Battle of the Bands winner Nick Barilla reflects on his life-altering moments | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Battle of the Bands winner Nick Barilla reflects on his life-altering moments

Each moment, unplanned or not, served an intentional higher purpose in his musical grand scheme.


Nick Barilla inside Millvale’s Attic Record Store - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
  • CP photo: Jared Wickerham
  • Nick Barilla inside Millvale’s Attic Record Store

For Nick Barilla, City Paper's Face The Music: Battle of the Bands 2018 winner, everything in his journey aligned to bring him to where is today. Each moment, unplanned or not, served a purpose in his grand scheme. And he credits it all his faith in God. 

With his debut release Moments on the horizon, Barilla and CP reflect on the standout events that changed Nick Barilla the person into Nick Barilla the musician. 

Moment No. 1: As a student at Taylor Allderdice High School, Barilla and Mac Miller were in the same grade. The late hip-hop star signed with Rostrum Records at 17 and released his K.I.D.S. mixtape in 2010, the same year Barilla and Miller graduated. 

“[Miller] always pushed me because I knew that he did it from [the place] I grew up in Point Breeze,” says Barilla. “You just kind of wait for your moment too.”

Moment No. 2: After graduation, Barilla attended California University of Pennsylvania. But school was an adjustment. He went from a popular high school senior to a lonely freshman. 

“I didn’t really have many friends in college,” says Barilla. “So I turned to music. I just went to the piano hall like every night for four or five days a week.”

Once he taught himself to play piano at 19, Barilla started to write songs. Soon, he found enough courage to start performing at open mic nights on campus. To further immerse himself in the music community at Cal U, Barilla also started attending concerts and shows. Seeing touring musicians come to the school gave him a tangible goal. That could be him performing on stage. 

Moment No. 3: Barilla followed his inspiration and started getting booked at colleges around the country. He was the one on stage now, commanding the room’s attention. In part, it was also a way to give back.

“I always wanted to inspire students,” says Barilla. “Like, what seeing those performances did for me. There have been moments, like when I showed up to my first or second college that I ever played at, there was a moment where I was in the hotel room, I had food, and everything was given to me, and I felt very … like I earned it.”

Moment no. 4: Still touring colleges, Barilla added opening for Howie Day to his resume. Although Day is best known for his 2003 song “Collide,” he maintains a solid fan base that fills venues, which allowed Barilla to perform in front of new faces.  

“Last year when I was in Chicago with Howie Day, people gave me this full meal at the venue, and I played in front of all these people,” says Barilla. “Like life for me and my music career have been about those moments, just breathing them in and just feeling them.”

Moment No. 5: Donnie Gearhart, Barilla’s guitarist, told Barilla about the Face The Music: Battle of the Bands competition. Barilla was hesitant; he didn’t believe he could drum up enough support on social media to even be in the running. During the first round of the contest, CP readers had the opportunity to vote for their favorite acts. There were over 35 bands and artists hoping for the chance to perform in the battle. 

“Then social media erupted, and we got into the top five. I was shocked. There were some of my friends’ bands from Pittsburgh that were in the preliminary voting that didn’t make it to the top five, and these were bands that I’ve been coming up with and respecting for years,” he says. “I felt really honored to be carried there by my fans, friends, and family.”

Moment No. 6: The Nick Barilla Band was crowned the first-place winner. The grand prize included $2,000 cash, studio time at Red Caiman Studios, 75 band shirts, an opening set at a Drusky Entertainment event, and an ads package valued at $1,500.

Barilla says the money will help finalize his album Moments. Already released from the album is the single “Faith,” a song about nostalgia. 

“I’m blessed,” says Barilla. “Every time I worry, God provides for me. You just stay the course and keep doing your thing, and you just wait for those moments.”


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