Danielle Nicole-7 Questions
Even when she was a little girl, Danielle Nicole would put on shows for her family, singing and dancing to everything from the Everly Brothers to the B-52s. By 14, she was performing at open mics, and by 16, leading her father’s band. Picking up the bass somewhere along the way, she started her own blues band, Fresh Brew, before settling into another one, Trampled Under Foot, with brothers Nick and Kris.
After almost a decade and a half of success, the band parted ways and Nicole embarked on a solo career. The debut album, Wolf Den, was released in September 2015 to warm reception, earning particular praise for her bass playing. In 2016, she and her backing band continue to tour across the United States.
Your family seems to have been a big influence on your musical tastes—do you think you would’ve ended up at the blues no matter where you started from?
Danielle Nicole: I do. The blues is a natural starting point for a lot of musicians. It’s where America music really came from and you have to go to the beginning to really understand where you are.
You were part of your family band, Trampled Under Foot, for about 15 years. What were your reasons for going solo?
DN: When my brother Kris decided to leave the band in January of 2014, I knew that TuF would be put to bed, and it was time for me to go on my own. Kris encouraged it and I can’t thank him enough for that support.
What is it about the bass that drew you to pick it up?
DN: Originally it was to keep TuF a family trio act. I started taking lessons and really getting familiar with the songs I was doing and started playing out three months later—probably about three months too early.
How’s the balance between supporting your band rhythmically with the bass and leading with vocals?
DN: I love it. I get to be in the foundation and have the discipline. At the same time, I have the artistic freedom to improve vocally. It’s a lot of responsibility but I love the challenge.
The blues is a natural starting point for a lot of musicians. It’s where America music really came from and you have to go to the beginning to really understand where you are.
Compared to more traditional blues, your solo debut record Wolf Den is pretty heavy on the lyrics. Does storytelling play a big part in your music?
DN: I really focused a lot more on the stories I wanted to tell. Most of my songs are about relationships, but I’ve been reaching out to tell them from different perspectives. I like for the songs to have closure to them but sometimes in life you don’t get to have that. The hero doesn’t always win. You aren’t always the hero.
Along with a blues feeling, I hear a very funky, Motown vibe from Wolf Den. Were there any direct influences when recording the album?
DN: I’ve always loved the groove of a song. Motown always grooves and drives you to feel something. The funk and groove really helped me to take on playing bass and fall in love with the instrument itself.
Right now you’re touring across the States, everywhere from bars to festivals. How does your act change with the venue, and do you prefer one stage over the other?
DN: Each venue has its own vibe, and I really love each individual setting. It’s really the crowd that’s different and what I gauge my music on for the evening on usually. I have set lists but I don’t believe in telling the crowd how to feel through my music. I let them tell me how they’re feeling and we work together to have the great experience.