“I caught a lot of flak early on for being the chick singer learning bass, but not so much anymore,” says southpaw Danielle Nicole, who won the Blues Foundation’s 2014 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist—Bass. The Kansas City blues belter picked up bass specifically to fill the position when she formed Trampled Under Foot, with her brothers on guitar and drums. (Her full name is Danielle Nicole Schnebelen.) As TUF wound down after 13 years, Nicole formed her own band. Now she’s got a gritty solo debut on her hands, recorded in New Orleans with Grammy-winning producer/guitarist Anders Osborne and featuring the inimitable Stanton Moore (Galactic) on the skins.
Did being left-handed make it harder to get going on bass?
It was actually easier to learn, because when I was sitting in front of my right-handed instructor, it was like a looking at mirror image of my fingerboard. Finding a good instrument was more of a challenge. I flipped the nut and restrung my brother’s Ibanez, which I played for about two years until I got a 2004 Fender Jazz Bass for my 21st birthday. I like the tonal flexibility of J-style basses. For the past two years I’ve been playing a custom Delaney made out of a sweet-sounding piece of figured maple.
How did you wind up working with Osborne and Moore on Wolf Den?
The idea was to do something totally different from Trampled Under Foot. I was terrified to play with Stanton, but he immediately gave me a big hug and put me at ease. There were times when I had to stare at his hi-hat and kick drum because I had lost the one [laughs].
How did his rhythmic sense inform the proceedings?
“Fade Away” is a perfect example of Stanton’s input. At his suggestion, we started grooving the 14-bar progression at a substantially slower tempo than the original’s straight, upbeat funk feel, and we got the track in one take as if it were meant to be. I wrote the bass line for “Didn’t Do You No Good” while going through a heavy breakup, and I told Anders and Stanton to feel free to freak it out with an acid-rock-style jam. Stanton lit up—those fills are his fills. And the way he broke up the rhythm around his kit for “You Only Need Me When You’re Down” made an otherwise very simple song sound hip and swing hard. Stanton’s way-behindthe- beat feel on “Wolf Den” took that groove to a seriously soulful place.
Your “Wolf Den” bass line sounds kind of like “Day Tripper” set in an R&B context.
The first half of that bass line is exactly “Day Tripper,” but it wasn’t an intentional nod to Paul McCartney, even though he’s one of my favorite players from a melodic standpoint. When I wrote the song, I was vamping a 9th chord on guitar and singing. When I grabbed my bass, that line worked so well against the vocal melody and lyrics. The minor 3rd added a swampy texture.
Got any tips on playing a challenging line while singing?
No. You simply have to practice it over and over until you get it right.
Danielle Nicole, Wolf Den [2015, Concord]
Bass Custom Delaney 4-string
Rig Live: Markbass 600-watt head, Gallien- Krueger Backline 410BLX 4x10 cabinet, JBL 1x15 cabinet with Eminence speaker; for Wolf Den: Fender Bassman 4x10 combo
Strings GHS Bass Boomers Medium (.045–.105)
Watch the music video for “You Only Need Me When You’re Down.”