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Danielle Nicole Finds Musical Magic With A Scene Change

Danielle Nicole plays the MSA Blues Concert and Fundraiser at Monarch Music Hall tomorrow night
MF Photography
Danielle Nicole plays the MSA Blues Concert and Fundraiser at Monarch Music Hall tomorrow night

It's not easy to recapture the magic of a family music group after touring exhaustion kills the joy and the chemistry. Kansas City native Danielle Nicole has done that by changing her scene.

She was part of the sibling blues band Trampled Underfoot that won the Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2008. The band went on to release four albums and tour extensively before falling apart.

Nicole now has a solo career and two critically acclaimed albums under her name. The most recent received a Grammy nomination in the Contemporary Blues category.

Nicole joins a slate of artists on the bill to play the Beat MSA Blues Concert and Fundraiser at the Monarch Music Hall in Peoria on Thursday night.

She tells WGLT she did attend the Grammy Awards but was a little surprised most of the awards were handed out earlier in the day in a building across from the Staples Center.

“But we all walked the same red carpet to get in,” said Nicole. “I walked the carpet around 12:30 in the afternoon and Lady Gaga was walking down it four or five hours later. I watched Brandi Carlisle win her awards in the other building. They did have a few performances in-between, but it’s nowhere near the specter or size the main event is.”

When WGLT last talked with Nicole in 2016, Trampled Underfoot had just parted ways and Nicole had been touring on her first solo record “Wolf Den.” Nicole said despite winning the IBC in 2008, the band manager never put Trampled Underfoot on a meaningful national tour, instead choosing to book the band on what she called “grinding” regional tours that took a toll on family relationships and didn’t take advantage of the national notoriety they received from winning the IBC.

“He wanted to keep us local because that’s how he could keep us close and make a bunch of money without having to do his job basically,” said Nicole. “Until we got a manager that said ‘No, you need to play less shows and make them more meaningful' that we really saw how poorly we had been managed for almost three years. And that’s a very long time in the music industry.”

Nicole gave a nod to her late father Robert Schnebelen on her sophomore album “Cry No More.”

Bobby was a boy in an old man’s suit Working so hard to fill his daddy‘s shoes He never knew the man to his dying day And he went on his life with a price to pay Oh yes he did “Bobby” by Danielle Nicole.

It’s a touching and loving tribute to her father, who was also a musician, but not one who pushed his kids to follow in his footsteps.

“My dad really let me fall into it and come to him, as opposed to saying ‘this is what you’re going to do’” said Nicole. “But he was also a man of many vices and a chaotic childhood himself, so I wouldn’t say I necessarily wanted to emulate him, but I felt that music was my path pretty early on.”

The album also contains covers of Prince and Bill Withers songs, the latter previously unrecorded. The opening track “Crawl” and “Pusher Man,” which she co-wrote with Nashville writer/producer John Black, put Nicole in an empowerment role.

It’s late now you're all alone? Find yourself reaching for the phone You'll be crawling all you need Cause I've got just what you need I don't think you understand I wanna be your pusher man "Pusher Man" by Danielle Nicole

Black contacted Nicole about the song idea and invited her to Nashville to flesh it out.

“He said, ‘I’ve got this idea for a song, but I don’t know how you feel about it being a woman. It’s about pushing your love. Would you be someone who would be taken hold by a Pusher Man, or would you be the Pusher Man?’ And I was like ‘I’d be it,’” laughed Nicole. Then we just sat there for two hours and wrote the song.”

These are some of the songs Nicole will likely play Thursday night at the Monarch Music Hall for the MSA Blues Concert and Fundraiser on a bill that includes Trigger Hippy and EC Scott.

“We almost came last year, but it didn’t work out. Once we learned about the foundation and what the night would look like, I couldn’t help but say yes,” said Nicole.

Doors open at 5 p.m. at the Monarch Music Hall for The Beat MSA Blue Concert and Fundraiser to support Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) research. Music starts at 5:30 p.m.

The complete WGLT interview with Danielle Nicole.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.