Festival Fast Talk
with Nicki Bluhm

Nicki Bluhm is a woman who is known to love, and known to love music—but more than just a simple story of music and a talented musician,  Bluhm is soulful and slow-paced singer/ songwriter, well-versed in modern Americana.

Bluhm is often accompanied by her husband (famed songwriter in his own right) Tim Bluhm and backed by her band The Gramblers. Together, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are two albums deep in a blossoming career. We caught her at Bonnaroo to discuss songwriting, festies, and singing in the car.

When did you get here?

We got here [Thursday] and we played the opening set, then we played a VIP party today, then we’ve got one more party set, and then we have to be heading out. [We’re] playing Little Rock tomorrow.

You have a very warm, almost nostalgic sound. It’s very natural. What inspires you the most?

Tim and I listen to a lot of vinyl. The whole band does. I’m a fan of a lot of music from the ’60s and ’70s. Tim’s big influences are the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and I think the music from those decades reaches all of us and inevitably fuses into the music that we make.

Apart from your solo work, you also do work with Tim. What’s the differences between the two projects? How would you describe the difference in the process or sound?

Well, when I began playing, I started out solo. Then, I very quickly started to build a band, which I’ve now had since 2008. We started touring more heavily in 2011, so I haven’t really known much of a solo career; it’s been more with the band. There’s a bunch of writers in the band: me, Tim, Deren, Dave. We all write songs and kind of bring songs to each other and work on the arrangement together to sort of complete the song.

Your last record came out on vinyl—why was that important to you to have it released that way?

It’s pretty much all we listen to.  I think when you listen to records, there’s an attentiveness that’s much more intentional because you have to flip the record, you know? You can’t just put on Pandora and let it play, or put on a mix from your iPod. It’s kind of consciously choosing your records and listening to them.

I spend a lot of time just alphabetizing my records, like our bassist Steve Adams, who is a huge vinyl collector. I think it’s just a lost art, and I think that having those albums on vinyl is really important. The artwork is better. It’s more interesting to see something on that scale, you know, as opposed to a thumbnail, or even a CD. And it’s something that stands the test of time.

Referring back to the records of mine from the ’60s and ’70s—I even have a lot of first pressings. It’s just precious to be able to look at pieces of art from the past. That’s what they are to me.

Last year, you got a lot of buzz with your van sessions—an exercise in covering well-known songs from the comfort of your van all while driving from city to city as you were touring. What’s the story behind that?

That was sort of a product of doing a lot of touring. Having a lot of long drives with no radio in the vans. So it was really a fun way to pass the time and a really good exercise as musicians looking inside these seemingly simple pop songs and realizing they’re a lot more complicated than you think they are.

And it was just something fun for us to show our fans what we do during the day. Everyone sees the live shows, but its kind of neat to be a fly on the wall in the van and kind of check out what we do during the day.

Do you ever get pestered with requests to play “I Can’t Go For That” live?

Occasionally, but it doesn’t happen that often. We actually appreciate that because you know the stuff wer’e most passionate about is our original stuff. That’s where our interest truly lies. The covers are still fun to do, though, and everyone loves the stuff that they know. It evokes memories, and that’s why we love them. So every now and then we’ll do one.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We’re gonna keep on festival season. We did Hangout, Mountain Jam, and Bonnaroo of course. We’re going to be going to Newport Folk, which we’re really excited about. A lot more touring coming up. We’re releasing our new album August 27th. So that’s exciting for us. And yeah, just a lot more playing and making music.

You can catch Nicki Bluhm on a string of tour dates covering the western United States throughout July. 

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