Nightly’s Jonathan Capeci talks debut album, moving to Nashville, gratitude

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Nightly is used to being on the road. After finishing a nearly sold-out headline tour earlier this year, the alternative pop band anticipated an even bigger tour while working on its debut album Night, Love You. The trio, composed of singer Jonathan Capeci, guitarist Joey Beretta and drummer Nicholas Sainato, booked a studio in March for recording — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It was a lot of what felt like Groundhog’s Day, where you’re kind of just doing the same thing every day,” Capeci said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “As a crew, we weren’t going anywhere or doing anything except for meeting up to work on music.” 

Deciding to produce its first full-length album instead of another EP, Nightly produced nearly all of the debut’s tracks in Beretta’s basement in Nashville.

Capeci, who often finds songwriting inspiration from traveling, admitted that quarantine limited his imagination at first.

“It was just sort of learning how to push through that and find inspiration in other things,” he said. “My songwriting had to draw from other inspiration than just being able to have the luxury of going places, hanging with friends, things like that. Sort of makes you dig deeper.”

While Nightly has always boldly explored feeling brokenhearted in its music, the band’s latest record also focuses on personal change and growing up. This theme is most evident in the acoustic song “Older,” which was the last single Nightly released before dropping the album. Capeci shared that the idea for the song gradually developed in the back of his mind over the course of a few weeks, and then after writing the existential interlude “Turnpike,” he spent a weekend writing pages of lines that evolved into “Older.”

“I was just trying to tell this story of wondering if I had made different choices and stayed in college and stayed in my hometown,” Capeci said. “I’m so grateful for what I do, and I honestly wouldn’t trade it, but there are definitely little moments where I’m like, ‘I miss my family who lives 13 hours away,’ and I’m super close with all them, but that’s just how it is.”

Capeci grew up in Philadelphia as one of four children, and while he’s now a guitarist, his parents originally wanted him and his siblings to take piano for a year. 

“I just remember learning piano and learning all these classical pieces, and just like hating it and wanting to play guitar,” he said.

Eventually convincing his parents to let him buy a guitar, Capeci played in bands throughout high school with Beretta. After dropping out of college to pursue music, the two relocated to Nashville.

“Nashville, when we visited, it was just really eye-opening to see. You drive and it just has a bit of magic to it,” Capeci said. “You’re driving by all these places and it’s like, ‘There’s a record label building, here’s a publishing house,’ and like, ‘Oh yeah, people gather together in these small little rooms every single day and their only job is to write songs.’ And you’re like, ‘How can someone’s job be to write songs?’ ”

Joining with Sainato to form Nightly around 2016, the trio worked to turn dreams into reality. The band released its first EP Honest soon after forming, and with the punchy single “XO” gaining over two million streams within a few weeks, Nightly gained a following and opened for acts including Kesha, The All-American Rejects, Zella Day and NF. Most recently, Nightly embarked on its own headline tour, which Capeci described as “surreal.”

“We had just never seen that kind of fan turnout, and it was just a whole other feeling,” Capeci said. “When you’re opening up, it’s like you’re trying to win people every night, which is also fun, but … it’s just a different feeling when you walk onstage and people are singing every single word. And that was really, like, the first time we experienced that on such a big scale for us.”

While Nightly is currently unable to tour, looking forward to when life is “back to a normal-ish state,” the band livestreamed a spirited performance from Nashville last weekend to celebrate its debut. 

“I think we’ll all be a lot more appreciative of getting to do things like play shows,” Capeci said. “For me, on a personal note, it’s just about learning about not taking anything for granted.”

Though the future is uncertain right now, Capeci feels that the sincerity of Nightly’s latest album is a sign of positive things to come for the band.

“We couldn’t have written these songs like a year ago because of the growth that we’ve made as a band,” Capeci said. “I think an amazing goal would be to have the same kind of growth between now and next year — just on a personal level, on a writing level, on a touring level, all of it.”

Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].