Próxima Parada is Spanish/Portugese for “next stop,” certainly appropriate for this San Luis Obispo-based band that has been exploding on social media, thanks to a single 13-second TikTok video last December. Now fans and industry observers are wondering what’s next for this group, whose music is soulful and uplifting. After slugging it out in the music trenches for more than a decade, lead singer and co-founder Nick Larson still considers himself a beginner, just trying to pay his rent. Próxima Parada recently finished a new album with a grueling national tour to follow. Next stop? Larson, 33, ponders the band’s future.
David Congalton: Let’s start with Thursday night at Libretto in Paso Robles. What’s happening?
Nick Larson: It’s a really beautiful, intimate venue with a capacity of about 62, so I’ll be doing a set at 6:30 and a second set at 8:30. At Libretto, you’ll find the most beautiful piano, the best piano, I’ll ever play. That’s what hooked me into playing there. I’m just blown away by this piano.
DC: That must be some piano! So why are you going solo for this show?
NL: Thursday night is a one-time thing. First and probably last. I wanted to play the songs I write in the most raw form I write them in. At the piano, by myself. We’ve been playing in the county for 10 years and I thought it would be cool to show listeners that side of our music.
DC: Próxima Parada is gearing up for a new national tour starting in April, right?
NL: The whole dang country. It’s going to be a lot of time on our butts in the van.
DC: That must be both exciting and draining. How do you prepare to go on the road?
NL: I get intimidated. It’s like how do you prepare for the cold water when you’re going into the ocean? You can try to prepare for it, but until you actually touch it, and be like “I can make peace with what’s happening,” then I can accept it. Touring can be so intimidating. We can be in Santa Barbara and we’ll start driving that night to Boston, because we only have four days to make it. It’s pretty intense, but eventually I get comfortable.
DC: You’ve been doing music for more than 10 years. How do you feel at this stage of your career?
NL: Honestly, I feel like, you know, we started this band in 2012 and I feel like it’s the beginning, which is a wild feeling. You think 10 years into a career, “OK, I’m a veteran.” I feel like I’m still a beginner and it’s a great feeling. It motivates me.
DC: But now everything seems to be changing for Próxima Parada because of a single TikTok video. What happened?
NL: The story goes that I came home from dinner. It was December 9. I have a text message from one of our “band mothers” in Louisiana. “TikTok video.” I’m not active on that, but there’s a music curator named Matt Firestine and he’s basically promoting one of our songs. He wrote, “Here’s a song you should check out,” and he plays a snippet of “Musta Been a Ghost.” The whole clip is 13 seconds long. It’s really quick. I’m looking at this video and I’m thinking, “That’s cool. That’s really nice of him,” and I look to see that it’s got millions of views already. That’s really crazy and it just kept picking up steam on TikTok and now it has more than 21 million views. It’s just a guy saying “Hey, check out this song” and people went and started playing the song on Apple and Spotify and our numbers just skyrocketed overnight. We went from 360,000 hits on Spotify before the video to more than 1.3 million in one month, more than 11 million hits on Spotify overall.
DC: Just because of one guy. I hope he gets free tickets now.
NL: For life! Seriously. We’ve been in touch a few times and it turns out that our video clip is the most popular one he’s posted, so it’s been mutually beneficial.
DC: It’s also a reminder how one person can make a difference in someone’s career.
NL: Yeah. This is a lesson in how powerful advocacy can be. One of my jobs is to promote our music to people and so I try to think of creative ways to get our music in front of people. It’s really challenging. It’s not enough to create the music. You have to make sure that people know that you exist and I’ve had to be shameless about that. It’s really taxing. I’ve found that no matter how hard I work, someone advocating, there’s something magical about that. If someone you respect says, “Hey, check out that guy’s music,” you are much more likely to pay attention.
DC: So how have things changed for Próxima Parada since that video was posted?
NL: Since December, we’ve considered potentially signing this new record deal that would give us more support. More resources. Bigger team. And we’re also looking at bringing on a manager. We’ve always managed ourselves these 10 years. We’ve done everything, so the prospect of increasing our team size, you know, we’re just trying to create longevity right now. We’re still working harder, but now we have more opportunity, maybe bigger venues. We’ve gotten some festivals that I don’t think we would have gotten before. It’s really crazy to be thinking about playing venues that we could only dream about before.
DC: What do you know about your fan base?
NL: I’m always surprised at shows that the demographic is always wide. We have a text service where people can text our band and they put their age when they write. I see people from 13 to people in their 50s. And the whole TikTok thing absolutely brought us new fans, a really younger demographic. Before the video, most of our fans were roughly our age. Now we’re hearing from teenagers who are saying “This has helped me, like, experience things.” I don’t remember feeling anything as a teenager, so they’re way ahead of me and I’m happy for them.
DC: You probably cringe when local music critics call you “a blue-eyed soul” band.
NL: (laughing) I do cringe at that. I don’t have blue eyes.
DC: So how would you describe your music?
NL: I would say our music is soulful. It’s uplifting. You can call it “indie-soul,” I guess, if you wanted to use one term. But there’s not a great word for it. It’s a lot of things. You have to listen to the songs.
DC: How have you endured these last ten years as a beginner? Did you ever want to give up?
NL: That’s a great question. It would be so much easier to go back to kinesiology or teaching. A lot more money. Paying rent every month is stressful right now. It’s so funny. I could be so comfortable, but there’s something about it. It’s like, I feel like an ant that crawls, that goes over to get a little crumb and brings it back to the ant hill and goes and gets another crumb. I don’t think the ant is questioning what it is doing. The ant is just doing its job and I think that’s me. I’m just a little ant, getting my little crumb, bringing it back, and I feel that I can just keep my head down and stay focused on this.
DC: Why does the band remain in San Luis Obispo? You’ve been encouraged to relocate elsewhere. Why not?
NL: San Luis Obispo is home. I feel like this is a great place to create from. With the hustle and bustle of tour, I always looking forward to coming home to San Luis Obispo.
Editor’s Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.