The perfect mix of rock, folk, country, blues, and pop, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers have quickly proven themselves to be one of the most powerful bands in the game. Sexy and soulful, Nicki’s vintage-tinged vocals show notes similar to great ones like Janis, Etta, and Amy. We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with this striking front woman about everything from how she stays inspired to what life’s like on the road.
Nicki, we’re obsessed with your album. Can you tell us a little about the inspo behind it?
Prior to “Loved Wild Lost” we were touring pretty heavily, so the majority of songs were written on the road. That said, there are some tunes that definitely touch on the physical, mental, and personal challenges involved with being on tour.
How did you get into music in the first place?
I’ve loved to sing ever since I was a little girl. It started in the shower, then moved on to drunken high school parties. Eventually, I was pushed to start doing open mic nights, which turned into getting offers to play real shows. The rest is history.
Tell us about life on the road.
It's not as glamorous as people may think, but there's a closeness that develops between the band and crew members that begins to feel like a family. It's kind of like being at summer camp. You come up with all kinds of crazy, dumb inside jokes and get to know each others strange habits. You also get to make music with your friends every night which is pretty damn cool.
Tell us a little about your creative process. When do you do your best writing?
It really depends...that's a tough question and there are many answers depending how specific you want to get. Writing for me can be a very therapeutic process. Ideally, putting my feelings into words helps me understand my own thoughts and gain some perspective. I like to write in the mornings when I feel fresh and the day is new. But there are also times when ideas just come. I often restlessly lay awake at night and sometimes my best ideas come then.
The house you stayed in for this shoot is so rad. Is there a story behind it? What did you love about it?
Sometimes as you travel down the road you meet people who I like to call "tour angels". This is a house owned by our very good friends who truly take in musicians like their children. They take really good care of us whenever we come through town. They also have a home in NOLA and they give us the same treatment there. They have incredible NOLA-inspired taste which is so fun and cozy; everything is very thoughtfully chosen. You could spend hours looking around at their collections of carefully curated treasures.
What’s the vibe like with your band?
Very family vibe. We have all been friends for a long time and really dig each others company. We laugh a lot.
What have you learned on the road?
Where to sniff out health food stores and, of course, the power of Yelp!
What’s your favorite part about performing?
Expressing parts of myself that I can't otherwise. My guard is down and I'm out of my head...on a good night.
Is there something you can’t live without when you’re on the road.
My Mason Pearson hairbrush and a tube of Lip Trip.
What artists inspire your music most?
I'm kind of all over the map. I adore the songs that Joni Mitchell has written throughout her career...there are few other writers who touch me the way she does. I've been getting more and more into jazz lately too...there is a freedom to it - an absence of structure that I am drawn to.
How do you like to dress when you’re on-and-off stage?
My number one requirement when it comes to fashion is that I've got to be comfortable, both on and off stage. I need to be able to move freely and feel good in what I'm wearing. While it’s fun to wear special things on stage like silk and sequins, I'm a boots and jeans kind of girl. I always need to be ready to jump on a horse…you never know when the opportunity will arise!
Check out when Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers are headed next here.
Photos by Taryn Kent. Jewelry by Gunn & Swain