance and refine its sound. During concerts, Jörn plays drum-set and synthesizer-bass while Johnny handles vocals, plays guitar and keyboard, and operates the sound mixer. They record or "loop" their musical motifs live as they play, and build sections in order to play over them. “The live-looping and analog processing enhances our sound by becoming a third band member contributing a third voice,” Johnny noted.
It’s a sure bet that ECHOREV will continue to develop its musical reach and visibility, and Johnny, armed with talent, education, and the support of his music community, is well prepared for the business and artistic challenges of the music industry.