North Carolina’s Rock n Roll hotshot Nikki Hill speaks to Ultra Underground about Bluesfest, her favourite records, her upcoming LP, connecting with audiences, performing with her hubby, being ‘fearless’ and waking up in the middle of the night with melodies enshrouding her mind!
UU: You’ve been to Bluesfest a few times now, what’s your favourite thing about the festival?
NIKKI: The line-up! I know that’s a very typical thing to say but the line-up is SO good, there are so many artists on it, and such a variety which is really, really cool because that means a variety of people come too. Especially as an independent artist I love that because it would be hard for me to connect with some of those people in any other way, you know?
UU: Definitely! Are you looking forward to seeing anyone in particular?
NIKKI: We saw Jimmy Cliff last night and that was a highlight because I’ve never seen him live so that was really cool, and Mavis Staples, she’s one of my heroes… Well, I think she’s everybody’s hero, I mean c’mon! *laughs* I’ve seen her quite a few times but each time it’s incredible. Also, the Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark Jr… There are a lot of people!
UU: There are a whole lot of great acts! Are you inspired by Tina Turner? I have felt some strong Tina-esque vibes when watching you perform live!
NIKKI: You know, I’m a big Ike and Tina era Tina Turner fan!
UU: And you play with your husband too! *laughs*
NIKKI: Yeah, it’s a little different! *laughs* no, I’m just kidding. We have a great time playing together, we’re both huge fans, if we had a ten piece band we would probably cover all of their tunes!
UU: Now, THAT I’d love to see *laughs*. What advice would you give to younger girls wanting to be become Rock n Roll front women alike yourself?
NIKKI: Oh man! I would say, just go in fearless! That’s one of the most important things, and to be yourself, that’s the top two. Be fearless, and be yourself, because if you change that, it’s hard to reverse it and it’s hard to put all of your passion into it if it’s something you’re a little bit hesitant about or you’re doing it for the sake of somebody else. It’s always important to do it for you.
UU: Wonderful! So what’s your favourite track to perform from your latest LP?
NIKKI: Well, we’ve been performing from the debut full length ALOT because I released it in 2013, but I still love all those tunes from the newest record, it’s a good record! *laughs* there’s a song called Let me Tell You Bout’ Love and I’ve been opening with that. I like that, I like Oh My, I love the ballad Nothing With You that I wrote for my husband… I just like that record a lot!
UU: From what I’ve heard I’d have to agree! Could you talk me through the writing process of your record?
NIKKI: The writing process is actually still very new for me, because the first record was really kind of a pet project, it was really just trying it out, and it was VERY fast, I recorded it on the road essentially, we were just going into the studio and learning these songs really quickly and recording them really quickly. So the cool thing about this upcoming release is that we’ve had a little more time to actually make a record, make it flow. But the songwriting process, for me, I usually think up melodies in my head, they typically come in the middle of the night either while we’re driving on the road or I’m sleeping or something like that. But as far as writing, I don’t necessarily have a theme, themes just kind of come out!
UU: Do you write with your husband?
NIKKI: So far I’ve just been writing the tunes myself and then I introduce them to the band and they’re so good, that I know they know where they’re gonna line into it. I haven’t done any collaborations yet, I’m actually looking forward to doing that. Right now, I’m kind of just doing what a lot of Rock n Roll artists do, writing about the ‘human condition’ life, love, partying *laughs* good times, bad times, that’s sort of where I roll with it!
UU: What 5 records have influenced you the most?
NIKKI: That is tough… yikes! If I have to think of some right now I’d have to say Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones, that’s gotta be one that’s in there. Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard, that’s another one. The Staples Singers- Freedom Highway *long pause* I’m thinking about this like it’s a life or death thing *laughs* it’s killin’ me, man. But I’m thinking AC/DC’s If You Want Blood Live, so sad, I don’t know what to choose last, I’m sitting here getting kind of upset by it *laughs* um, probably Otis Redding Live in Europe, maybe? Something like that!
UU: Good one to end it on there! *laughs* What makes you happy?
NIKKI: What makes me happy is performing! I love performing, my husband makes me very happy, that’s cheesy but he really does, and music makes me happy, my family, my friends, happy people, making other people happy makes me happy! And that’s a lot of why I do this, it’s for the smiles on the faces of the crowd, so that’s definitely at the top of the list is making people happy, that’s definitely what does it for me!
UU: Lovely! I have one last question, why Rock n Roll?!
NIKKI: Because ROCK N ROLL! *laughs* trick question!
UU: Exactly, why not?! *laughs* Alright, thank you so much!
NIKKI: Thank you! It was nice to meet you darlin’
Peace, love and keep singin’ the Blues,