Thursday marks the kickoff for the 2014 season of Nashville Dancin' the annual concert series held on Nashville's Riverfront Park, and the night promises some interesting talent. The Kernal & His New Strangers and Los Colognes will be on the bill, as will headliner Houndmouth. Also on the stage will be Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. The California native told Billboard that she and her band are particular stoked about coming to Music City.
"We always look forward to coming to Nashville." The band's sound ranges from the 80s vibe of "Ravenous" to the Americana-ish swamp rock of "Little Too Late," both of which can be found on the band's self-titled album. Though some reviewers have cited a California sound in their music, Bluhm says she doesn't necessarily agree with that description.
"I don't really know if my upbringing in California was any different than someone who grew up in New York, for example. I listened to a lot of the radio. At the time, it was a lot of pop music. I had the influence of my dad, who listened to a lot of jazz and country, and my mom listened to Motown. My brother was a huge Grateful Dead fan, so I had a lot of different angles of music coming at me growing up."
You can hear all those influences on their album – as well as in their live show. She says the days of being influenced by one specific genre faded with the advent of MTV. "Unless you were taken to a commune and made to think it was the 1950s where you might have only heard one kind of music. I think everyone listened to a lot of different sounds.
The band displays plenty of swagger when they perform live, and Bluhm says that the more she has played the stage over the years, the more comfortable she gets. "It's interesting. A lot of times, there's sort of a calmness. I don't get real nervous. I guess maybe for larger shows, there's more nerves at play, but on the whole, one of the great things about touring so much on the road is that you're doing it night after night, so you lose that edge of fear. You're still excited, and you feel the adrenaline, but I think that's more helpful to use – whether it's energy or cutting through tension or problems that you're having."
The band is very much a family affair, as Nicki's husband Tim is their musical director. "We work together a lot. He produces all of the band's records, and is a huge contributor as a songwriter."
In addition to the Nashville date this week, there's plenty of high-profile gigs on the horizon. "Our summer is going to be a busy one with a lot of landmark moments that are going to be really exciting," she said of upcoming dates at Chicago's Taste of Randolph event this coming weekend, and a gig at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival on June 22. Bluhm says they love to do things on a big scale – in terms of performance venues.
"We've been very fortunate to get invited to some of these premier music festivals. Last year, we did Newport Folk Festival, which was such a total honor. The exposure is amazing to people who have no idea who you are. We played in front of 5,000 people at Bonnaroo, so it's pretty priceless. We're lucky to get these offers, and we think that's a result of us working so hard throughout the year and touring as much as we do."