Nicole D’Amico (of Nicole D’amico and Friends) makes music that is one part jam-band, one part Blues-Rock, a dash of Reggae, funk and fiery guitars and top it off with a heavy dose of Joplinesque vocals. I had a chance to chat with her about following the Dead and finding music along the way. Check it out!
How did music start for you?
When I was little, I played piano and I was atrocious, so it never seemed as though I had musical abilities. I always danced, but never played an instrument after that. It wasn’t until I got to UMass-Amherst when I got into the Grateful Dead and started touring. Every night there were drum circles, but I was never really a part of it until my boyfriend at the time stuck a guitar in my hand and said, “You gotta play.”
Did you even know you could sing before that?
No! [laughs] When I was a kid, I listened to a recording of my voice and didn’t realize that what people heard was different than the sounds in my head. I took that to mean I couldn’t sing in tune, and that what I am hearing is totally different. Then someone finally said to me, “you actually have a decent voice.” After that I started to think differently.
Was your voice always the gravely, Janis Joplin-like, voice, or did you have to work to that?
My mom called it the screech when I started because I would always push my voice to sound that way up to the point where it was crack. It definitely took a lot of time to get to where it is now, but I always had that huskier tone to my voice.
When did you decide to take music seriously?
I think Dan [Adler-Golden] was a big part of that. I was just playing open mics and he got me to start recording. I ended up recording 20 tracks as is. The guy who recorded me was friends with the guys who ran Unregular Radio, and so it just sort of took off from there. If you had asked me a couple years ago if I was going to be a musician, I would have told you that I have no musical abilities what-so-ever.
Who are your biggest influences?
The Grateful Dead, Joplin; right now Susan Tedeschi is one of my favorites. My dad is such a Beatles fan and loves Bob Marley; he was the one who got me into Classic Rock.
Can you talk about the musical community in which you find yourself?
I definitely fall into a variety of communities. My drummer and guitarist, [Alex Martin and Zach Cohen] play in a band called the Family Dinner that’s actually a live hip-hop group. We are sort of in that hip-hop scene, but we are definitely in the jam-band scene, the funk scene, reggae/island music, and the blues scene. People don’t always know where to place us.
What is your ideal setting to play?
It’s hard, because each venue has its own vibe. I love playing festivals because sometimes you have thousands of people looking at you, and you have these waves of emotion coming at you. At the very small clubs you may only have 10 people watching you and it’s so intimate that there’s almost more pressure. Boston is one of the hardest scenes to play for, because here you are always playing for other musicians, and it’s intimidating. It’s the most rewarding and challenging for that fact. Boston is interesting too, especially for blues and jazz, because you have these old heads that have been doing it forever.
Do you have any guiding principles behind your music?
Not really, we just want people to dance. We always say, we’re not the band that brings the crowd, we are the band that keeps them. We want our music to be a conversation with the audience.
What are you doing now?
I’ve just had a baby, so I’m really trying to work around the schedule of being a mother. I play acoustic sets with Rachel DeTroy who is my best friend and the godmother of my baby, but I’m also playing with Zach, Alex and my husband once a month.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Being a Deadhead, it would be my absolute pleasure to be on stage with Phil Lesh.
What would be your one studio amenity on your rider?
I love sunflowers, so I’d have to have them in my dressing room.
Who would you want to be a superfan?
If Susan Tedeschi told me I was doing alright, that would be enough satisfaction for a lifetime.
By Kyle Smith