Episode 57 - NeekAttack: Real Success Is Changing Lives For The Better

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Nicco Catalano aka “NeekAttack” is an audio engineer who mixes music. He grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia and it was when he was playing the videogame Guitar Hero which incorporates musical instruments that he realized he wanted to be part of a band.

He bought a guitar, played in a band for almost three years while in high school and was initially inspired to learn how to mix as they wanted to record their music and be able to hand out demos to people. Slowly other local bands started reaching out to have their music mixed and he kept running with it.

He attended West Virginia University and realized there was a huge concentration of people focusing on rapping and so he capitalized on the opportunity. By the time he graduated with a finance major a full semester early he was the only studio in Morgantown, WV and everyone was coming to him. Although nobody might’ve ever expected for there to be such a high demand for the service, Nicco was there to take care of all the aspiring artists. It was this moment that he began to focus all of his time into the craft and really began to “paint a picture” with what he was learning. He was reading books, watching YouTube videos and ultimately trying to package his clients music into something you would hear on the radio.

In April of 2017 he moved to Los Angeles for more opportunities and has began testing other creative outlets aside from the engineering such as songwriting, video directing and helping his friends create meaningful and positive content one of which hit 3 million views on YouTube within three days.

In this episode Nicco discusses the best way to learn is by doing, paying it forward to the people who support you, it’s okay not knowing what our passions are but we need to be willing to take a chance, people skills are necessary for anything that you do in life, importance of being genuine & honest with people without being disrespectful, not needing anyone's approval to try something new, real success is when you’re able to change a bunch of lives for the better and having a vision that has true value and is not based around ego or material items.

One of the main takeaways from this episode is recognizing that real success comes from changing lives for the better. Towards the end of the podcast Nicco elaborates on how we need to have a clear vision that cannot be about our ego or material items that we want to have. Figuring out that core value of why we’re doing what we’re doing is important and we need to be assure of it.  Nicco didn’t start mixing music because he thought he could be rich from it, he gave it a shot since his band needed to record their music and he kept running with it because he naturally wanted to learn more. Not only is he helping artists along their journey of mastering their craft but music is powerful and he's directly affecting anyone that hears the songs that he mixes.

Podcast Outline (Time Markers For Audio Version)

  • Who is Nicco Catalano today?
    • 22 years young audio engineer mixing for a bunch of different artists and is dabbling in a couple other creative ventures as well

  • Born & raised in Wheeling, West Virginia (3:07)

    • Hour from Pittsburgh, PA Hour and half from Columbus, OH

    • Was inspired to be in a band from playing guitar hero, bought himself a guitar and then was in a band for 2-3 years in high school

    • Started mixing music for his band and other locals ones in the area

  • Went on to attend West Virginia University  (6:14)

    • No demand for bands to have their music mixed but there was for local rappers. Previous hip-hop artist Huey Mack had paved the way.

    • Three years down the line and Nicco was the only studio in Morgantown, WV

    • Paying it forward and passing along the torch to an aspiring engineer when Nicco moved to LA

  • The work ethic stems from the appreciation Nicco has for his parents (13:33)

    • He had very little hardship growing up and they always made sure to keep his head straight

    • Huge goal in his life is to make his parents happy but also what they had taught him has paid off

  • Putting yourself in a room by yourself for 5 minutes and have a conversation with yourself (16:34)

    • Bring things to light that you never wanted to bring to light. You bring it to light, acknowledge it and move on. Meditation has been a huge help with recognizing this.  

    • It’s okay if we don’t know what are passion is but we need to be willing to take a chance

  • Was dead set on becoming a professional hockey player at one point in his life (20:54)

    • Was at one point ranked 13th in the world, 7th in the US for his 1995 age bracket

    • Stopped playing after his freshmen year of high school when he didn’t see himself going far within the sport. Pivoted to being in a band and focusing on music.

  • The passion never came naturally. Nicco would hear songs on the radio and question why his didn’t sound like what he was listening to (25:14)

    • He would be intrigued and would spends hours fine tuning his craft and researching how to get better

    • Finished school a semester early and used the following semester to learn from YouTube videos, books and was able to directly apply it through his current clients

    • Nicco can “paint” his pictures with the right colors but now it is more so about “painting” it with the right shade

  • Biggest misconception people have about being an audio engineer is that he makes beats (32:34)

    • Majority of people don’t understand or care to but artists have a high appreciation for who’re good at it

  • Day to day schedule of NeekAttack (42:29)

    • Gets up early, watches videos on mixing, goes to the gym. Fortunate enough to live on his own terms as he is his own boss

    • Started to get into other creative ventures (song writing, directing videos, helping his friend create content etc)

  • People skills are necessary not just in audio engineering but in life (48:46)

    • Nicco has to be able to tell if the client cares to hear his opinion about the record.

    • Some artists are recording very personal records about losing family members or struggles they’ve gone through in their life

  • Having worked with a wide range of artists they continue to come back to Neek for his service

    • Tries to build genuine relationships with his artists and gives them as much value as possible

    • He knows his craft well enough they he can make minor changes quickly and doesn’t get pressed about money

  • At first thinking he needed people’s approval but instead switched his thinking is doing what he feels is right (55:05)

    • Wants to get to a position where he is changing other people’s lives

    • Has a full-time studio and has other people running it, content creation studio where people can make good content for the world etc

  • Wanting to take over the world and knowing his father gave up on his dreams to make sure Nicco could chase his is what gets him out of bed every morning (57:24)

    • Father spent 20+ years working in a pizzeria/restaurant and mother worked her entire life both of which sacrificed to make a life for Nicco that was very comfortable  

    • Grateful that he can do whatever he wants any day of the week

  • Nicco measures his own success from getting approvals from people within the industry (63:04)

    • Real success is when you can change a ton of lives for the better

  • You have to have a vision that is not based on your ego or material items (63:24)

    • Figure out that core value of the vision and make that happen before anything

    • Keeping your eyes on the real prize which is the value you bring to the world

  • Ask Bobbbaaaay 1 Question (66:49)

    • Anyone that is interested in starting podcast, what are the first steps they should take?

  • To be successful and make a life at enginnering it’s much more than just mastering the craft (73:04)

    • Learning time management, keep up with your phone, reach out to people, do work for free just to get practice and build clients

    • If Neeks believes in an artist he’ll reach out and bring as much value as he can for free just to be part of the journey with them  

  • Picture frame on the wall 10 years from now, what/who do we see? (74:34)

    • Older brother, an adorable dog, his homie John Wolf, his family and close friends

  • Where to find Nicco on social media

    • Twitter/Instagram: @NeekAttack

    • Website: NeekAttack.com

  • 2-3 pieces of advice for someone trying to find their passion/purpose (77:34)

    • Try anything that sparks any amount of interest for you and see where it takes you

    • Get good at something and make it valuable to other people. Best way to do that is find a way that is different than other people

    • The passion doesn’t just fall out of the sky so be open to what comes in front of you

    • If you change your thinking and how you think about life, tell yourself you deserve everything in the world then the world will give it to you