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Artist Spotlight  
Nick "Mr. Nick " David
By Robert John, correspondent to BarrelhouseBlues.com
rj@barrelhouseblues.com
© 2004 BarrelhouseBlues.com - All Rights Reserved
 

Mr. Nick's Blues Mafia, winners of the 2004 Boston Blues Challenge, feature Nick David on vocals and Harmonica, Kevin Labrecque on guitar, and Fess Moore on bass. They were also awarded 2004 “Blues Artist of the Year” by Jam Magazine and crowned Boston's "Best Unsigned Blues Band" in 2004.
To put it another way,  they are a devastatingly powerful and seriously authentic Blues band.

To see and hear Mr. Nick's Blues Mafia is an exciting experience for any true Blues lover. It is seldom that one encounters such a cohesive combination of authentic Chicago style Blues coupled with the kind of raw power and drive that explodes from this amazing ensemble.

Nick David, the group's dynamic frontman, not only sounds, but looks the part of the perennial Bluesman. His presence provides just the right touch of classy but hard edged persona to this award winning band.

Barrelhouse Blues ("BB") recently had the opportunity to speak with Nick David about his musical journey. Here is what the man had to say...

BB: Let’s talk a little bit about your past. What got you started on your musical journey and drew you into the Blues?

ND: The first thing I suppose would be my parents. One of my earliest memories is sitting on my father' lap while he played and sang "Fishin' Blues" to me. In addition to my father being a musician, my mother had an incredible record collection. From James Cotton's "100% Cotton" to Taj Mahal's "The Natch'l Blues", from Roomful of Blues' "Hot Little Mama" to "The Genius Of Ray Charles," I was exposed to this music at a very young age. Not to say that I haven't gone through different stages of course, or that is all I listen to, but Blues music has always been what's in my heart.

BB: Who were your inspirations along the way?

ND: The fact that my father would sometimes sing and play his guitar in the house and that I was always surrounded by these great sounds coming out of the stereo may have been enough to inspire most folks and may well have been enough to inspire me. But, I grew up in Oregon. Which, believe it or not, has one of the heaviest Blues scenes in the country. Not only that, but my parents took me to see a lot of shows. I remember my father taking me to this smoky little college bar called Taylor's in Eugene when I was about 5, to go see Robert Cray. Along with Taj Mahal, Robert was one of my early heroes. One of my first records was what was then released as "Too Many Cooks," Cray's first album. It was released on Tomato records, and when they went under it was rereleased under the title "Who's Been Talkin." I knew every note, every word, every subtlety on that record before I was ten. When I was a teenager I used to go regularly to see guys like Curtis Salgado, Paul deLay, Terry Robb, the Lloyd Jones Struggle. Salgado and deLay were both big influences on me.

BB: What are some of the musical highlights of your career thus far?

ND: This whole last year has been one giant highlight as things have just been steamrolling for us. I'd have to say though, that the greatest musical highlights of my career thus far all came within two weeks of each other, and all in July of this year. The first one happened in the second week of July when I picked up Paul deLay from the Manchester Airport. When I found out Paul was coming over here to do the North Atlantic Blues Festival with Mark Hummel's Harmonica Blowout I called him up to see if he wanted to come a little early, stay a little later and fill some of those open dates. He agreed, I booked the dates and we (the band and I) started getting together to rehearse some of Paul's original stuff. Not only did we end up doing three shows together while he was here, I got to spend the better part of a week just hanging out and getting to know Paul. I can say he is as interesting and genuine of a person as he is a musician and it was a privilege to hang out and play with him. Two weeks later came the second highlight, winning the Boston Blues Challenge. That was a huge boost to our morale, has done great things in the way of letting people know who we are that didn't already and has just opened up a lot of doors for us. Another major highlight of my career thus far came just two nights after our win at the Boston Blues Challenge when I was asked to sit in with Roomful of Blues. This band that so many of my heroes like Duke Robillard, Curtis Salgado and Ronnie Earl have been a part of over the years was asking me to sit in. Roomful is my dream band. I got up, we did a couple tunes from a couple different Roomful albums. My voice never sounded better and it was just a Cinderella kind of night.

BB: Back to the present. You sing, play harp and drums. Quite a diverse arsenal of talent. We’re guessing that harp and vocals are your choice for a means of expression, allowing you to front the band. How did you get into drumming and is it something you’d like to explore more over time?

ND: I got into to drumming trying to show drummers how to shuffle properly. Hehehehe. Actually, we used to do a tv show in Concord NH called the Granite State Blues Bash. I started the show as a means for regional blues acts to get some exposure and to expose more people sitting in their living room to the Blues. Following the taping of the show, we had an open Blues jam. During that time I used to get up and fudge my way through a slow Blues every so often on drums. I kinda got a bit of a bug about it. I would get together on occasion with Ephraim Lowell or John Hoik and pick their brains about different beats and feels. Now I do it sometimes when I go to jams or friend's gigs, or sometimes at our Tuesday thing at the Black Brimmer in Manchester. I'm not a real "drummer" but I can shuffle pretty darn good and fake my way through some other things. I was taking lessons for a while from this amazing drummer Brian Martin and would like to pursue it more at some point for sure, but singing will always be my first true passion.

BB: Mr. Nick’s Blues Mafia has an extremely powerful sound. Quite an impressive ensemble. How did you meet the other band members and get started?

ND: Thank you very much. This actually is not the original incarnation of this band. As most blues acts around here, we've gone though quite a roster of folks over the years. I started the band in 2000 with guitar player Matt Smart, bass player Don Saviano and drummer Thaddeus Lavelle. Just a year later, the band's first release "La Bluesa Nostra" had Tom Wright on Guitar, Pete Carlson on Bass and John Hoik on the drums. As for the current lineup, I met Fess Moore when he came in to do the Granite State Blues Bash with guitar slinger Mikey G. Not too long after that our bass player for the tv show (Erik Thomas) had a baby and needed to leave the show. After a brief stint with another bass player I called Fess and asked if he'd like to come do the show every Wednesday. He agreed and and that soon parlayed into playing with this band full time. That was over three years ago and I couldn't imagine this band without him. I call him "My right hand man that always stands to my left on stage". He is the anchor of the outfit. He can play so many different Blues styles and is probably the most intuitive musician I've ever known. I met Kevin Labrecque a couple years before I started this band. He was playing in another band called Blue Collar Blues. At that time, they worked quite a bit and used to host a jam in Concord, which is where I met Kevin. He's since then, been one of my favorite guitar players in New England and has always been the guy I wanted as our guitar player. He listens to such an eclectic selection of music and draws from all of it to make his own unique sound that, while unique, is distinctly the Blues. Which is something you can't say about many blues guitarists. He's been playing with us off and on for the past three years and just about a year ago expressed interest in joining full time. We talked off & on about the benefits and responsibilities etc., for a of couple months. When he finally decided to come on board, Fess & I couldn't have been happier. The drum situation seems to be the New England Blues band plague. There are so few talented Blues drummers and many just freelance. The other faction of them tend to be rock/fusion guys who think they can play Blues, but shuffle like Alex Van Halen. Producing what we refer to as the "three cylinder stiffle." Our most notable drummer and the one that was with us though the BBC is Ephraim Lowell. He knows our material front to back and is rock solid besides. I met him years ago when he was with the Kan-Tu Blues Band. He played on all the tracks on our 2003 release "Uncut Gems" and we may have him on our next record. He's with Mike Welch full time though, so we use him when we can get him. Any solid Blues drummers who would like to travel long distances for short money, e-mail me at mrnicknh@hotmail.com.

BB: How does it feel coming off your win from the 2004 Boston Blues Challenge?

ND: Well, we're pretty damn excited about it. We were surprised we won, but after taking some time to digest the whole thing, I think we deserve it. We've worked very hard the last couple years and to have it acknowledged by people in our industry is a great feeling. Not to say that all of the other bands there deserved it any less then us, it just happened to be our night. We are honored to have won the BBC and to have the opportunity to represent Boston in the International Blues Challenge.

BB: Let’s talk about the future. As a result of your Boston win, you’re competing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. What must it feel like to have this challenging opportunity looming on your musical horizon?

ND: We're hoping for the best, but not putting any expectations on it. These things are completely subjective. One set of judges is looking for ABC and the other set may be looking for XYZ. One of the reasons I say that we were surprised at the win at the BBC is this: On our semifinal night of competition we put on the best set we felt we've ever done. It was as close to perfect as we could get, being who we were, doing the material we were doing. That night we tied with another band (Adam Connelly Band) for a wild card slot and the J Place Band won the night. Now, on the night of the finals we put on a good set. Although none of us felt is was nearly as good of a set as we had done the semifinal night, but we won nonetheless. That's why I didn't put any expectations on the BBC and I'm not putting any on the IBC. We went into the BBC with hopes of winning, but the attitude that it would be perfectly fine to just have a good time and make some new friends. We did both, so we had already won. We are going into the IBC with the same sort of attitude, knowing that it is another great opportunity for us although we are optimistic about our chances.

BB: Do you plan or set musical goals for yourself and the band? If so, what’s your current short list?

ND: Right now I've been writing some new material and hopefully in the not too distant future we'll do some more recording. Our fans are itching for a new record. As I said before, we are currently looking for a full time drummer. That is a big priority right now. Also, we're trying to get some representation and have been talking to some talent agencies and a few record companies, although we can't sign anything until after the IBC. The hope is to have a record deal and be touring by next summer.

BB: You’ve shared the stage with a large number of industry performers, both regional and national. If you could share a stage with someone you haven’t yet performed with, your dream gig if you will, who would it be?

ND: Well, right now I'd have to say, it would be to perform with Taj Mahal. He is still one of my biggest influences. If you're asking me what would be my ultimate steady gig, I would love to front Roomful some day.

BB: What would you like to share most with your fans about yourself and your music?

ND: Hmmm.....that's quite a broad question. I guess I'd like to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of a couple things. Actually, just one thing really; support. Unfortunately, the word "Blues" has become a dirty word to a lot of club owners and booking agents. Many venues are closing down (Yardrock, House of Blues) and many more that were once Blues rooms (Harper's Ferry, Johnny D's) are now, no longer having Blues acts at all or are doing so very little. That's not necessarily the venue's fault as they have to do what's best for them in order to stay alive. There are always trends in what people listen to, etc. There's a reason that they were Blues rooms. Because the folks that started them were Blues lovers. And now, the reason they are closing down or not having Blues is due to the lack of people coming out. That being the case, I can't stress the importance of getting out to support your local Blues scene. Your local Blues scene. YOUR LOCAL BLUES SCENE. That's not just addressed to fans either, it's important for other musicians to support their peers. Many times when I have a night off I'll go out to see some friends play. Here's a note to club owners and booking agents too....if you don't know what good Blues is then find someone who does and have them do your booking. There are too many clubs settling on the lowest common denominator. There's a time and a place for every band and I encourage everyone to play music. I think it's an extremely important and often overlooked facet of our culture. But I think it's equally as important for a venue to do their best to put the best acts in there, not just any band that will show up for $200. Now that I'm done ranting, I'll step off my soapbox and say, if not for our fans, we are nothing. You are the people who allow us to do what we do. Thank you.


© 2004 BarrelhouseBlues.com - All Rights Reserved

You may contact Nick David at:
Email: mrnicknh@hotmail.com
Website: http://www.mrnicksbluesmafia.com
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