It is often said that “life imitates art”, but for up-and-coming producer Inner State 81, he feels most influenced by the opposite. Tucker Nicholas, the creative mind behind Inner State 81, is intrigued by the connections between people and places, and this curiosity carries into his music. This genre-defying artist feels most inspired creating music in various public places, where he has the access to incorporate daily life into his sound.
His latest project “Growing Pains”, released in October 2020 with Myri@d, is a project that traverses the difficulties that come along with getting older and realizing one’s independence. A versatile album with smooth instrumentals and contemplative lyrics, “Growing Pains” is a relatable listen for anyone moving onto the next phase of their life.
We met with Inner State 81 to learn more about his musical journey. Get to know him below:
Firstly, I want to know where the name Inner State 81 comes from.
So Inner State 81 actually has a story and a deeper meaning behind it. I’ll start with the story. So growing up, I always loved roads. I always loved the way they connected different places and people. I was like a map nerd growing up, I was fascinated by them. One day, right after I graduated high school in 2016, my friend moved to Virginia and we all just drove down for five and half hours, straight down Interstate 81. And on that trip my friend and I were just talking and I was like, “dude, we should make music together.” At this moment I think I got over that mentality of ‘I can’t do it’, and I started to feel like I wanted to at least try music more than I had before. So that aspect of interstate connection and the conversation I had on that drive was half of why I chose my name. But the name also stemmed from the importance of having a strong ‘inner state of mind’. A concept I’ve found is super important as a musician.
Tell me more about that…
There’re so many days where you want to give up on your dream. You know, I know it sounds corny, but there’s so many days where you wake up and you’re like, why am I doing this? Does anyone care? Like, should I just pack it up and get a job at fucking Dell, you know, selling used laptops? No, you shouldn’t. You should keep going and stick to your guns, do what you want. And I wouldn’t be sitting out here in L.A. right now if I didn’t push myself. You know what I mean? Not that this is the end all be all, but getting here has always been a huge goal of mine. In summary, don’t give a fuck what the ‘grain’ is and feel free to go against it.
So, does a specific meaning for the name Inner State 81 stand out most to you now that it’s been a while since it’s conception?
One of my talents, I feel like, has always been bringing people together, connecting people just like interstates do. When I started I didn’t have a group of musicians around me. I had to be my biggest advocate, A&R agent, and manager. Connecting with the people around me, cross pollinating, and creating something new from it is probably the deepest meaning.
Tell me the story behind your most recent project, Growing Pains?
So Growing Pains is the joint project I put out with Myriad. We wrote it together at UPitt where we both went to college about the pains of growing up, learning to be independent, and trying to work with each other long distance. And then right when we found a group I moved, I did that.
Let’s take a step back and talk about when you decided you wanted to drop out of college. I read in another article that you had no experience producing at this point – how did you come to that huge realization?
I really got interested in music in high school when I deejayed events and just saw the effect it had on people’s mood. When I got to college. I was like, I can’t be here in college and not make music.
So I got to college and I’m like, what am I doing with my life? Why am I here? Am I trying to live a life in the suburbs with the family? And I just decided I didn’t want to work towards that line. I realized my point is to create and so it became an addiction. I stopped going out and wanted to just sit and work on music.
It was like I pulled up homework and then I just ended up going on Ableton and going on YouTube watching tutorials. And I would just be in the library in Starbucks making music. That’s why I made most of my music so far. I produced them in public places.
What are some of your biggest influences as a musician?
Honestly, my surroundings are a huge influence for me as I produce. I always thought Jim Carrey was cool for his crazy method acting and I think in a way I wanted to do something like that with music. I always try to produce in different spots where there’s community and action around me. I try to integrate that environment and that energy into my music. For a couple of my tracks, including Patek, I did all of my work at Starbucks. It was a great energy and I started getting free coffee after a while too.
What’s the most memorable experience you had while working on a song?
At the beginning of it all I looked on Spotify for artists and found that Japanese clothing designer Yuichi Yoshii with Mister Gentleman, added me to his store’s playlist. I Googled his name and it turned out he’s a really talented fashion designer and just a cool ass person.
We started talking and he sent me a gift with clothing from his collection. I felt like I was walking on the moon. The next day after I got the jacket, I threw it on, walked to Starbucks, skipped all my classes, and sampled a traditional Japanese track for the chorus for Shabuya.
Tell me more about your decision to drop out… did you know you were going to follow through with that the second you decided you wanted to do music?
To be perfectly honest, I wanted to drop out before I ever got to college. I always idolized people that dropped out and were successful. It’s the ultimate ‘stick it to ya’ to people who believe in a very linear traditional outlook on life, which I personally disagree with very heavily. So it was kind of my goal to work up to a point where I could drop out since day one.
But you didn’t drop out until after studying abroad in London, why’s that?
I knew I needed to get to a bigger city with a bigger scene, so I used Pitt and their business school study abroad program to help set me up in London at a boutique record label that mostly worked with Brit-pop stars.
My boss DJ Paul Tunkin gave me tips on everything in the business and would sometimes even let me open up for some of his artists at these British clubs which was just overall a great experience.
What’s the biggest takeaway you think you had from the experience there?
I would say the biggest takeaway for me was awareness, because I definitely didn’t know of all the other music people were making and the different scenes that existed out there. I definitely realized life and music is bigger than what I was used to in my own town in Pennsylvania. To this day I was to travel the world and hear all these influences, styles, and experience cultures..
So what happened when you got back?
So a lot changed when I got back. I remember one day I went to my professor in my communications class and was like, hey, man, I can’t give this presentation because I have a meeting with a record label in New York tomorrow and need to leave now. And he was like, I want to see the email. I don’t believe it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it because my manager did at the time. When I told him that he said, “I’ll eat my hat if you have a meeting with a record label”.
I realized the lack of support I felt through college from my professors was just weighing me down. So, I decided to drop out.
So let’s just finish off, like the story of you being an artist and the whole journey in general… How does it feel now being in L.A.?
Yeah, life is different, it’s crazy being surrounded by so much sheer talent. There have been so many times where I’m just blown away and sort of fangirl over some of the music being made, but then I just remember I’m part of this community now and I’m just as valid as everyone else. Also the weather has been doing wonders for my mental health.
What does an average day look like for you now?
I take six mile walks every morning around 7am to the beach and back, which is something I would have never done in the past, by the way. Everyone from home is probably reading this saying, that’s not the Tucker I know haha. When I get home I usually spend some time working on a new digital media startup I’m working on called Inner State Media. I’m not going to wait around for some label to offer me a jhanki deal where they own a higher percentage of my art than I do, so I have to do something about it myself. I know so many talented people in business, finance, and tech, so we’re making it happen.
Can you tell us more about this new venture?
I can’t say too much yet, but I will say keep on the lookout for the ISM launch page, a precursor to the website that’s going to be coming soon, that’ll have some cool features on there. We’re making a really interactive community.
Lastly, what are your main goals over the next five years? I know it’s a long period of time, but I feel like you have some big goals.
So honestly my main goal is just to keep connecting with people and make art that speaks to everyone. I don’t like monetary goals either, but I would love to pay off my college debt, pay off any of my family members, and set up retirement funds for both my parents.
Do you have anything that you would want to say to your followers or people who don’t know, you just have a say about life, just what you would say? Hi, my name is Tucker Nicholas. I make music under the name Inner State 81. Thank you for listening and have a listen to check it out. We got a lot of cool stuff on the way and we’re all grateful for every day. Thank you. You make this possible.
Is there anything we should be on the lookout music-wise?
I have like two or three projects in the works right now. One of them is going to be a dance project. Another one is a follow up project with Myri@d. And then the other one I can’t really talk about yet, but it’s really exciting. So stay tuned, because there’s going to be a very consistent flow of releases in 2021. It’s going to be very eclectic and that’s what we’re here to do, be eclectic.
Make sure to listen to Inner State 81’s tracks below and follow him on social media for updates!