By MIKE CHAIKEN
After a career with blues band Trampled Under Foot, and a solo album that built on the sound she crafted with her former group, singer Danielle Nicole began to stretch her musical muscles on her sophomore solo effort.
Nicole, who is an award winning bassist as well as a vocalist, says in press materials her new album “Cry No More” finds her pushing herself musically beyond the blues and pushing herself to be more personal in her songwriting.
Although Trampled Under Foot was considered a blues group, Nicole said, “I don’t feel I was a traditional blues artist.”
“I wanted to push my boundaries genre-wise. This was a natural step,” said Nicole of “Cry No More.”
Nicole said she has begun to discover what her own “sound” is all about. So the move to the more soulful sound on the album “has been a natural progression,” said the singer who is coming to Old Saybrook on May 9.
Part of the musical growth, said Nicole, is a tribute to her new band. With a different drummer, organist, and guitarist, the music sounds a lot different. And the new band is up to trying new sounds.
As for the more personal approach to her songwriting, Nicole cited a life changing event that she wanted finally to tackle in her songwriting, which also pushed her to look inside lyrically.
“My father had passed away when I was a teenager,” said Nicole. And she wanted to deal with the emotions surrounding that loss in a song.
Previously, she said, most of her songwriting dealt with relationships.
“I wanted to write something more personal.”
As she grew more personal in her songwriting, Nicole said she had no problem conveying her emotions lyrically. But the music to go with the words needed a new approach.
That’s where her new guitarist Brandon Miller came in to action. Miller (“an amazing guitarist,” said Nicole) began to help her think of different musical approaches to support the words. “He has no problem coming up with really cool ideas.”
Producer Tony Braunagel (Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Burdon) also worked with Nicole prior to entering the recording studio to make sure words and music gelled before they started laying down tracks.
During the recording of “Cry No More,” Nicole had a musical bucket list moment when R&B vocal legend Bill Withers provided her with a song he wrote, “Hot Spell.”
“That was a definite game-changer,” said Nicole of meeting one of her musical heroes. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Withers surprised Nicole by showing up at the studio. He then hung out to listen to the recording of the new album.
“He dug my music,” said Nicole. “That alone was great.”
But, that is not the end of the story.
“I had no idea he would pitch a song,” said Nicole.
Withers told Nicole he had a song he wrote that he thought would be perfect for her. The two of them went out to his truck and listened to the track.
For Nicole, the moment was fraught with trepidation.
This was Bill Withers. What if she didn’t like the song? How could she back away from performing it, if it was awful?
However, Nicole said she loved the track.
Then the pressure came down to her performance. What if Withers didn’t like how she approached the song?
“We had to do it right,” said Nicole.
Once the track was recorded, Nicole said they sent it to Withers for his comments. “We sat white-knuckled waiting for his response.”
And the verdict?
“He gave us his blessing,” said Nicole, who was then able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Now, Nicole said, “Hot Spell” is one of her favorite tracks to perform live.
As for her live show, Nicole told fans coming out to The Kate to expect two hours of “gut wrenching” music where we pour “all of our hearts into it, giving them 100 percent.”
“It’s a really great time,” said Nicole. “We rock. We swing. And we have a whole lot of soul.”
“Hold on to your seats.”
The Danielle Nicole Band performs at The Kate, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook on Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. For more information, go to http://www.katharinehepburntheater.org/ or www.daniellenicolekc.com