Singer-bassist Danielle Nicole had a good run with Trampled Under Foot, the blues-rock band she formed with her two brothers, singer-guitarist Nick Schnebelen and singer-drummer Kris Schnebelen, back in 2000.
But when Kris Schnebelen left the band in 2013, the group just wasn’t the same.
“Kris quit the band, and Nick and I did a farewell tour in 2014 to celebrate some of the best clubs we played,” says Nicole in a recent phone interview from her Kansas City home. “It didn’t feel natural. It didn’t feel right. To me, it wasn’t Trampled Under Foot. Being in the situation where you start a ban from the ground up with the same people and you’re in it for over a decade, I didn’t want to go through the heartbreak of building something from the group up again with another group. I wanted to make all the decisions, right or wrong, and trust my gut.”
Nicole hired Brandon Miller to become her guitarist and launched her solo career in 2015.
Touring in support of 2018’s Cry No More
, she brings the band to the Beachland Ballroom
for a performance that takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29.
“Over the years, we’ve gone down to a trio and have had interchangeable drummers while we someone who can fit our sound,” she says. “Brandon has been there from the beginning. We’ve been playing together for five years. I couldn’t imagine this project without him. He’s a founding member of it. Our drummer Cameron [Tyler] started playing with us in August, and he was the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s like this is the sound I’ve been searching for. We’re out of the honeymoon phase. We’ve been touring ridiculously. August through December of last year was just brutal. Everyone still had a positive attitude and was ready to start 2020 out. We’re ready to take over the world, and it’s such a great feeling.”
To hear Nicole tell it, launching a solo career proved to be challenging. Many of the songs on her solo debut, 2015’s Wolf Den
, stemmed from her Trampled Under Foot days.
“The ones I had written with Trampled Under Foot had that really heavy blues sound,” she explains. “Some of the songs I had written for the new record. I personally felt there was a conflict in the sound of those tunes. I’m proud of the record, and I hold all the time I spent working on that album with [producer] Anders [Osborne] and [drummer] Stanton [Moore] dearest to my heart. I learned so much that I applied on the Cry No More
album. It’s nothing against any of the musicians or anyone who created the album itself, but just my songwriting was like night and day. There was a huge transition happening. I love it but it didn’t represent who I was at the time.”
With Cry No More
, she says she had “a clearer path” of what she wanted to do.
“With Wolf Den
, I was just trying to finish the album and get enough songs for it,” she says. “With Cry No More
, I really took my time. I wrote half of it and the songs I did choose to cover meant something personal to me. There’s more of a story to be told through the album. It’s not just a gathering of songs. It’s not necessarily a concept album, I was more conscious of the content of the songs.”
Songs such as the gritty "Crawl," a song that finds her snarling, "crawl if you want love," and the blistering "Burnin' For You" have a particularly sultry feel to them.
“It’s a little bit less about stories of love lost, which is more of the traditional blues theme,” she says. “With songs like 'Bobby,' which I wrote about my father growing up without a dad, the stories are more personal and the concepts of love are a little more positive. Even with 'Cry No More,' which is about moving on and getting past it rather than dwelling in the darkness. I was better prepared [for the recording session]. The songs were more written, so we could spend more time recording the songs rather than developing them in the studio. This process was really smooth, and it was fun, and that let me let loose in my performances without going overboard.”
One album highlight, “Save Me,” features Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He was getting ready to leave town for eight weeks for Europe but made time to stop by the studio and lay down his bluesy solo before leaving for his tour.
“We’re not buddies, but we’re cool,” Nicole says when asked about Shepherd. “He knows me when we’re on the road, and we get to jam, and that’s really cool. It was really sweet of him to take the time to do that. He said, ‘The world needs to hear your voice.’ It’s really nice to get that encouragement from peers rather than getting the attitude 'they’re trying to take my spot, and I don’t want to help them out.'"
“Pusher Man” comes off as a particularly aggressive number. Nicole wrote the song during a session with Nashville songwriter Johnny Black.
“I went to his house, and we messed around with some ideas,” she says. “He had a couple of ideas. He played the riff to 'Pusher Man' and had come up with that chorus, ‘I wanna be the one you call.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. Would your love interest be the Pusher Man or would you be the Pusher Man?’ I said, ‘I would be the Pusher Man. I have no problem being the Pusher Man of love, baby.’’”
Nicole says her live show has evolved to the point that her “sound is just really on a different level.”
“We know what we need musically on stage to push each other,” she says. “There’s a real intimate communication level now. [Drummer] Cam [Tyler] really loves the New Orleans feel. Being from Kansas City, we cultivated swing. New Orleans swing and Kansas City swing are very different, but they’re the oldest types of swing. We have a natural love for that feel. It’s hard to describe the show now. It’s intense and grooving, but it’s not over-the-top. It’s morphed into a full experience. It’s so much fun. It’s really rockin’. It’s hard to put that blues label on it. You’ll be on your feet the whole time. If you’re not feeling it, then there’s something wrong with you.”
Danielle Nicole, the Morning Bird, 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $18 ADV, $20 DOS
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