Song:  “Kingmaker

Songwriter:  Greg Spawton

Recorded at Kings Place, London on Saturday, August 15, 2015

Directed and edited by Peter Callow

Progressive Rock Band With Sweetwater Roots Continues To Make Huge Strides Across The Globe

BIG BIG TRAIN / NICK D’VIRGILIO Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

Big Big Train’s 2017 album Grimspound debuted at #1 on the UK rock charts in May 2017. It has been nominated for Album of the Year at The Progressive Music Awards this fall in London. The album was recorded at Sweetwater Studios in Fort Wayne, IN—and also in London, UK.

This is the second album Nick D’Virgilio has recorded his drums and vocals with Mark Hornsby at Sweetwater Studios in Fort Wayne, IN. Last year’s critically acclaimed Folklore brought home two awards for the band at the 2016 Progressive Music Awards. The band also took home four awards at the 2017 Classic Rock Society Awards—including Best Album for Folklore, and Best Drummer for Nick D’Virgilio.

Big Big Train is a unique concept band in today’s music industry—they are selling records, making money, winning awards—and they’ve only ever played three live shows over one weekend in 2016, which sold out immediately when the shows were announced the previous year.

Big-Big-Train-1-660“I believe quality is still important,” says drummer Nick DiVirgilio. “From the songwriting, to the hard work that goes into crafting the right arrangements, to the quality of the recordings—we are focusing on the things that some bands have left behind. This band is a family where everyone supports and respects each other’s ideas and encourages a team effort. Whether we’re recording here at Sweetwater in Fort Wayne IN or at Real World in the UK, the songs always come first and the technology is the icing on the cake.”

Big Big Train songwriter Greg Spawton says “For me, it’s primarily about quality control throughout everything we do. We start with carefully crafted songs. We record them with care and attention at great studios. We choose talented recording and mixing engineers to work with. We spend a great deal of time on artwork and presentation—to ensure our vinyl releases and CD’s look and feel beautiful—so that people will want to own them. We make sure our download music is available at high resolution, alongside the standard streaming and download options. And when we play live, we choose select venues to make the shows we play feel like special occasions.”

We talked with drummer Nick D’Virgilio about the collaboration across the Atlantic Ocean and the unique way they record Big Big Train, the songwriting and many musical styles represented in their music, and the honor of being recognized with awards.

How did you become such an integral part of Big Big Train’s sound?
Rob Aubrey is a mutual friend of the band. He was the soundman for all the Spock’s Beard tours I had done over the years, and we became great friends. Rob also has a commercial studio at his home in Southampton UK. Whenever I was on that side of the pond, Rob would hire me for various sessions. He was already good friends with the boys in Big Big Train and had been making their records for years. Back in 2007, Rob recommended me to the guys for the record The Difference Machine, and a beautiful relationship blossomed. Thanks, Rob.

Tell us about your creative process with these BBT recordings.
They are really good at sending demos with the end goal in mind, so I have something fairly solid to play to. The last few records, I have been able to cut my drums and vocals at Sweetwater Studios with Mark Hornsby at the helm. Before that, I would record with the gang at Rob’s studio. I do miss being all together when cutting the tracks, but they send me solid parts—and we are getting great sounds at Sweetwater. Mark and I have a wonderful flow in the studio, so it has all worked out.

Do they provide some direction?
The guys have notes for parts here and there. But the beautiful thing is they let me be creative and do my thing. We have a great feel and vibe together, and it’s very easy for me to get deep into the recordings. Some of the parts are very difficult to play, but the challenge is always well worth it.

Big-Big-Train-2-660Are you involved with the songwriting?
I have not been to this point, but the times they are a changin’. (Laughs) We are already planning for the future. I have demos in the queue for the next project. The amazing thing about this band is that they really think ahead—where we all want to be. I do see some songwriting input coming soon.

How do you keep the collaborative sound so cohesive?
Sometimes we Skype, but really we just keep in close contact even with me being in the States, Rikard in Sweden, and everyone else in the UK.

Are there any challenges recording this way?
Sure there are. Ideally, we would all be camped out in a studio somewhere for a month or two, and make a record. But life as it is forces us to do some things remotely for now. Maybe that will change in the future. But it has really worked out tremendously well the way we’ve been making records so far. I wouldn’t want to mess up that mojo by all being in the same room. (Laughs)

How does Mark Hornsby (and Sweetwater Studios) help this process?
Mark is the master of sound at Sweetwater, and he knows every square inch of the place. He knows how to manipulate the room to get the best possible sounds for whatever instrument is being recorded. We have an amazing selection of instruments to use—along with world class recording gear and microphones. We’ve made a ton of records over the years, and just know how to flow—whether the music we are recording is hard or easy. And Mark is a little bit of a Proghead too. (Laughs) He gets that kind of music, and always has good suggestions. He knows how to push me to get my best performance.

How often do you go to the UK/Europe to perform with them?
I am usually there a couple of times a year.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to—your Top 5 favorite albums?
Selling England by the Pound (1973) – Genesis
Led Zeppelin IV (1971) – Led Zeppelin
Absolution (2003) – Muse
The Beatles [White Album] (1968) – The Beatles
Lifetime—The Collection (1992) – Tony Williams

Nick D'Virgilio

Nick D’Virgilio

What makes BBT unique?
There are many unique things about BBT. The first is that we are proud and unapologetic about the music we make. It is progressive rock. We are not afraid of that moniker. When you get into BBT, you will find plenty of other influences and styles—folk, R&B, singer-songwriter, and many other styles. We really push the envelope, and we have the players and singers to pull it all off. At least that’s what I think.

What makes you want to be a part of this amazing band?
I love the way this band is run. From the business side of things, it has been the easiest band I have ever been in—and that includes some of the major acts I have played for. They have the pulse of the fans, and they are super organized, generous and honest. I love it.

What’s next for BBT?
Three huge shows this September in London—at Cadogan Hall, and then … more.

Big Big Train video musicians:

David Longdon – lead vocals and flute
Rachel Hall – violin and vocals
Dave Gregory – electric guitars, piano and vocals
Rikard Sjöblom – electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and vocals
Danny Manners – keyboards, double bass and vocals
Andy Poole – keyboards, acoustic guitars, mandolin and vocals
Greg Spawton – bass, bass pedals and vocals
Nick D’Virgilio – drums and vocals
Dave Desmond – trombone
Ben Godfrey – trumpet and cornet
Nick Stones – French horn
John Storey – euphonium
Mike Poysner – tuba

Where can new fans of Big Big Train get more info and stay updated?



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