Nikki Talley is no stranger to The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. The Suwannee family has been fortunate enough to hear her perform many times over the years, both onstage and around the late night campfires. Nikki, along with her husband Jason, bring a unique and pure sound to the stage, one that brings listeners back to their roots, reminding us all what it is that brings us together.
After spending nearly five years on the road, Nikki and Jason decided to settle down for a bit, soaking up every moment of joy that a new baby brings. We caught up with Nikki recently, to find out how their first year of parenthood has been and what their plans are for future projects.
Read the interview below:
Congrats on the new addition to your family! Eva is absolutely adorable.
So, after spending so much time on the road, it must be quite a change to be settled down in one place. Do you feel at peace or do you have that itch to get back out there?
Our tour schedule usually finds us down south in winter, out west in spring & back home in the mountains of NC summer/fall. After the arrival of our first daughter Eva Rose (in October), we did indeed take a few months off the road. We continued to play shows locally two weeks before her due date! We are currently wrapping up our snowbird season down in Florida and will take a year off from a western tour. We will be back in NC this spring thru to fall. We do miss the road terribly but with Eva it’s nice to take baby steps (pun intended) and tour regionally at the moment. There is a huge importance of refilling the reservoir after traveling so much. We are lucky to have a piece of heaven in Transylvania County that is way out in the country. Cell phones don’t work & you need 4WD to get to the house. We enjoy that serenity and are inspired to write while standing still. It’s also truly refreshing to revisit the venues & reconnect with people that helped launch our full time touring status. That said, we plan on a national tour next year…babe in tow!
Do you plan on packing the whole family up in Blue Belle and heading back out on the road anytime soon? Will Eva be making her debut at Suwannee for Spring Reunion?
Eva will be attending her first Suwannee event at Spring Reunion. I was pregnant with her last spring & of course didn’t tell anyone. (except for the few folks who noticed I wasn’t staying up until 4am playing music at Sloppryland). I actually had to tell Beth & Randy Judy when approached about playing Suwannee Roots Reunion last October. I literally had her that weekend! We plan on camping at the park as usual and are excited to have our little Rosebud along. We even added onesies to our merch table.
The first time I heard you sing, I was at another stage and heard this angelic voice singing from the stage nearby. My body just moved, eager to see the woman behind this amazing voice. How long have you been singing? Who are your musical influences and at what age did you realize this was what you wanted to do?
Holy cow, thanks for the kind words woman! My mother is the reason I have music. She played guitar, banjo and wrote songs. There was always a guitar in the house. She wrote beautiful songs and I learned at a young age to sing harmony. I was also lucky to have an excellent choir teacher at our high school who showed me how to use the gift of music. My human musical influences change so much. The influences that always and continue to inspire me aren’t exactly a list of well known musicians..a lot of times it’s other types of artists. People who are passionate about their craft whether it be wooden boat building, a fisherman, a painter, a teacher. I am also very inspired by nature even though my songs aren’t necessarily the soundtrack to the Audubon Bird Book.
I realized music was going to be a huge part of my life when I went to college. I went to a small college in western NC and was immediately discouraged & intimidated by kids who could read music and were proficient in a different kind of music. I was a singer songwriter. This school was more classically focused. I dropped out, went down to Key West on a greyhound bus with my mom’s guitar and sang on the streets & on Mallory Dock for about a year. I realized I could make money playing music that I loved and wrote myself. That’s kinda where it all started.
You were super proud of your new, fancy boots that weekend. Have you treated yourself to another pair since then or are you still rocking those?
Ha! I do love these boots but I have already worn em down a bit. Let’s just say it’s probably time for a resole.
Photo: Ken Voltz Photography
You and your husband seem to have an amazing bond. To be able to spend that much time together in such close quarters is a testament to your relationship. Did you two meet through music?
We are very lucky. We have spent 20 years together & it’s just crazy to me. The past 5 years in the van have been the most intense, rewarding, magical and adventurous. We met through a mutual musical friend. His old roommate was a drummer of mine in this power trio thing I was doing in the 90s. I was bartending to support my music habit at the time and he was in school finishing his meteorology degree while playing music recreationally. I played music regionally in and around Asheville, mostly while he worked at the National Climate Data Center. Only until 5 years ago, after we had some family and friends pass away, did we realize how fragile and short life is…so we quit the life we knew & jumped in a van. 300k+ miles, later we’re happier than we’ve ever been.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up exposed to lots of types of music, thanks to my mom. She grew up in the 60s and was from Miami. I had this great mix of Calypso music she learned from a family friend as well as all the influential folk music of that time. She also introduced me to old time string band music which we played as a family while we lived in North Carolina. I also of course listened to shitty hooky pop radio but that was only part of it. I loved musicals as a kid too. In the college years I enjoyed a lot more indie rock & punk. There’s probably not a musical genre I really detest besides pop country and songs about food. Yuck.
This interview is for your upcoming show at Suwannee Spring Reunion. Will the band be premiering any new music at the event?
Yes, we have several new songs we’re excited to share with our beautiful festival family.
Are you and Jason working on any new projects at the moment?
Besides Eva Rose.
Having a baby, I have been incredibly inspired to write more. Finding the time to do it on the road has been tough. So being back home this spring and summer, we plan on finishing up these song bones and completing a new album. We are going to be stacking the calendar for a big tour next year.
Photo: Derek Olson Photography
I’ve been blessed enough to hear you play at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park multiple times. Do you have any particular moments at the park that stand out as special or unique?
Any time I am at Suwannee there is always some new magic that happens. I have had many incredible times at Suwannee. Too many to count. Some amazing ones happen on stage believe me, but the ones that happen off stage around a campfire, where there are no elevated stages or egos, are the best. I have been lucky enough to find myself in the wee hours of the morning surrounded by both the novice and professional all creating one beautiful sound.
I also try to get to the river at least once while I’m there too. I’ve talked to many festival goers who said they haven’t gotten to the river. I am guilty myself as it took me a few years to pull me away from the fun of the festival grounds
For some reason Sunday is always a special day. It’s a somber, peaceful reflective day of the weekend’s shenanigans.
Thank you for sharing the experience. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Suwannee on the 22nd. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we go?
Can’t think of anything at the moment. Mom brain! But we are so excited to be a part of this beautiful celebration of music & family.
Nikki and Jason will be playing two sets at Suwannee Spring Reunion this week: Thursday at the Amphitheater from 5:00 -6:00 PM and Friday on the Porch from 1:00 – 2:00 PM. They will also be leading a hands on workshop, Songs & Tales From Parenthood On The Road, at the Music Farmer’s Stage on Friday from 5:00 – 6:00 PM. Bring your instruments and join the fun!
(Photo from artist’s Facebook page)