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March 27, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Nikki Hill calls herself a roots vocalist. To her that means encompassing all the best parts of American music.
She’s supported by a three-man band affectionately deemed “The Pirate Crew.” Funk, jazz and rock ’n’ roll all find a place in her repertoire. “It ends up under the brand of roots, which is completely fine with me, because it can encompass so many of those sounds,” she says. “It comes across differently to everyone.”
WHEN: Friday 21 March
You’ll hear ’50s rock in “Strapped to the Beat” on her latest album, Here’s Nikki Hill. As she sings, “I’m strapped to the beat, feel it down in my soul. Move your feet to the rock ’n’ roll,” a saxophone wails. The beat of the drums will make you want to show off your best swing dance moves — or try to, at least. There’s some ’70s funk in “Her Destination,” a dash of reggae in “Who Were You Thinking Of?” and a ’60s pop vibe in “Right On The Brink.” Her voice resonates like the soulful greats, channeling Ray Charles and Etta James.
No matter how you categorize her, all Hill cares about is being herself. She doesn’t try to appease any record label or marketing company.
Despite her free spirit, in the two years since she started performing, she’s toured all over the world (and even made an appearance at Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ Festival this past September).
“When you first get into this career, you decide, ‘Do you want to be a star, or do you want to be a musician?’” she says. “It’s very rare that the two of those end up coming together.”
It’s never been on her to-do list to become a big name, and Hill gives much of the credit to her husband and guitar player, Matt Hill, for launching her career. She says he heard her singing around the house and would make her get up on stage during his solo performances.
If you’re a fan of the classics, you’ll be able to find something in Hill’s music that gets you tapping your foot and jamming out to the beat.
“Going out on the road, you feel like you’re sailing,” she says. “We’re pillaging every city and melting faces along the way. It’s a lot of fun.”