Nikki Hill is an authentic force of nature whose unique sound scrapes from R&B, classic rock and roll, funk, and punk. Fond of covering AC/DC in concert, she and her band have already had a busy year of touring, and will bring their raw and rowdy sound to greater Houston for three shows this weekend: a Cactus Records in-store at 3 p.m. Saturday; a full show later that night at the Continental Club; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in downtown Conroe at the first-ever Conroe Americana Music Festival.
Hill and her band have been on the road since early April, traipsing from the Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia to a string of smaller venues across the Netherlands. The singer says she appreciates how playing all over the world can provide an artist with the special experience of people from other cultures interpreting her music even though they may not necessarily understand the language. “Rock and roll fans in different countries and stateside both have lots of passion and love for the music,” she notes. “I do love that we can travel to another place and they might not understand the words, but they can feel the energy and still feed off of that.”
Overall it's been a great experience for her and her band, Hill adds, bringing them closer and pushing them as musicians and performers. “I’m just so happy to be out here making music and playing for a living,” she says. “Festivals and clubs both have their place, and I like being able to do both throughout the year. I feel like the festivals help to get people to the clubs, especially as an independent artist without a big publicity machine”
Nikki Hill is a true independent artist; she and her guitarist/husband, Matt Hill, run their own label, Deep Fryed Records. The name came to the Hills when Matt was the only musician in the home and Nikki would make fried-chicken suppers for the working musicians who came by to jam or record. Deep Fryed Records was founded in the spirit of “greasy music and fried food,” according to Hill, who later joined in on the music. The couple held onto the name and label to release their work.
“It’s been a great experience learning how to really operate it, handle publishing [and] distribution,” says Hill. “It’s been a good low-key way to keep control of my music.”
Besides taking Hill and her band overseas, this tour also features new faces in her band, among them Houston’s own Nick Gaitan. “They are great players, and great personalities and people,” Hill boasts about her current lineup. “It’s tough finding the right kind of crazy to work and tour with, and I’m enjoying this gang.”
Hill says she and Gaitan would cross paths over the years at her shows at Houston’s Continental Club, and became friends.
“He was coming to our Houston shows and just keeping in touch, and I was a fan of his playing, and it all just came together,” she says. “It just came together in an organic way. I can’t wait for the whole world to hear this band.”
When the Hills are not touring, the North Carolina natives now call New Orleans home. Hill will continue to tour the U.S. and Spain this year, but says she’s ready to get into the studio with her new band once she cools her heels a little. She has two albums to her credit already, Here's Nikki Hill and Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists.
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“We are on the road so much that honestly, my voice needs a break in the times that I’m off, and I need the time to catch up on business and making sure our time on the road runs as smoothly as possible,” she explains.
This year will provide Hill and her gang with plenty of opportunities to perfect their groove. Though it’s not her first rodeo, she admits, “I’m just trying to still catch my stride on tour. I know that sounds weird since I’ve been doing it for a few years, but it’s still all very new in many ways.
“I’m still up there learning and trying and practicing, and even my songs I’ve written have changed,” she adds. “I’m really enjoying it.”
Nikki Hill and her band perform 3 p.m. Saturday, May 6 at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth; 10 p.m. Saturday at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, with special guests Tomar & The FC’s; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7 on the CDAA Stage of the Conroe Americana Music Festival, 302. North Main in downtown Conroe.