From her early days working with her brothers in the power trio Trampled Under Foot, bassist/vocalist Danielle Nicole has always found an outlet for her creative, blues-infused songs.
Collectively, Trampled Under Foot recorded five albums, with its most recent, Badlands, reaching Number 1 on Billboard's Blues Albums chart in 2013.
But as the band wound down after 13 years, Nicole decided it was a good time to branch out on her own. Her debut solo album, Wolf Den, which will be released August 21, represents the fruits of her labor and is a treasure trove of blues, funk and groove.
Produced by Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Anders Osborne—whose songs have been covered by the likes of Brad Paisley and Jonny Lang, Wolf Den is a collaborative, New Orleans-themed album buried deep in tasty, blues-based rock.
I recently spoke with Nicole about Wolf Den, working with Osborne, her gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: To someone who might not be familiar with your sound, how would you describe Wolf Den?
It’s an extension of the songwriting from my days playing with my brothers in Trampled Under Foot as well as some songs I’ve never had a chance to record. A few of the other tunes were ideas Anders helped collaborate on and develop with me. The album as a whole is a collaboration rather than all of the songs stringing together.
How does the songwriting process start for you?
Most of the time it starts with a bass line groove or melody, and then I’ll start writing lyrics to it. If it’s a specific instance or taken from experience, it usually starts with lyrics.
What can you tell me about the track “You Only Need Me When You’re Down?"
That was a tune Anders and I had written together. At the time, I was in a bad place in a relationship and had the line, “You only want me when you need me. You only come to me when you’re in trouble.” Anders came up with the groove and we started expanding it from that situation. That’s how it came about.
How about “Waiting for Your Love”?
Anders had a lot to do with that one as well. We were in a writing session and I had brought a few notebooks of song ideas I had. Anders was playing around on the guitar and came up with the intro. Then he read one of my verses from a song I hadn’t finished and started singing it along to his music. We started building it from there.
Do you have a personal favorite track from Wolf Den?
I don’t like to single out songs because the album as a whole is great, but “Take It All” is one that’s really dear to my heart. It’s a desperate love song that pretty much says, “If you’re going to leave me then just take my heart with you.”
What was it like working with Anders?
It was absolutely amazing! Going in, I was naturally nervous because of his credentials and reputation as a songwriter and producer. He’s one of the greats. But he’s such a warm person. You talk to him for a few minutes and it’s just like family. He just makes you feel at home. He really knows how to make the song the way it was meant to be.
Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?
I’ve always loved to perform. I took dance for many years as a child and learned about singing and harmony from my parents teaching. I didn’t start actively pursuing it though until I was about 15. Then when I saw Etta James perform at a festival in Kansas City and B.B. King take people on an emotional journey, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
When did you start playing bass?
I started playing bass when I was 18 to keep Trampled Under Foot a family band. We were a power trio with my two brothers. I picked it up, started taking lessons and just fell in love with it. I love being the foundation and the simplicity of playing one note at a time and each one having so much feeling. I also enjoy the challenge of playing bass and singing at the same time.
Who are some of your influences?
I’ve always loved Paul McCartney, just his melodies and the feel he has when he plays. I also like John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. Then there are guys like James Jameson and Willie Dixon whose style I really loved.
What’s your setup like?
I played a Fender Jazz for many years until Delaney approached me and made me one of their custom basses. It mirrors the Jazz in that it has a maple neck and rosewood fretboard with two individual pickup styles. It has this heavy bridge that just sings. I love it. When I’m playing, I prefer to use a Markbass amp. I like to pair it using a 4-by-10 and a 15. I like the fullness the 15 gives and then with the 4-by-10’s you can still have that poppy, high end when you want to play the funky stuff.
What are you most looking forward to with the release of Wolf Den?
I’m really looking forward to expanding my audience. There’s something for everyone on this record. There’s awesome funk, some blues and some really great rocking stuff that can catch on to a wide audience. I took a lot of chances genre wise with this record and I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me!
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.