Having been inoculated in rock and roll since picking up the instrument at the age of seven, 20-year-old guitarist Nick Lisanti has come a long way. The shredding six-stringer for Canadian rock band Sticks N’ Stones has quickly made a name for himself, impressing fans and the likes of Alice Cooper's Ryan Roxie and Megadeth's Kiko Loureiro. Those in the know will recall the bombast of the Sticks N’ Stones. debut EP Rev it Up, and the word is that more is to come soon.
I recently talked with Nick Lisanti to dive into his origins in music, his love for Gibson guitars, and what’s ahead.
Andrew Daly: What first inspired you to pick up the guitar?
Nick Lisanti: My grandfather played guitar and sang in a calypso/soca band for years, and I watched him play his guitar during multiple family get-togethers. When we would visit, he would play different genres of music for me from some of his favorite musicians, [like] Chicago, Santana, Tina Turner, and more.
In 2008, my parents, who also have a love of many genres of music (my mother played piano and French horn), bought my brother and me the Rock Band videogame [that came] with the guitar and drums. This videogame confirmed my interest in the guitar, so I started guitar lessons in September 2009 at the age of seven and haven't stopped playing since.
AD: Can you recall your first guitar, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?
NL: My first guitar was a black Epiphone SG which I received from my parents on my seventh birthday. I do still have it! It is hanging in my music studio, and it is signed by guitarist Jeremy Widerman from the band Monster Truck.
AD: What was the first riff and the first solo you learned?
NL: The first riff I learned was Green Day's "Brain Stew" during guitar lessons at my local music school. The first solo I learned was the classic Tony Iommi solo from Black Sabbath's "Paranoid." I struggled for a long time to get it down, but with the help of my instructor, YouTube videos, and a lot of practice, I was able to play it at [my school’s] annual recital. I was also asked to sing, which is what piqued my interest in singing as well.
AD: What led you to progress to where you are today?
I started guitar lessons at the age of seven and, at the age of nine, began lessons with Jim Book at Musician's Choice/Drummer's Choice In Brampton, Ontario [no longer in business – Ed.]. Jim helped me establish the fundamentals, along with learning proper technique and form. He [has] had a huge influence on my playing and remains one of the top guitarists I have had the pleasure of knowing. In 2020, COVID restrictions halted in-person lessons, so I continued to learn online, as many musicians did. I started online sessions with Bandwagon, an online industry mentoring initiative created by Leon Harrison of The Lazys.
Leon, along with John Harvey of Monster Truck, helped my band with the writing of Sticks N' Stones' first EP, and it was here I met guitarist Ryan Roxie of Alice Cooper. After Bandwagon, Ryan and I became friends, and his wealth of knowledge and industry experience was invaluable. From playing tips to stage presence, pre/post performance etiquette, marketing, promotion, and more, he has been extremely supportive of my musical journey.
In 2022, I was fortunate to join a mentorship program with guitarist/producer/composer Kiko Loureiro of Megadeth and Angra. Kiko is a phenomenal musician, and his experience and support have helped with my song structure, riffs, and solo compositions, bringing out a heavier sound and developing my natural love of hard rock and metal.
AD: Tell me about the original music you're working on, your songwriting approach, and how that continues to evolve.
NL: In 2021, with the assistance of Bandwagon [and people including] Leon Harrison (The Lazys), Jon Harvey (Monster Truck), Dave Langguth, (Nelly Furtado), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Vic Branco, (owner of Iguana Studioa), Thiago Diatroptoff (engineer at Iguana), Harry Hess (mastering), Iguana Studios, and the OSESP String Quartet, Sticks N' Stones recorded and released our first five-song EP. In 2022, we released a cover, with Ryan Roxie, of his song "Candy Lovin."
During the pandemic we had to be resourceful, so we built our own music studio, and I invested time into learning how to record, mix, and master music. To further develop, my brother Robert Lisanti (the drummer in Sticks N' Stones), and I collaborated with local and international artists on several covers, where I produced and mixed all of the tracks. Among the people who participated were Frankie Clarke (Frankie and the Studs), Blake Allard and Greg Braccio (Joyous Wolf), Bella Perron (Plush), Giuliana Amaral (BAND, Inc.), Dan Stone (Italian cover band Slash Conspiracy), Andy Colonico (Revive the Rose), Christian Dotto (One in the Chamber), Brandon Gregory (Drop Top Alibi), Abby K, Nathan Carr, and Luke Vasilakos, the bassist for Sticks N’ Stones and Pale Mare. I was able to apply the experience I gained from this to the production and demo recording of the new material we’ve written. I will continue to utilize this skill set and the studio for future projects.
My songwriting approach can deviate sometimes, but generally, it starts with putting together a couple of riffs and a melody. Once I have them recorded, I send them to my brother Robert, and we continue developing the song together. In 2023, we are currently working in Nashville with Grammy-nominated producer Johnny Karkazis. I look forward to releasing some of the new music my brother and I have written and worked on with Johnny in the near future. Our new music has been influenced by our love of metal and hard rock, and we have started developing our sound, which is a mix of both genres.
AD: Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your style?
NL: The guitarists that most influenced my sound on the guitar would have to be Eddie Van Halen, Slash, and, more recently, Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge) and Joe Duplantier (Gojira). I grew up a big fan of Guns N' Roses, Metallica, and Van Halen, so Eddie Van Halen, Kirk Hammett, and Slash were my first influences, and I tried for a long time to be able to play as well as them.
In my adulthood, I became a fan of Phil X, Kiko Loureiro, and Ryan Roxie's guitar playing, and have begun to really take to heavy metal music. Mark Tremonti has been a big influence on my riff writing and lead playing, especially as I learned how to play legato licks by covering Alter Bridge songs. Joe Duplantier has also been influential on my rhythm guitar playing and songwriting, as I love his super-heavy riffs.
Courtesy of Nick Lisanti/Naty Roc.
AD: What recordings that you've done so far mean the most to you, and why?
NL: The song that means the most to me is "Silence Another Day," as it's a reflection of what I saw happening to people during the COVID-19 pandemic. So many lives were impacted by loss, either of family members or their livelihood. There was a major impact on the music and entertainment industry, and it went on for so long that there didn't seem to be a way to ever recover.
I was able to hone that fear and sadness into that song, and I received a lot of positive feedback, with many people saying, "It was relatable," as well as complimenting [me on] the use of [a] string quartet [on the song]. The lesson that I learned from writing and recording that song is [that] the more meaning a song has, the more it will resonate with listeners. As well, I learned [that] adding different instrumental sounds, like the string quartet, adds impact and improves the quality of the song.
AD: How do you balance the need to craft quality songs with the desire to shred?
NL: Write music that is guitar-based! In the style of music I play, I am genuinely able to include a lot of solos and shredding. I do try not to overdo it in order to only do what is needed for a better-quality song.
AD: What guitars, pedals, and amps do you use, and why?
NL: I love Gibson guitars; it is the reason I became a Gibson artist. I own a few of them and use my Les Pauls the most for live performances and recordings in the studio. In addition to Gibson, I also play an ESP [and an] Ibanez, and recently acquired a superstrat custom-made by Argentinian luthiers Pardo Guitars.
My go-to amps are a Revv Generator 100P, a Friedman BE 100 Deluxe, and a Marshall “plexi.” My pedalboard is constantly changing depending on the show or song, but generally, I don't use many effects. My string preference is for S.I.T. strings gauged 11-52, and I use 1.14 gauge InTune guitar picks. The microphones I use for recordings and singing are [by] sE Electronics.
AD: What are your most immediate goals, and how do you plan to make them a reality?
NL: My most immediate goal is to finish up our new EP in hopes of catching the eye of a record label. My other is to promote our songs by playing more live shows in Canada and the US, as well as participate in a few festivals and tours with other acts. From there, I plan to continue to grow my band and my brand as I [also] work towards completing my HBSc [degree] from the University of Toronto and getting my second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.
Header image courtesy of Nick Lisanti.