Nick Barilla returns to Cal U, Underground


Rachael McKriger

Nick Barilla performs at Underground Cafe on Oct. 12.

Rachael Kriger, Editor In Chief

Nick Barilla has always loved music.

Whenever he came to California University of Pennsylvania, he wanted an outlet to be able to showcase his love for music. A pianist, guitarist, singer and songwriter, Barilla discovered the Underground Café.

Commonly just known as Underground, the club operates every Thursday evening with open mic nights and guest performances.

Barilla was the guest performer last Thursday, coming back to his original stomping grounds.

Barilla, who had his first Underground performance in the spring 2011 semester, graduated from Cal U in the fall of 2014 with a major in communication studies and a minor in commercial music technology.

He described playing at Underground a “full-circle moment.”

“When I was a freshman at Cal U in 2010, the transition from high school to college was kind of overwhelming for me,” Barilla said. “I had trouble fitting in at first, and as a result I turned to music. I put a lot of hours in during many week nights in Gallagher Hall, teaching myself how to play the piano.”

Barilla mentioned that during his first Underground performance he was nervous to sing in front of people initially, but “when some of my friends made me sing for them, they encouraged me to sing at Underground.”

In his sophomore year at Cal U, Barilla won the Best Songwriter Award during Songwriter Night at Underground.

After seeing musicians brought in by Underground Café and the Student Activities Board, Barilla said he found his path that he wanted to follow.

And he is.

Doing music full-time now, Barilla signed a contract last year with a college booking agency. He performs across colleges and universities all across the country.

He said that one of his most memorable moments at a college was going to Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y.

“I think it was like the third school I had ever performed at, and a student wanted to sing one of my original songs with me, ‘Cupid Theory’, and she knew it word for word!” Barilla exclaimed.

Another memorable experience, but also a dangerous one, was when Barilla toured through Indianapolis this past spring during a tornado warning.

“That saw me trying to fit a mattress in my hotel bathroom for protection,” Barilla said. “The mattress was bigger than the bathroom so it didn’t fit! Needless to say I survived, and got no sleep that night.”

Barilla is currently working on an acoustic record that will include some of his previously released recordings.

“I have also written a lot of new material, and am planning on releasing a new record next year,” Barilla said. “I just got my own website — — and I am continuously pitching my original music to different media companies.”

In addition, in September, Barilla started a fundraiser for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America and is donating all of the proceeds of his wristband sales to the program. Details are on the website.

While he tours across the country, Barilla still fondly keeps Cal U at the top of his list.

“There are so many amazing educators, programs and organizations at this university that I have gained so much knowledge from,” Barilla said. “I am proud to be an alumni!”

As for his advice to current college students, it’s simple: Do what you love.

“Do not let a piece of paper define who you are as a person,” Barilla said. “I encourage everyone to go after their passion whether you have a degree, or have yet to declare a major. Last year, I quit my full-time job to pursue a career in the music industry and I am blessed to be able to say that my passion has turned into my career!”