Interview with bluesman Nakia from NBC's hit show The Voice

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Nakia on The VoiceNakia is the Austin-based blues singing rocker that gained national notoriety on NBC’s smash hit show The Voice. We caught up with Nakia a few weeks ago, just when he was hitting the road on The Voice tour.

Glen: What are you doing to maintain the momentum that The Voice created?

Nakia: Well, my momentum right now is defined by this tour first and foremost, so, you know, I gotta do this tour, then set up for when that’s over. But, the idea, obviously, is to be able to take advantage of the opportunity while I have it, and make the most of it.

Yeah, sounds like a great idea. Hey, let’s back up a step. Now, you know, when this all came down, how did you get selected for The Voice? I mean, did you submit something, or did someone tell you about it? I was just curious how you found out about it.

Nah, the people who cast the show found me on YouTube when they were searching for the best singer in Austin on Youtube. A video of mine popped up and they emailed me through my website and asked me to come to an open audition.

Now, what was it like when you were selected?

You know, it was gratifying. I was really happy and very excited.

I’m only going to ask you a couple more questions about The Voice because I want to move on. But, did you have any other favorite artists on there that you seemed to–I mean, the whole show was crammed with talent–but is there anybody who really stood out for you? Other than you?

To me, the most–the people that stood out the most, were the ones that came to the show from–without having a lot of performing background. People like Xenya, Casey Weston, Jeff Heagen.

Were you a fan of reality TV, or any of these sort of shows, before The Voice?

I love watching television, so I’ve definitely watched my share of reality TV, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was a fan of it, per se, but you know, I had seen plenty of episodes of a lot of different types of shows that were reality-based.

What are some of your influences, and how far back do they go?

I think, for me, it’s people like Otis Redding, and Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. Singers like that. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin.

Yeah, so you do go back a ways, then. So, obviously you’re a big blues fan, correct?

Yeah!

Why do you think that the blues doesn’t quite get the recognition and respect that other genres seem to get?

Well, I think that the way blues gets recognized is through interpretation. So, when you hear a song on the radio, for instance, like, “Forget You” by Cee-Lo, which is a real pop-y song, and its core has a really blues-y feel to it that could be interpreted there. There’s so many songs that have been written that were directly inspired by the blues, so when we perform in my band, we do a version of a Muddy Water’s song mixed with Cee-Lo’s Forget You. They fit perfectly together, and the way that we saw them. So I think that when you hear The Beatles or the Rolling Stones and a few others from that era, you’re hearing the blues, it’s a different way that it’s been interpreted. Unfortunately, most kids, even myself when I was a kid, it wasn’t these authentic old-school blues artists that got me shaking, you know. It was these other bands that were doing it, but they were doing it, but those bands were doing it because they got turned onto the blues.

It was Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, they all just took what they heard from the blues and made it their own.

I love the British blues bands, but I really love the bands that were coming out of Austin too, like Stevie Ray Vaughn and whole bunch of others from Austin. So yeah, I mean, I love all music, really.

So, yeah, what is the blues to you? Can you describe it? Is it even definable to you? Is it a feeling, or what?

I think what makes the blues so special is the raw and dirty feel that is just so–there’s something so natural about it. It’s so earthy and so real.

Alive or dead, who is the one person that you’d like to meet face to face if they were alive, and talk to over lunch?

Otis Redding.

Otis was one of the first singers to really grab my attention and make me want to sing the way he sang. And he sang some of the best songs in the world. I’d love to talk to him.

Love that answer. What are the things you’re most passionate about in life?

I think, singing, and music, and just being happy.

Okay, cool. Let’s lighten it up a bit here. Everyone has a slogan, or a word they use all the time. What’s yours?

Oh, man, I don’t know, uh… “Hooker”? I don’t know. You know, probably like, “Wow,” maybe. I use “Wow” a lot.

I see that you’re kind of a social media guy. How much were you into social media before the TV show?

A lot. Very much so.

Okay, so, we’re going to give a little plug to something else, here, obviously I see that you’re on Google+, how are you liking that site so far?

I think it’s great. Somebody just tagged me in a photo right now.

Nice. What do you think the best feature is on there? Have you tried them all out, or what?

Nah, I’m still learning it. But I think the excitement of it—it’s new, and everybody’s excited about it, so that’s great.

Think it could make a dent in Facebook or Twitter?

Well they already have over 18 million users, so I think they’re on their way pretty quickly.

I think so too. You know, I saw something yesterday, it took Facebook 852 days to get 10 million users and it took Google+ 16 days.

Yeah, I think they’re well on their way to making their dent in the social media scenes.

Absolutely. Okay, I just have a couple more questions for you — Who is your favorite current blues group or musician?

You know, I like what Susan Tedeschi is doing.

Alright, I think we’re going to make this the last question. What’s your blues singer name?

Uh, Nakia. [laughs]

Works for us.

Thank you so much, it’s been great talking to you.

 

To find out more about Nakia, check out his website!

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