RICH NELSON BAND
Rock Music, Art & Chance Encounters
By Kreig Marks, August 22, 2022
KM: Hi Rich! Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. We've recently relocated to Asheville and we're celebrating this move over the next few months by featuring some of the top rock bands in North Carolina. So, that's why you're here. Let's get this started. Let's hear about the band. Who are you guys? Where are you guys from?
RN: The Rich Nelson Band has been going since 2018. We released our fourth album Lucky Bounce this summer. People seem to think our music has a 70s vibe to it. We love writing, recording, and playing live.
KM: You've been playing and recording music for quite some time. When did you get started? When did you know this was your passion?
RN: I started playing piano when I was 10, and guitar when I was 11. I was very influenced by the music that was starting to come out in the early 70s; Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Queen, Elton John. I had loved the Beatles and the Stones as a kid, but the glam stuff felt like ‘my‘ music.
Of course, I’ve gotten exposed to a lot more great music since then. It’s kind of pathetic to realize that I was living ten miles from where Motown was recording, and I was barely aware of that stuff, unless some band from England covered one of their songs. Rock radio was so powerful in Detroit; it gave me everything I needed!
KM: I hear some SRV and Double Trouble influences in your music. Who were you listening to growing up? Who do you listen to these days?
RN: After the Glam stuff I went through a progressive phase; early Genesis, YES, ELP, even fusion stuff like Return To Forever and Weather Report. But I always kept doubling back to the straight up rock that would continue to come around (thank you Jesus) such as Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam…
KM: The Rich Nelson Band. Let's hear about it. How did you get together?
RN: I made the first album Ever Since Now by myself, and the first iteration of the band played many shows while working on material for the second album. I ended up doing that album Twenty Twenty Hearing by myself and then the pandemic hit, just as the second version of the band was starting to play shows. During the pandemic I did the third record Fret And Wail on my own.
Luckily, I met Jeff Manson (bass) and Rob Driscoll (drums) when it seemed safe to start playing out again, and we began working on new material. We’re very pleased that the new record Lucky Bounce was developed, rehearsed, performed and then recorded very much live at Sound Temple Studios in Asheville. We used no click track and did very few overdubs. That is the sound of the band!
KM: It sounds great. Let's hear about one of your most memorable shows. Can be good or bad. Where and when?
RN: Well, we seem to really enjoy our shows whether there are a lot of folks or not. Usually whoever’s there seems to get into it. I think so far our best show was indoors last winter at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville, NC. It was a great crowd, the room sounded terrific and people were really getting into it. We believe this band has a lot of potential! You can tell that we really get along and mesh well musically. It’s a good mix of tight and loose; sophisticated arrangements and room to improvise.
KM: When I was on the same ticket with __________ I almost lost it.
RN: I was in in Detroit from '82 to '88 (Bitter Sweet Alley or BSA) and we opened up for a number of big bands, Bon Jovi, INXS, Cheap Trick, Joe Walsh, Eddie Money, even Motorhead! It was always nice to find out that these great bands were basically normal people! You also realize that it’s tough being out there on the road. I give anyone who has stuck with it at that level a lot of credit.
I did loan Larry Graham from Sly And The Family Stone a Jazz bass when he was touring with Prince and their gear was stuck in a snowstorm. We also played with Martha Reeves, and Mary Wilson from the Supremes. I shared an elevator with Roger Waters in New York not too long ago and he was very nice, even though he was on his way to a dentist appointment! One night in 1980 I met Richie Blackmore and Roger Glover from Deep Purple, who were performing in Rainbow at the time, and Neil Smith and Dennis Dunaway from the original Alice Cooper band. Being all of 18 at the time that kind of freaked me out. When you meet legendary folks like that it is a bit daunting. The bass players are always the coolest.
KM:. Great stories! The right place at the right time! From '79 to '81 you worked at Creem Magazine. Very cool! Let's hear about that. Any goodl stories?
RN: Yes I was a kid just out of High School ; 79-81. I was ‘office staff’ which entailed schlepping a lot of things around to get the issue done every month, and then delivered to the printer. I also took care of subscription problems and mailed out back issues, T-shirts etc. It was an interesting place! The publisher Barry Kramer passed away and we had to box up everything in his house, which included notes from John Lennon, David Bowie, Jann Wenner. It was all put in a warehouse for his son, who was just a baby at the time. JJ Kramer is now publishing the magazine again! There’s a good documentary about the Glory Days, too. One little known fact is that what kept that magazine afloat back in ‘79 was the KISS ‘Special Edition’, which they had to re-print over and over. Never underestimate the KISS Army! Those magazines are over $100 on eBay now!
Our band The Newz was playing in bars at the time and I would make flyers in the art department. The legendary poster artist Gary Grimshaw was working there, and he was the first person to show me how to use certain tools, and tell me that I was an artist! What a great guy!
KM: Beyond cool. That was such an ecclectic time for Music and Art, with heart and soul put into things, no laptops or technology. So tell me, are you married with kids?
RN: Yes, Kim and I got married in ‘95 and we’re blessed with three kids, who have recently flown the coop, to Detroit of all places!
They are all in the creative world. Our son Luke has done all our videos, often with our other son Sam’s help, and our daughter Lily has taken many of our photographs.
KM: What keeps you busy when you’re not performing or recording?
RN: I went to art school in Detroit (CCS) 84–88 to be an illustrator, and I did that for 13 years before transitioning into portrait and gallery paintings. That’s been a great career. We have a co-op Gallery at 362 Depot St in Asheville‘s River Arts District.
KM: Most memorable fan interaction so far?
RN: Truly anytime somebody appreciates what we do it means so much. Whether it’s a song we have recorded or something at a show, you can tell when somebody connects to what we do and it’s quite a moving experience. I had a guy come up to me at another band’s show and THANK me for the song ‘Tell Me’, which is a song about wishing our relatives who have passed could tell us what’s on the other side. Having lost four family members in the last six years, that was a powerful moment.
KM: I hear you. Wow, that's what it is all about. Your favorite local venue to perform?
RN: We have had some great shows at the Grey Eagle. Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville is beginning to feel like home base.
KM: Any tour scheduled for the rest of the year?
RN: We would love that but we just keep banging away around here. it would be so cool to connect with a larger audience and take it out on the road. We’re beginning to record our next album, it's a lot of fun working on it.
KM: Anyone you'd like to thank or give a shout out to?
RN: Yes! Thank you to everybody who has shown any interest or enthusiasm for our music! Thank you for taking the time Kreig! Welcome to Asheville!
Photo: Luke Nelson