Bluegrass in Bluhm: Nicki Bluhm bringing unique style to Colorado

Nicki Bluhm bringing style to Colorado

Nicki Bluhm

Colorado holds a special place in Nicki Bluhm’s bluegrass heart.

The musician known for her “vintage modern” sound will play with her band The Gramblers at the Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12, in Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

A week later, on June 19, she will sing with The Infamous Stringdusters at Telluride Bluegrass.

Between those performances, Bluhm plans a little road trip to see friends and to take a soak or two at area hot springs.

“Yeah, it’s nice to get a couple personal days between playing shows, especially in the summer when you find yourself somewhere cool,” Bluhm said in a recent interview in which she also talked about who she would love to collaborate with musically and the dynamic of playing festivals.

Melinda Mawdsley: Although Ryan Adams is a headliner at Telluride Bluegrass, you aren’t performing with him until the end of July. Is there a singer/songwriter out there you have yet to perform with who you would love to?

Nicki Bluhm: Ryan’s a really exciting one, I have to say. I really admire his songwriting. He’s super active and works really hard. That will be really interesting. I mean, if I could choose anyone, my favorite songwriter is Joni Mitchell. The fact she’s still alive gives me hope that someday I can shake her hand. Dolly Parton is another. That would be an interesting collaboration. She’s awesome. I just got to sing with Bonnie Raitt, so that was very special.

Mawdsley: You were a solo artist before you were part of a larger ensemble.

Bluhm: Very briefly. I hated it. I didn’t like playing by myself and don’t love my guitar playing, so I quickly recruited one of my oldest friends to play guitar with me. Playing with a band is cool. It’s cool to have that bond with people, especially when you are on the road. I was watching the Warriors’ game last night. (The Golden State Warriors are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.) That’s kind of what happened with a band. You are so connected in a way that doesn’t need words. It almost can be telepathic at times. Playing in a band is really special if you have that connectiveness.

Mawdlsey: Oh, are you a big Golden State Warriors fan?

Bluhm: I mean, I’m not a huge Warriors fan, but it’s an exciting time in the Bay Area. One of the players lives in my hometown.

Mawdsley: What year was your first time playing Telluride? What was that experience like for a relatively young musician?

Bluhm: It was epic. When I was there the first time, I was there with the Gramblers. I remember being on stage and looking out at the crowd and the mountains and honestly fighting back tears. People there are so committed to the festival. It sells out every year. It’s an incredible gathering of people in a magical place on Earth.

I had a magical time. I met Alison Krauss backstage. She ran up to me and said, “Nicki Bluhm, I love you.” I can’t even believe she knew who I was. I’ve admired her since I was a kid. Her singing and playing are so angelic. She’s like an angel walking the Earth.

Mawdsley: The Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival is a relatively young festival when compared to Telluride Bluegrass. Are you getting invited to sing at more and more festivals of various sizes? Are you noticing a growing trend in summer music festivals, even if they are smaller, more intimate affairs?

Bluhm: Yeah. I think it is growing. I’ve only been in the game for under a decade. My situation is interesting because I play with multiple bands, so my chances of getting asked to festivals are greater.

Mawdsley: What bands to you play with?

Bluhm: The Gramblers, that’s the band I’ve had for the last decade. We still tour and put out records. The Infamous Stringdusters were another band I was asked to play with this touring round. (Bluhm sings with the Stringdusters in Telluride on June 19.) They wanted a tour record and needed a female singer to come sing select songs, so I was asked to do that. That’s why I’ve been with them for the last four months. We get along so well.

I’ve been invited to do a lot of festivals this summer with that project.

It seems, like anything else, festivals have gotten bigger because social networking has really helped advance knowledge about them, and there are obviously huge festivals such as Coachella and Bonnarroo that get a lot of attention not just for music.

It seems like being seen at those festivals and just being able to say you were there is more important than any bands who are actually playing.

I know festivals are where you get your largest audiences and people who haven’t heard of you before. Festival season is really important for bands, especially young bands.


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